The majority of PR pros sunk in their chairs a little at the beginning of the year when it became a reality that 2016 would be marked by not just one, but two, long and furiously competitive news cycles—the Olympics in Brazil followed by what has become an incredibly polarizing and contentious presidential election campaign.
Weave in unspeakable national and international tragedies and it has been an extremely tough year to secure, and maintain, the media’s fickle attention.
As we kick off October there is a pretty predictable trajectory for what mainstream media will cover between now and the end of the year—barring breaking news that we cannot predict. Presidential debates and the 24-48 hour fall out, election week, pumpkin spice and egg nog everything, and holidays from every angle imaginable.
Olympic and election-year advice for PR practitioners is nothing new, but seeing that we’re in the true thick of the insanity, I thought it was worth revisiting several recommendations for how to keep client media relations on track through the end of the year.
- Owned content – If a pitch can be tied to anything ballot or general election issues related but is still falling on deaf ears, consider an op-ed or letter to the editor strategy. Consider one or two co-signers for added breadth and credibility. Is the pitch more visual with no TV stations able to cover? Host a Facebook Live stream on your own Facebook page to still put client experts in the spotlight.
- Find a different time – November might normally be an important month your client is accustomed to receiving press in annually (Movember for example). Set expectations that media attention will most likely take a hit this year, and also come with other creative solutions for when strong pitches will still resonate in the weeks or early months of 2017. This isn’t the time of year to haphazardly follow the “we’ve always done it this way” playbook.
- Focus on long lead media and trades – Chasing the big sexy media hits often takes away from other really important parts of a robust media relations program. Now is a great time to hold a brainstorm for publications that are already working four – six months out and get a head start on 2017 story placement. Simultaneously, nurturing relationships with trade media can fall by the wayside and yet they often aren’t as tied to the mainstream news cycle and in need of content. Dust off your contributed articles and byline ideas and focus on placing strong thought leadership coverage.
- Recap, research, plan – When all else fails, use desk time typically reserved for media relations outreach to focus more strategically on clients—something PR pros always complain about not having enough time for in a given week. How did that last campaign or round of pitching go? Spend an extra hour truly diving into the metrics rather than tossing together an email summary. Where is the team against annual goals? How great to determine that now, and pivot accordingly, rather than discovering two weeks before the Christmas holiday that there is a big gap between anticipated and secured goals.
It’s a frustrating end to the year for many, but there is still so much strong work to be done for current (and prospective!) clients. Make the most of it. No excuses. Smart solutions.