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covid and PR strategy: how to connect with your audiences in 2021

Communications Strategy - 20th October 2020
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Read time: 4 minutes

No one really knows what shape the ‘new normal’ will take when the economy finally recovers from the impact of coronavirus…but smart companies aren’t waiting to find out. Future success always depends on actions taken today. We must all be ready to strike when the new market opportunities arise, which means we must all listen to the words of Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England: “The business model of the future for many corporations will not be the same as the business model of the past; it will have a much larger digital dimension to it.”

Communications is no exception. Strategically, powerful digital PR and marketing campaigns should be part of every company’s COVID-19 ‘exit plan’ and, just as importantly, those campaigns need to start running now. If you wait to see how the ‘new normal’ is working out before deciding on your next media blitz, you’ll be too late. Your proactive rivals will have stolen your thunder…and most of the business out there.

But what does a “powerful” digital campaign mean? In fact, why go digital in the first place?

Social distancing means face-to-face meetings simply aren’t practical at the moment and many established touchpoints for new business, such as trade shows, have been forced into virtual venues. The only place everyone can gather now is online, so that’s where you need to be directing your activities. It’s a short-term necessity and a sensible long-term strategy too – everyone will still be living online when coronavirus fades away.

There’s no doubt a digital approach offers the widest PR and marketing reach right now. But how do you plan a campaign that delivers your message with maximum impact?

Paid, earned and owned coverage

One key strategy is to integrate paid, earned and owned media exposure. Separately, any one of these options could drive your company’s messaging into your target market’s consciousness. Together, though, these three pillars of digital PR and marketing can be irresistible, far more than the sum of their parts.

Let’s take a closer look.

Paid media exposure includes the digital marketing campaigns you run through platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google. The price guarantees your company’s messaging is targeted to appear before the specific new audiences you need to build your business, not just a large and irrelevant mass of people. When you know your target sector – which can be very tightly defined – you can make sure your marketing becomes ubiquitous, ‘following’ the members of that group as they move around the internet.

Earned media coverage is basically traditional PR in spirit (although the exciting digital platforms emerging and evolving all the time now are hardly ‘traditional’), which means securing editorial coverage in influential media outlets. As the name suggests, earned coverage has to be worked for, not paid for. The benefits? You can tap in to zeitgeist stories and industry trends the media are already covering and your (potential) clients are already following. And there’s no more powerful PR than genuine, ‘earned’ praise for your company from a journalist with independence, integrity and a huge audience.

The reach of your owned opportunities, such as your website and social media activities, will be smaller than conventional media but you control the channel of communication. You can dictate the exact nature, timing and length of your messaging, and you know you are engaging with a receptive audience already interested in your company (or they wouldn’t be reading your blogs and tweets).

Next steps

What you should do now is decide, including budgetary considerations, which combination of paid, earned and owned media exposure will work best for your objectives. Perhaps you only need one of the options? Or would the mutual reinforcement of all three approaches integrated be your strongest route to lead generation?

To help you plan, picture a digital journey you’d like a new customer to take. Perhaps someone learns of your business through a targeted paid campaign and that fresh awareness means they notice positive comments on your brand in earned editorial coverage. Impressed, they visit your website and enjoy your persuasive, detailed owned content. In no time at all, someone who had never even heard of your company has become a very hot lead, calling your sales team.

At 8020, we believe so strongly in this integrated approach we’ve partnered with digital marketing specialists Air Social to develop the effective and measurable campaigns the post-COVID economy will demand.

As ‘Harvard Business Review’ points out, the need “to virtualize work due to COVID-19 is driving digital transformation…at an incredible rate. In a period of days, almost any process that could be rapidly digitized has been virtualized.”

Don’t fall behind. Digitise your marketing and PR now.