Here’s How to Adjust Your PR Strategy As the World Opens Up
January 1st, 2021
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The last year has changed, well, everything. Day after day, publicists had to shift their PR strategies to meet media needs—and the moment, really. But after a year of uncertainty and fear, there is hope: millions are getting vaccinated, families are reuniting, and states are reopening. With this newfound freedom comes the desire for many people to reclaim all that they’ve lost, whether it’s canceled vacations, dinner dates with their loved ones, or quality time with friends. However, the post-pandemic world is just as tricky to navigate: when it comes to pitching, publicists have to keep in mind differing state (or country) guidelines and varying comfort levels.

While it’s impossible to ignore the harsh reality of the last year, especially for the thousands of families who are still mourning the death of their loved ones, there is a need for publicists to focus on the present and future. “We have to always stay relevant and focus on the right now and how living in a safer world will allow us to get back to things we knew and loved for so long,” Sydney Engel, founder + CEO of Sydney E. Publicity, tells us.

Still, publicists should recognize that the industry is forever changed—and their PR strategies need to reflect that. “We are not coming back to the same industry that we were working in a year ago,” Matthew Levison, Senior Vice President at KWT Global, explains. “The pandemic was not an industry pause or blip, but rather a reset and those going back to our old strategies and tactics will fall behind.”

All of this makes crafting the perfect pitch more critical than ever before. Not sure where to start? Follow this guide on how to pitch after the pandemic, complete with tried-and-tested PR strategies straight from the pros.

Take people’s current feelings into account

Although the guidelines vary from state to state, the entire country is on a path of fully reopening. While some people are eager to return to a more normal way of life, others may have their reservations; your pitches must connect with both parties. When it comes to travel, include local travel requirements, including vaccination requirements, in the angles, so the writer knows how to frame the story. The same goes for restaurants and other tourist destinations. “If you’re pitching a hotel, go the extra step and include the destination’s latest COVID-19 precautions. If you’re pitching a destination, include what hotels are open as well as their interesting news,” Katie Barr Cornish, principal and founder of Eleven Six Pr explains. Find ways to incorporate different ways that people can enjoy restaurants, hotels, and travel. Take restaurants, for example: in your pitch, be sure to explain that people can enjoy it in whatever way works for them, whether it's takeout, outdoor dining, bubble-style dining, or fully indoors.

All the while, you can still reflect on your own personal excitement about the concept of dining in restaurants, hopping on planes, and exploring international sites. “We've been craving in-person human interaction, so in the pitch, share that that’s also returning, just with more safety involved in that process,” Engel says.

Continue to emphasize the importance of health and safety

Every pitch should catch their eye, but also ease any concerns related to health and safety. “It’s important to share why our hotel, resort, or destination is still one of the safest choices to travel to,” Engel explains. Suppose you want to present more options to whoever you’re pitching. In that case, Engel recommends that you tie in emerging trends (friend groups gathering in rental homes, for example) to share a bigger story on how travel is possible—and safe—in the post-pandemic world.

Focus on what consumers are looking for in a post-pandemic world

Everyone is reacting to the idea of a new normal in a different way, so reach out to your friends, family, and colleagues to get a sense of how a range of people actually feel. Your clients may have intel, too: take a look at their social media pages to see how people react to their content. Do photos of crowded beaches turn them off? Or do they still find them to be alluring? Browse through the comments to see if you can gather any insight.

It’s also helpful to think about how you’d like to travel in this post-pandemic world. “Think about if you were considering taking a trip, what would reassure you and motivate you to make that booking,” Cornish reminds. By putting yourself in the reader's shoes, you’re able to take a more personalized—perhaps, more genuine—approach.

Know who you’re pitching — like, really

This year has taken a toll on everyone, journalists included. Before you hit send, take a moment to see what your media contact has been up to. If you’re connected on social media, look for clues to indicate if they’ve spent the year close to family or on their own, as well as their personal sentiments in regards to traveling.”Some journalists are counting the seconds until they can get back on a plane (if they haven’t already), while others are waiting until they’re fully vaccinated or beyond. To use a one-size-fits-all approach is a disservice to the media community and a missed opportunity for our clients,” Levison says.

If you can’t find the answers online, go straight to the source, especially if you’re reaching out about travel opportunities. “Go ahead and ask reporters directly what they are comfortable with. Find out if they feel safe traveling on a plane or if they’re only focused on road trips right now,” Laurie Monteforte, CEO of Strong Mountain Media, Inc., recommends. This information will come in handy when it comes time to offer your contact a press trip because it will ensure that all of their safety needs and concerns are addressed.

Be willing to offer individual press trips

Speaking of press trips, 2021 may be the year to stay away from group travel (as far as strangers are concerned). Monteforte advises that you stick with more intimate excursions, so you can adhere to state and local rules and avoid alienating those who aren’t ready to be in large groups just yet. An added bonus: “Offering individual trips allows them to have a more customized experience, which may even improve coverage.”

Understand when virtual works—and when it doesn’t

Try as we might, Zoom isn’t going away just yet. Virtual meetings and experiences are likely to become more commonplace in the post-pandemic world, but if 2020 has taught us anything, there is still a need for in-person interactions. Deskside meetings, for example, can be just as effective over Zoom, but larger events still benefit from the IRL experience. “It’s become obvious to me that all of the pictures, descriptions, and videos can’t adequately transport media the way the magic of a tropical breeze or taste of local cheese can. All that to say that the name of the game will be [fewer], yet more impactful in-person interactions,” Levison says.