Reading time: ~5 mins.
Welcome to No. 002, September 2020. This collection of blog posts titled ‘PR Blueprints’ is for non-PR folks. You’ll get public relations templates, frameworks, insights, and tips to help secure media coverage for your B2B business — on your own.
Before you read on, please consider signing up for my new public relations newsletter, PR Now.
The Point Is…
“If anyone chose a PR partner pre-COVID-19 based on who they knew in media, they have an invisible problem that will appear soon.”
Who Your PR Agency Knew Isn’t Important
Since COVID-19 hit, more than 11,000 journalists have lost jobs. That figure doesn’t include newsroom freelancers.
It made sense before the pandemic for marketers to place a high value on agency-reporter relationships when assessing a public relations partner. After all, one of the most common reasons a PR agency or freelancer is selected is their relevant media connections. Sure, having friendly contacts on the media side can help to generate press hits or land speaking engagements, but today it matters wayyyyyy less.
I Now Know Many Former Editors
How does that help a business or organization secure media coverage? I’ll bet you a gently-worn breadmaker you’ve known someone who worked in editorial at a magazine or local paper. If they’ve lost their job or been furloughed as a result of the pandemic, tell me how that connection matters when it comes to generating press attention.
Media contacts change all the time, that’s nothing new. However, in recent months the pace has accelerated due to the global crisis. The cold truth is junior staffers at agencies now scan the Twitter feeds of reporters every day to learn who resigned, changed their coverage area, or sadly, who was laid off. For the first time since the 2008 recession, updating media lists is somewhat of an emotionally taxing responsibility.
Since “go-to” contacts in media relations haven’t been a thing in years and there’s been a continuous decline in the value of media lists, maybe the pandemic’s impact can be seen as an opportunity for a long-overdue task: rethinking how PR agencies are evaluated.
Pandemic Is A Wake-Up Call For PR Partner Selection
Public relations is about creating and managing clear, positive communication lines between an organization and its audience. At this moment, the most valuable core skills a PR partner can offer — when it comes to media relations — are creative copywriting, domain expertise, and an understanding of what the press does and does not want to hear.
Each day, talented PR professionals secure stories with media outlets they’ve never contacted before based on their storytelling in media pitches. Copywriting skills and the ability to understand what makes a story compelling to a particular audience will always outweigh a well-groomed media list. So, if marketers chose a PR agency pre-COVID-19, or very recently, based on all the “right” reporters they knew, it’s a must to examine the results they’ve produced since mid-March 2020.
For those of us on the inside, the weighting and scoring of PR agencies have been way off for a long time. Very soon, I hope the PR partner evaluation process uses updated criteria and skill-based requirements versus relying on one old and flawed way of vendor assessment — “so you know Kim at The Chronicle?”
I’ll catch hell from PR pros for this post but this must be said before more B2B companies spend money during the coronavirus pandemic they cannot afford to waste.