How Agencies Are Embracing, Changing and Adjusting to COVID-19
COVID-19 is the first global health emergency where technology has allowed companies and their employees to power through setbacks by adapting and immediately transitioning to a global work-from-home workforce. Nearly every industry has been impacted by the pandemic, including public relations, and while it is impressive to see many businesses continue to operate, it is important to keep in mind that many others have not survived or are making significant cutbacks to stay afloat.
The Public Relations Society of America’s Los Angeles Chapter (PRSA LA) hosted a webinar How Agencies Are Embracing, Changing and Adjusting to COVID-19 to provide best practices for PR agencies to navigate uncertainty and setbacks, and provide clients with the same (and even better) level of service.
Internally, agencies need to avoid falling into communication silos that often occur with isolation by attempting to mimic real-time communication with their team that happened in the office.
Weekly Meetings May Not Be Enough. For California-based agencies, employees have been in isolation for three months and may struggle at times to remain motivated or productive with work. Trying out different communication tools and checking in with team members beyond regularly scheduled meetings can help keep your team engaged.
Media outlets have been leaning out over the years so it’s no surprise that the pandemic resulted in mass layoffs or furloughs at publications across the globe. With reporters filing an average of 10+ articles per week and media channels for PR professionals shrinking, it is important to keep a few things in mind to be more successful with media pitching.
Be Patient. As we move through different phases of COVID-19, the relationship with reporters will change, and PR pros need to be patient with reporters when pitching and following up.
Broaden Your Scope. When there’s a national, breaking news story, many publications will reallocate reporters regardless of their beat to cover the story. PR pros should adjust their pitching to include more contacts per publication to increase their chances of getting traction.
Abide by Pitching Cycles (outlined below). We have been in the picture story phase but are starting to see more of a window story phase, where reporters are broadening their focus to include tangential stories. It’s a great time for positive/feel good stories.
- Mirror Story – stories that allow the reader to see themselves/their lives reflected.
- Picture Story – stories that allow the reader to form a picture of the people, issues, or ideas at hand.
- Window Story – stories that allow the reader to see into the lives of people that are different from them.
Clients may have extra time on their hands and looking for more to do. PR agencies should keep the following in mind.
Be Available. Let clients know you’re available to assist with any PR-related efforts, such as messaging, newsletters, social posts, etc., even if it is beyond your scope of work.
Communicate Expectations. Be clear with clients about your adjusted expectations for media efforts. When it comes to media and your clients’ messaging, make sure you’re advising them to be helpful and useful, and if you can’t do that, pivot the message – this isn’t a time for promotional programming.
Prepare for Post-COVID. Current clients and any clients that have paused work indefinitely may have not planned for what their post-COVID world will look like and how to adjust their messaging and PR efforts. PR agencies can best serve their clients by helping them execute and figure out a plan.
How Agencies Are Embracing, Changing and Adjusting to COVID-19 was hosted by Stefan Pollack, President of The Pollack Group and former PRSA LA President.