At the top of the list for PR challenges in 2021 is the ability to break through the noise.
With all the nonstop news about COVID-19 and multitudes of other hot-button topics, it’s hard to get anyone to spend time with your top stories. At PR Daily’s recent Media Relations and Measurement Virtual Conference, industry insiders shared what has been working for them in the recent months to get noticed by media outlets and find an audience in this extraordinary period of American history.
“Invest in high-quality visuals and data,” recommends Kristin Daher, founder and president of Powerhouse Communications. “Assets that can help tell your story outside of the words are really important.”
One tactic that has been working for her team is to subscribe to business data intelligence services and use data-driven insights to find article angles for clients.
“Explore media angles outside of the obvious,” Daher adds. “Unique angles lead to unique coverage.” One particularly valuable tactic is think about “ownership opportunities,” where your brand or organization can be seen to take the lead on a holiday, charity event, local festival or other singular occurrence. Daher gives as examples clients that have created their own holidays or their own charity giveaways.
With COVID-19, lean on expertise
For organizations looking to participate in the ongoing discussion about COVID-19, vaccines and the public health struggles that continue to drive headlines, experts recommend leveraging your subject matter expertise.
Jake Mazanke, senior manager of corporate communications for Teladoc Health, explains that his organization was able to find media coverage by offering resources about virtual health services, medical advice and more that was of great interest to audiences during the pandemic.
“We saw that reporters were looking for more than just stories about COVID-19,” Mazanke says. “There was an overall consumer behavior change.” The team was able to position its experience in virtual health to land a segment on “Mad Money” with Jim Cramer to discuss the trends that would drive the medical industry going forward.
Enid Maran, managing director for global customer success and operations with Onclusive, argues that the key to Mazanke’s success is the ability to complement and enhance conversations about COVID-19.
“Jake’s team had something to add to the conversation, not just a take to offer on a news item,” she explains as a diagnosis of how a company can make good use of the newsjacking tactic. “It’s not just about getting your CEOs name in a news program. It’s about advancing the conversation.”
Bring PR strategist onboard early
Daher argues that getting your PR team involved as early as possible can not only help solidify a great relationship with your PR team, but allow the experts to weigh in on crucial planning decisions from goals of the campaign to metrics to measure.
“It gives the agency ample time to plan and strategize,” she says. “Sometimes there are suggestions we can make that will lead to better media opportunities.”
Organizations that are also able to pull back the curtain and share internal data have the opportunity to spark great ideas. “From a marketing perspective, [the brand] is developing this new product or service for a reason,” says Daher, and those business decisions usually have a lot of data behind them that could be invaluable in pitching a great story to media outlets.
Making measurement a priority
How you will measure your PR efforts can be one of the most consequential decisions you make—and should also be based on the “why” of your particular campaign.
Looking to raise awareness? There are metrics to measure that. Looking to drive sales? Ignore the impressions, and look for conversions and other meaningful tracking data.
And any successful measurement campaign must make sure that top leaders understand the strategy and the metrics that will show the value of the effort.
“It really starts from the top, the CEO and CFO,” explains Maran. “The most important thing to do as you are setting out for a campaign is to choose metrics that actually reflect the performance of what you are trying to achieve.”
How will you know if you have picked the right metrics? Maran says they must be “actionable” in real time. “Make sure that all C-level and top leaders understand that metric and understand why it’s useful,” she says. If top leaders know what to look for, their engagement can drive important decisions and efforts that will be crucial for success.
What if your leaders don’t ask for metrics? Is it really worth the effort to educate them?
“If your CEO doesn’t care about the metrics, then you have a much bigger problem,” says Maran. “Ideally you are in a position at the start of the campaign to show how you goals are going to be measured and how they will contribute to top leaders overall organizational goals.” If you can’t prove the value of your work, you will have a hard time arguing for more headcount, resources or the proverbial seat at the leadership table.
Maran recommends trying your work to hard metrics that business leaders can readily understand rather than “brand metrics” which can feel “squishy.” She argues that all leaders understand dollar figures, revenue and sales leads.
However, that doesn’t mean you should let the marketing team tell you how to pitch your stories. “Lead with the news hook,” warns Mazanke. Don’t just spout company evangelism and propaganda.
Mazanke advises brands to think about PR as a many separate mechanisms working to create momentum for your brand. Earned media, speaking opportunities, social media and industry awards all work together to push your brand forward.
A successful measurement strategy will look to find the metrics that tie all your efforts together to show the accrued value of incremental progress.