Broadcast PR has been evolving, but now Covid-19 has thrust it front and centre into the narrative of brands like never before. Whilst it’s devastating to see the impact on our country and the people we love there are some clear lessons to take from these unprecedented times.
Now is not the time to hit snooze and hide behind the crisis, it is a time to refresh the way we do business, remember the core principles of our industry and provide an authentic and collaborative voice which facilitates the news agenda like never before.
During what’s being referred to by some as the toughest time since WW2, people at home need, and are relying on broadcast more than ever. Research from BARB has shown that “UK TV viewing approaches Christmas peak levels” (Rapid TV News) and the BBC has seen “listening figures rise by 18 per cent during lockdown” with Global and Bauer seeing “surges of 15 per cent” too. This comes as no surprise as we know people are hungry for information.
Which leaves us with the fundamental question, of how and if brands have a role to play in this new media environment?
Let me be clear, the answer is absolutely yes. This is not about PR pushing a sales message and driving revenues (but of course our collective industry has to survive), but about having sensible conversations with brands about the genuine role they have to play during this crisis. There are over 500 local TV & Radio outlets that need content and with the national media running rolling news there has never been more of a need for quality content if it’s relevant.
So, what does this mean in reality?
- Expert-led insight is crucial
At a time where fake news, false information and ambulance chasing is as damaging as it ever could be, there is a need for genuine experts, authentic voices and sharp insight from organisations who can help media navigate these unprecedented times and unpack the information we are receiving from our government.
Which means a traditional radio day, consumer research, 3rd party spokespeople which is normally the bedrock of broadcast media relations is taking a back seat to pave the way for authentic voices and insight from brands leading the way. Set piece campaigns are fine but what national broadcasters need more, is the ability to call upon expert opinions on an ongoing basis.
Adapting to the tone of the current situation is a necessity and is determining the success and failure of brands right now. Although broadcast media are interested in positive news stories within the crisis, it still has to be relevant and recognise the current situation that the world finds itself in and not be a story in a vacuum.
- Flexibility and adaptability are crucial
Broadcasters, as with almost every other business across the country, are also faced with the challenge of a shift in their operations as half of their newsroom staff are working remotely and forward planning is pretty much non-existent.
National broadcasters need to be able to call upon expert opinions on an ongoing, last-minute basis. Previous barriers to entry in the sector, such as time and travel, have vanished due to Skype and Facetime. This means that spokespeople can be on the air at any time, any day from any country. The traditional broadcast campaign used to have an end, but now we are finding that our spokespeople are being frequently asked to comment as the news agenda evolves, so flexibility is key.
- Partnerships with clients
These are crazy times and after 20 years in the industry I have never seen anything like it. We don’t always have the answers but one thing is for certain, we need to work together to find our way forward. As PR professionals it is our job to utilise our experience and knowledge to consult with our clients about how they can adapt while still maintaining a voice. There have been a few times over the past month where I’ve turned down business purely because it is not relevant. New bravery needs to emerge when it comes to client counsel.
- Media contacts are king
This time is also proving the importance of collaborating closely with the media. As Ben Munro-Davis, Sky News editor advised “journalists are so busy, they’re not going to read emails from people they don’t know”, so “focus on the people you know and target them with stories”.
We have adapted the style of advisories we share, the frequency of how often we approach our journalists to provide them with a list of what brands we work closely with and what they have to say, making every interaction with our contacts count. They now call us to say who they want off our specialist COVID-19 spokespeople list.
It is undeniable that our sector is changing, and that the future outlook of the industry is still uncertain. I look forward to the days when the fun and frivolous return to the airwaves and we can begin to heal and move on from this crisis together. But for now, COVID-19 means we need to step up and demonstrate the very best of broadcast media relations to ensure we can come out of this bigger, better and stronger on the side.
Stay safe all.
Phil Caplin, Founder