Failing to plan is planning to fail, it’s been said. Successful business leaders know the importance of a quality PR and marketing plan, but those things don’t exist in a vacuum. To know where you’re going – toward better content and connections and thus more conversions in 2021 – it’s important to know where you’ve been and to evaluate what worked and what didn’t this year.
Takeaways from 2020
2020 threw more than a few curveballs at PR and marketing pros. Even a quality PR program or marketing initiative could easily fall flat during this pandemic year. Timing is everything and even more so in 2020. COVID-19 proved – with gravitas – that communication messages need to be sensitive and aware beyond a sector or industry. For example, pitching a CBD product during the quarantine was not a good idea (obviously).
Many PR agencies ceased all pitching during the onset of quarantine while the media landscape continued to change rapidly with journalist layoffs and furloughs, coupled with contested credibility during the election year. The pandemic shock and resulting industry inertia, as well as the media maelstrom, underscores how on the ball PR pros, who in 2020 have put crisis communications at the forefront of their services platform, must be to navigate those challenges and come with up with timely pitches to cut through clutter. A good example: pitching the impact of the cannabis industry on election results versus an anniversary of a dispensary.
With COVID-19 and the election sucking up so much of the media oxygen, digital marketing has risen to the forefront for smart companies aiming to get in front of its audiences and increase visibility. Fueled by fresh, savvy content, the most valuable digital tools and platforms are e-blasts, newsletters, videos, infographics and social media. And respected third-party platforms like Medium.com, which has between 85 and 100 million monthly active users, offer a highly visible and respected space where company leaders can engage with thought leadership commentary.
Outlook for 2021
Obviously, all business leaders must plan their company goals for the new year based on industry analysis and lessons learned. The PR-marketing platform should be aligned with that plan so it has the best chance of fueling the company’s sales and marketing funnel.
Digital marketing will remain the most significant part of PR-marketing programs given its cost-effective, metric, customer targeting and other advantages. Direct mail has almost vanished, and media relations, though still a constant, has reduced reliability given the aforementioned changes from 2020. Continue to refine your content efforts and stay committed to regular communication of timely, fresh information with your target audience via e-blasts, newsletters, blogs and social media. And never forget – visual content should play a vital role in your program.
The quickly changing media landscape has produced a new avenue toward increased engagement: freelance journalists. Building relationships with them is a very good idea. After being laid off, many freelancers are casting a wider net in terms of coverage, while often employing novel ideas that perhaps didn’t conform to the traditional media sphere. Connect with them, tell your story and stay on their radar.
Finally, the COVID-19 reality of work from home has placed a new emphasis on the importance of internal communications. Your internal communications strategy and planning should focus on personal wellbeing, engage on multiple platforms, and always strive for employee feedback.