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, B2B 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
Before COVID hit, it didn’t really matter if a PR agency knew a journalist. All that does is improve the chance that a pitch gets read, which is somewhat beneficial. But now that 11,000+ journalists have lost jobs since COVID, whom your potential PR partner claims to know matters even less.
“Oh, I can get Kim at the Courier to write about you for sure.”
If you hear lines like that from a PR agency or consultant, run. Sadly, I’d bet some of their warmest contacts are jobless or not at the same media outlet they were in March 2020.
Knowing Jobless Journalists
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 at a media outlet. 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” media contacts in PR haven’t been a thing for years, maybe the pandemic’s impact can be seen as an opportunity for a long-overdue task: rethinking how PR partners are evaluated.
Pandemic = 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 — “but you know Jim at The Journal, right?”