As we near the end of 2020, it’s safe to say that all of us would like to leave this year in our rearview mirrors come January 1. However, as communicators, it’s hard not to reflect on 2020 as a year that taught us some critically important lessons—particularly regarding how to navigate a complicated, constantly changing news cycle.
That reflection is what prompted the PR Club to put on last week’s webinar, “Standing out During a Vicious News Cycle,” which I had the pleasure of moderating. The webinar featured an expert group of panelists—including V2’s own Melissa Mahoney, as well as NBC Boston Reporter Malcom Johnson and Little Gem Resorts Digital Marketing Manager Drew Oliveira.
We kicked things off by referencing highlights from V2’s Roadmap for Navigating the Media Landscape, Fall 2020 Edition—which taught us that while COVID-19 was still dominating news headlines six months into the pandemic, the way it was being talked about had changed. What was once a news cycle focused on the immediate impact of the virus had shifted to cover the long-term implications of the pandemic on the economy, society and how we work and live. On top of that, the new trends that had emerged since the pandemic took hold in early March—such as the presidential election, the massive social justice movement that swept the nation and the ongoing global battle against climate change—had created an even more convoluted media landscape.
From there, our panelists took the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences navigating this media landscape, offering lessons learned to attendees, such as:
- Keep your pitches concise, easy to understand and relevant to the current news cycle. Malcolm explained how staying on top of the ever-changing news cycle has made it harder for him and his colleagues to sift through pitches. To help break through the noise, he recommended PR folks keep their pitches as short and to the point as possible—and ensure they have a timely hook. He also stressed the importance of a clear subject line that will catch his and the news desk’s attention.
- Be proactive and be personal. The travel industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and as the Digital Marketing Manager of a luxury travel brand, Drew experienced that firsthand. Rather than wait until travel restrictions had lifted, Drew and his team took the approach of being proactive on social media, aiming to stay top of mind for followers despite them not being able to visit one of their many locations. They deployed influencers to reach new audiences and conducted contests focused on summer trip memories, which not only pulled at consumer heartstrings, but got them yearning for a vacation—which ultimately paid off for the company when it was able to reopen in the summer.
- Always lead with authenticity. As our resident crisis communications expert, Melissa reflected on some of the mistakes brands made this year in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. She encouraged listeners to think critically about their internal and external response to social justice—and to be authentic and genuine when doing so. Many companies were called out for not being diverse enough, and the ones that responded by acknowledging that and explaining how they plan to improve are the ones to take lessons from.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can download a copy of our media landscape eBook or reach out to us directly to discuss our tips for building effective communications programs—even in the face of a vicious news cycle.