11 Public Relations Tips to Make News in a Pandemic

Our PR Campaigns During COVID Captured Media Attention and Boosted Awareness 

As in any national crisis, many companies  eliminated their PR campaigns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We feared our client’s budget would be one of them. Our Chicago PR firm had just created a six-month PR strategy before the lockdowns, school closures and shelter-in-place mandates. But we couldn’t implement our plan, which relied heavily on in-person events and promotions. So, we urged our client not to despair and instilled confidence by brainstorming relevant topics and developing angles to showcase our client’s expertise.

The PR Strategy Pivot

For instance, we pivoted our PR strategy and targeted journalists who’d want to hear how this nonprofit helped public school students, parents, teachers and staff navigate through COVID with a variety of educational, mental health and community support. We applied the same tactics for our business clients by identifying relevant COVID topics and offering their experts to the media. Happily, our strategy and tactics paid off.

Why PR Matters, Even in a Crisis

Public relations can make a huge impact on an overall marketing strategy. Making news validates your expertise, increases awareness and generates leads. If you and your company get quoted alongside giant competitors, it makes you look a lot bigger than you really are. Finally, PR can change lives. In the past year, our work has prompted our targeted audiences to take action — whether it was volunteering to become a foster parent for abused and neglected children, or signing up for training to help identify children and youth facing a mental health crisis.

11 PR Tactics Leading to Results in a Pandemic

  1. Closely follow developing stories and add offer your organization’s viewpoint. The team at our Chicago PR agency deployed this tactic a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic to get clients quoted in media. By emailing ideas to reporters, we placed this education-related story about a client helping prevent high school dropouts. Another client made business news for helping companies stressed by the fallout from COVID. And another was featured on local TV.
  2. Offer reporters a unique angle. In 2021, the year began with sad stories about the spike in suicides brought on by COVID-19’s isolation and depression. Our client offered free Youth Mental Health First Aid classes, which offered hope to parents and teachers. Seven news outlets reported on the classes and interviewed our expert. You can see the news here.
  3. Travel refunds — or businesses refusal to offer refunds — topped the headlines at the start of the pandemic. Our client in the travel payments business saw a big opportunity to educate travel industry trade publications.  We used the refunds crisis facing travel consumers to educate trade reporters, with stories like this.
  4. Send a tip (find the News Tips number or email online) to a local TV reporter about how national news impacts your community or customers. “Localizing” a national angle helped this client get interviewed on TV.
  5. Subscribe to a podcast? Take note of the topics, check their archives and offer expertise on something that hasn’t covered. This podcast focused on high tech tools for real estate agents.
  6. Making national news requires patience and persistence. But the rewards are great! Your story could be syndicated or shared with hundreds of local newspapers and outlets. Follow top reporters (look for their emails in their Twitter profiles), monitor their coverage and send a few short bullet points about your fresh angle. Our CEO client was quoted in the AP, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, US News, MSN.com to name a few.
  7. Always consider local radio! It’s still a powerful medium for reaching tens or hundreds of thousands of listeners and online visitors. Check a station’s program schedule, call / email a host or show producer (find them on Twitter) and suggest a topic. Trends and seasonal topics are favorites. Contact the shows at least a few weeks ahead of time with your idea.
  8. Get your company name in front of tens of thousands of trade show attendees. It’s a proven lead generator, especially for a client hosting a workshop at a leading trade show. Six to nine months before an industry event, find the show organizers online and email them to suggest workshop topics. You’ll be asked to submit an abstract describing the topic you want to cover. One client landed new business soon after a prospect read about them in the trade show brochure! That hard copy brochure was mailed to 100,000 attendees!
  9. Win awards. From rising stars to the CEO, there are professional honors waiting to be given, if you know where and when to look. Can you name a notable young professional, woman entrepreneur, minority, or LGBTQ executive, and many others? Many local business outlets showcase them on a regular basis.  Check the publication’s advertising section or editorial calendar for a listing of awards. Take note of deadlines for submissions.
  10. Have you written a case study or white paper to help customers make an informed purchasing decision? You can make slight changes and shorten your case study and offer it as a guest blog contribution or byline article in a trade publication. Or you can offer insights to others in your industry with a byline article that appears in a trade or news outlet aimed at a targeted audience. Our nonprofit client wrote this thought leadership essay, based on topics we found in the magazine’s editorial calendar.
  11. Invite a reporter or several reporters for (virtual) breakfast to discuss a hot topic or preview an important presentation you’re making, such as a Ted talk.

Need other ideas about how to get your company in the news?  Let’s talk, and I’ll  provide you with more ideas and guidance. 

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