It was the day that turned the world upside down. On the 12th March 2020, the Taoiseach (our version of the Prime Minister) announced the closing of schools for two weeks with the possibility of office closures. Realising the precarious position that lay ahead, we packed away our laptops, emptied our desks and waved goodbye to our colleagues. “We’ll see you in a few weeks” was the order of the day. At the time we truly believed it would be business as usual and we’d be back in a few weeks. Although, none of us believed closures would last for only two weeks, no one could have predicted that a year on we would all still be working remotely, in our home offices, babies, puppies and WiFi issues galore.
The initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world of PR. Overnight, months of PR planning, campaigns and strategies went straight out the window. Hours of work were ultimately wiped out as uncertainty swept across our clients, like a flame that couldn’t be stomped out. From an Account Manager perspective, the pressure was on to re-work client campaigns and craft newsworthy media outreach for the next few months. What would have made headlines weeks ago, was suddenly obsolete. After a number of virtual brainstorming sessions, new angles were developed, and the cogs of new campaigns were set in motion to ensure clients were still achieving the level of targeted exposure and media traction they were after.
Luckily for us, having a global client portfolio meant that our client relations continued seamlessly and so we could turn the campaigns around quickly. As an international PR agency with clients across three continents from North America to Asia, remote client meetings had always formed a normal part of our day-to-day operations. Of course, with everyone now working from home there were some small hiccups, missing Zoom links, mute buttons left on leaving team members unknowingly talking to themselves, kids shouting in the background. Although we may have struggled some days with our new environment, clients remain informed and assured about the status of their PR strategy and campaign on a daily basis.
With lay-offs happening everywhere, newsrooms were no exception. Content became king. It became our core responsibility to make each journalists’ job as easy as possible. We experienced a pitching evolution, with offers for interviews morphing into pitching for a story right off the bat. Under pressure with reduced resources, journalists were looking for all the information they would need to piece together a story as quickly and effortlessly as possible. We adopted a new approach including offering clients for email Q&As which proved to be a successful tactic. With many publications running short on staff and time, this option proved more efficient than phone interviews.
As different parts of the world went in and out of lockdown we quickly learned what was hitting home with journalists and publications across our clients’ target markets and what was falling short. By giving the journalist all the relevant information, right from the get go and tying in our clients’ stories with current events, we were able to continue meeting our campaign targets throughout the course of 2020 remaining aligned with our clients’ objectives. We soon realised this was a truly fruitful strategy to deploy across most client campaigns.
As we continue to navigate the pandemic 12 months’ on, and with parts of the world still in lockdown and the others wide open, the PR landscape is starting to settle and return to what we can call ‘normal’. Although launch events and conferences may remain in the far distant future, there is hope on the horizon for all the satisfaction and achievement, derived from successful PR Account Management as the wheels of the communications carousel keep on turning.