Group Gordon’s Marykate Cary looks at the lessons learned from a turbulent start to 2020 and how they can guide organizations moving forward.
Needless to say, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a rapid shift in the media landscape. At the national level, a news cycle dominated by election coverage disappeared overnight. In local markets across the country, it became impossible to talk about any topic without addressing the implications of the crisis. Even trade outlets focused on the virus’s impact on specific industries.
Recent protests and racial justice efforts have shifted the news cycle again. Now, at the midpoint of the year, many of us are asking what comes next. The turbulent first half of 2020 offers key lessons no matter what lies ahead.
Realign messaging and annual plans
Heading into fall, there are several stories that we can expect to dominate the media. Beyond a continued focus on coronavirus developments, racial justice and the presidential election will likely continue to shape the news cycle. Use the midyear period to look forward to the next six months or year, convening partners to talk about what is in the pipeline and how strategy can shift if needed. Where appropriate, start preparing messaging and laying the groundwork now – but accept that things may change again and be ready to be flexible.
Guinness, early on in the pandemic, showed remarkably good foresight in its marketing and communications. For example, it kept its St. Patrick’s Day messaging timely and positive but left room to build upon it in future campaigns.
When the pandemic hit the U.S., companies and organizations successfully pivoted to holding events online. With many folks hungry for opportunities to connect and learn while social distancing, attendance for webinars and virtual events skyrocketed. However, as we enter the fifth month of lockdown, keep in mind that “Zoom Fatigue” has set in. Ask yourself if you can postpone an event, or, better yet, achieve its purpose in a new way.
For example, instead of asking donors or partners to attend a panel, a well-placed op-ed tied to your organization’s leadership could achieve the same impact.
If you do decide to move forward with a virtual event, focus on keeping it engaging for participants and, above all, short. Zoom’s charity gala, Zoomtopia, for example, brought a fundraising event to life with live performances and at-home signature cocktails for guests.
Make the most of media relations
The media industry has faced the same realities as other businesses in this pandemic – working from home, furloughs, and lay-offs. Not to mention, most media outlets have found themselves forced to reallocate reporters’ time to cover the pandemic and protests in addition to their normal beats.
While these changes present challenges, there is also an opportunity to introduce your company or organization to journalists who may be covering a new beat. Just remember that all communication, be it in pitches or phone interviews, should account for the fact that reporters may need more background information than before as they tackle new topics.
Don’t wait for things to return to normal – things may never go back to how they were. Putting in the work now to strategize for the future, build new media relationships, and reimagine events will pay dividends in the long term. The landscape ahead may still be uncertain, but the lessons learned in this moment will prepare you to step back and realign your plan to face whatever happens next.