Pivoting Your Message During a Pandemic
Early in my PR career, I learned not to get too married to the plans I made because 99% of the time, things changed. Things happen and happen quickly in the PR industry. Your client might get bumped from a national TV interview because of breaking news, you might have 8 hours notice to provide content to an editor to secure coverage for your client, your client’s book might not arrive in time to mail, and the list goes on. These examples are times I had to throw my plans out and get creative with the time allotted. These lessons prepared me for the chaos 2020 has brought so far and helped me turn several of my client’s advice into newsworthy headlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moral of the story: you have to be willing and prepared to pivot your plans and messaging to ensure your clients stay relevant within an ever-changing news cycle. Think of it as a fun and exciting challenge to help your client stay pertinent. Below are four things to keep in mind every time you need to pivot.
- Decide how your message IS relevant right now – Stop and think about how your message can help others or add to the conversation positively. You don’t want to be the noise in the room. For example, one of our client’s Erica Ligenza Gwynn had her book Caffeinate Your Soul: 52 Monday Mantras come out right in the middle of the pandemic. Her messaging was perfect once people “settled” into their new pandemic lifestyle, but at the beginning, no one was reporting on how to stay positive. However, they WERE writing about how to work from home with kids, which Erica had years of experience doing well. So we tailored her message to accommodate this need.
- Over-communicate realistic expectations – You and your client are in this together. It’s vital to communicate with your client anytime you feel the need to pivot their message. I have found hopping on the phone to talk through the messaging change is most effective. Come prepared with questions that will help you draft talking points to share with media. PRO TIP: Send those questions to your client ahead of time. While in a pandemic, this step will make you and your client feel a little bit more prepared amongst all the crazy.
- Think ahead of the current news cycle – When the government started talking about giving a stimulus check to Americans during the pandemic, our team immediately began drafting pitches with our financial expert’s Kumiko Love, advice on how to spend or save the stimulus check wisely. This prep work guaranteed we were ready to pitch immediately once this bill was approved, making our pitches the first in the editor’s inbox.
- Get creative and be willing to fail – This pandemic is unlike anything we’ve experienced before. That being said, there is not a clear action plan to follow to keep your clients known. Because of that, we had to get creative. We tried offering magazine editors virtual desk-side meetings with our clients whose book comes out this September. We thought this would be a great alternative to the in-person desk-side meeting we planned to help secure coverage in fall issues. However, we found, editors were too overwhelmed finalizing issues from home to schedule any meetings. What did work although was asking for editors/producers’ home office addresses to send galleys and final books to for review. We also offered PDF versions that several editors voiced they preferred instead of sending a hard copy. Knowing this preference will help us even after we return to our new normal and saves the publisher money – WIN-WIN!
Following these steps, I was able to secure coverage in HuffPost, Parade, Real Simple, and Money Magazine. More importantly, I am proud that our client’s advice provided helpful tips and information during these uncertain times.