We’re told continually that coronavirus is going to change fundamentally the way in which we live and work. It’s an anxious time for everyone, and in the midst of it, your PR agency has to work alongside journalists to continue getting your stories out in a timely and seemly manner. How do you know they’re handling your stories correctly?
Here’s what your PR team should be doing:
What this crisis has taught us is that short-term thinking does not bring long-term rewards in PR. If your agency is suddenly trying to cultivate a cosy relationship with a journalist mid-crisis, they’ll be given short shrift and you will be given an empty coverage file.
Good media relations need to be nurtured carefully and needs to be authentic and transparent. Coverage results from media contacts who have faith in your agency.
Getting coverage requires a strong relationship between you, your agency and the media. A relationship with the media should never be treated as a disposable asset, or treated with disrespect.
Bombarding journalists with irrelevant or badly thought-out written material shows a level of disrespect not only for the contact but for the craft of PR itself. Two releases a week does not show enthusiasm, nor will it endear you to the journalist; it shows a lack of discernment and a belief in quantity over quality which will result in your releases being moved to a junk folder – and likely your company flagged as one that sends SPAM.
Since March this year, we have seen blanket coverage of COVID-19. Not many pitches will make it across the line if they don’t at least have a coronavirus angle, but make sure your agency is pitching sensitively. Shoehorning the virus into a topic is tactless, pushy and will damage your reputation. This applies also to triumphant financial stories if you’ve recently had to make staff redundant. Don’t be afraid to ask your agency to put a stop on a story if it doesn’t sit comfortably with you.
At Ballou we have a pan-European network of agencies, including wholly owned offices in Berlin, Paris and London. Each country’s experience of the virus, including its ramifications and restrictions, has been different. If your agency is centralised, it may be producing stories that are relevant only to its home country. This is where local knowledge is essential. Check your agency is not using a “one size fits all” approach and ask for nuanced communications with media.
It is essential to remember that keen as your agency is to get coverage, there are more important things than media mentions. Journalists may have had to cover some very upsetting stories, have seen colleagues made redundant or suffered personal loss. Your story, whether it’s about the coronavirus crisis or not, should never be bigger than the people, and the conduct of your agency should reflect that.