Whenever I tell someone outside of the industry that I work in public relations (PR), the first thing they assume is that my work is easy and glamorous (like that of Samantha Jones from the hit TV-series, Sex and the City). But contrary to popular belief, PR is anything but easy.
In fact, working in PR feels more like being on a rollercoaster ride. There are times when you’re at the peak, riding on the waves of major company announcements and securing interviews left, right and centre. But there are also times when you can’t land a single piece of coverage, no matter how hard you try. This is what I call going through a dry spell in the world of PR.
These can be difficult to navigate for even the most seasoned PR professionals. So from one pro to another, here are some tips and tricks on how you can steer through PR dry spells and continue to support your client with amazing PR work:
Learn to say “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”
The proverb, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is a mantra for many of us, urging us to persevere even when outcomes seem bleak. But in PR, if you have pitched the same story angle to multiple media outlets with no success, it’s time for a new mantra. Try “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”, instead, the iconic line made famous by Ross from Friends.
Unlike Ross from Friends, by pivoting, I don’t mean just switching to another angle — or other media outlets. I mean taking the time to think outside the box and find different ways to tell the story itself. For instance, if your client is sitting on a trove of data, you’re in luck. When it comes to storytelling, data is an incredibly powerful tool that can help you map trends, make insightful observations on user behaviour and ultimately, help you craft a compelling story that can resonate with your target audience long after its release.
For example, when working with Zendesk, we were able to leverage their annual Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report (launched at the beginning of the year), to create a versatile series of thought leadership pieces. Apart from engaging brands and businesses with a steady stream of content, we were also able to continuously land a string of interview opportunities using different angles based on the report.
Listen to your spokesperson
Learning about your spokespeople is just as important as learning about the company itself and one of the key things I’ve learnt is never be afraid to ask your client for a meeting with them. You’ll be amazed at how many CEOs or spokespersons are willing to take an hour out of their busy day to share their vision or passion points. You’ll be even more amazed to discover their insights that go beyond even your most extensive desktop research about the company.
Once you’ve got the meeting in place, make sure you come prepared and ask the right questions to draw inspiring insights that contribute to great storytelling. Be careful not to rush through the questions like a checklist. Instead, listen to what your spokesperson is sharing, digest it, and elevate it by constructively participating in the conversation.
Colour outside the lines and be creative
There may come a time when your client tells you that they don’t have any announcements coming up, or worse, no spokesperson to even make them! But fret not, times like these are an opportunity to explore new ways of doing PR. Beyond press releases or events, there are a variety of options that allow you to continue building positive brand awareness.
Try dipping your toes into channels beyond traditional media. Owned social media platforms, for example, are great for running digital campaigns or engaging content that can directly connect with audiences. But to do this successfully, you also need great content.
Great content is more than just writing an op-ed or curating a series of meme-driven social posts — it has the ability to shift customer perceptions and drive business outcomes. In 2020, a data-driven campaign Mutant conceptualised for SingSaver garnered mass visibility and landed top-tier media opportunities at a time when news cycles were dominated by COVID-19 and Singapore’s elections. With compelling and timely insights on the financial habits of Singaporeans at the time, we managed to cut through the noise to position SingSaver as an expert on personal finance.
Dry spells can turn into pay-offs when you keep an open mind and create bold, strategic PR plans that are driven by content. Just remember, when you hit a brick wall, instead of breaking it down, find a ladder and climb over it! We can help: [email protected]