As PR pros, we’re conditioned to adapt our stories to whatever is happening in the world around us. Sometimes, the appropriate way to approach a pitch or a briefing can change in a matter of minutes. It’s our job to relate our clients and their brand narratives to topics of interest to their audiences and the media.
Between the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and a polarizing election, the last year has consistently shown the importance of staying vigilant when it comes to the news. A mistimed email can quickly appear tone deaf, thereby damaging not only your relationship with a reporter, but potentially a brand’s reputation.
That’s why our team took some time to evaluate the current state of the media. What is resonating? How is the conversation shifting, and where is it headed in the months to come?
Let’s dive into the insights below.
How has the media conversation shifted and how should brands adapt?
There have been two major shifts over the past year, outside of obvious COVID-19 conversations.
The first, is the focus on social justice and social impact. There is an expectation for brands to go beyond simple “performance and potential” metrics. The media wants to know how you’re truly taking action, and they’re on high alert for companies that claim to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, but lack a deep demonstration of their efforts. They’re also looking for a diverse set of voices to tell these stories.
The second, is the demand for customer or end user testimonials to support a brand story. The media conversations are only becoming more crowded and sharing a customer’s perspective is key to breaking in and making your story stronger.
No matter what you’re pitching, look at the topic through both a DEI and customer lens to make it more compelling.
What are the top five topics reporters are currently focused on?
We’re seeing record valuations and stock performance as we rebound from the pandemic, and there’s tons of buzz around whether we’re in a “bubble” or the trend is here to stay. Reporters are interested in writing about what it’s going to mean for brands in the long-term.
Hybrid Work Environments & Return to Office Plans
How will these emerging work patterns impact industries like commercial real estate, software or security? Reporters are looking for unique employee and company perspectives.
The Employment Landscape
The media is interested in hearing about industries that are facing hiring and talent deficits, as well as discrete populations more deeply impacted by or showing greater disparity in employability. Employees have also become a critical audience for most companies – whether for recruitment, retention or selling into HR personas.
AI has reached a saturation point but continues to be the largest tech conversation amongst the media when it comes to pure volume of mentions.
Several story angles are floating around about what Big Tech is doing to combat misinformation. This is especially true in educating consumers about the COVID-19 vaccine as fear persists and vaccines remain readily available to Americans. The media is playing a huge role in this.
What can PR pros do to optimize an earned media strategy?
- Lead with Unique Perspectives. Earned media continues to be difficult to secure on topics that are not aligned to current events such as politics, DEI, ESG/environmental policy, labor dynamics and COVID-19. Find unique vantage points on these discussions (e.g. inclusive AI or tech bias) and offer diverse spokespeople with true expertise on trending topics to break through.
- Connect ‘Transformation’ to Current Events. By itself, transformation is a tired topic as far as media is concerned. The story has moved beyond the speed of tech transformation and its existence in specific sectors. Media are now looking for future-looking commentary that explores how transformation can help achieve ESG or DE&I objectives, for example. To be successful in pitching these topics, look for unique data use cases for problem solving at the business or industry levels, such as data’s role in vaccine deployment.
- Utilize Paid Media. While organic is cost effective, paid continues to be a big driver for coverage across both verticals and mainstream media.
- Exclusives are now more important than ever. At some outlets, reporters are tasked with securing exclusives, making offers under embargo far less appealing. If a specific reporter or outlet is your number one target, it’s worth offering an exclusive over an embargo to secure that one big feature story. However, set internal expectations that you will potentially give up some volume of coverage in the process.
As your brand continues to lean on earned media as a critical storytelling channel, consider the way the conversations have shifted. Something as simple as doing your research on the reporter or keeping up on current events can go a long way in helping maintain a solid brand reputation and trustworthy story.
This article originally appeared on the PAN Communications blog; reprinted with permission.