PR and the pandemic: six ways we’ve had to adapt

Posted on 24th August 2020 by Lottie Buckley

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I think it’s safe to say that every business in the UK, regardless of sector, has had to make changes to the way it operates as a result of the pandemic. It has certainly had an impact on the way that we work at Skout, and while it has undeniably created challenges, it has also brought about some welcome changes to the way we do things. I sat down with the team earlier this week to reflect on the impact the pandemic has had on our industry over the last six months – here’s what we discussed.

  1. Pivoting and adapting client PR campaign plans

One of the main challenges we faced, especially at the beginning of lockdown, was adapting our existing client plans to reflect changes to the ways our clients now needed to operate. In several cases, we had to pause planned activities and campaigns altogether and go back to the drawing board. It was important that we were effectively communicating the right messages for our clients and supporting them with their new priorities and objectives. At Skout, we always take a flexible approach to our clients’ PR campaign plans and the pandemic reinforced just how important this is.

  1. The whole news agenda changed

Covid-19 and the UK lockdown changed the news agenda completely. Understandably, the publications we usually target for our clients were writing about the pandemic and how it impacted their specific sector and were offering useful advice to their readership. It was crucial that any news or opinion we issued on behalf of our clients at this time was contributing something relevant, helpful and appropriate to the discussions.

  1. Daily conversations and brainstorms

We’re a close-knit team at Skout and all work from the same small office, so when one of us has a quick question or starts a discussion, it’s quick and easy to ask the room and for everyone to pitch in to come to the answer or resolution. Working from home meant we had to change our approach.  Now Microsoft Teams has become our key communication channel and bigger discussions and brainstorms have to be diarised. Something that works well for us as a team is our daily video call each morning to run through any key updates and check in with each other.

  1. Pitching to journalists

Pitching stories and getting hold of journalists has been incredibly challenging over the past five months. This is perhaps not surprising, given the number of journalists on furlough. In a survey conducted by the National Union of Journalists in May, 45% of respondents said their employer had furloughed editorial staff. And, with the journalists that continued to work through lockdown having to do so from home, it was usually a case of pitching via email rather than over the phone. Our account exec, Rebecca, attended a webinar back in April about pitching in the middle of a pandemic, and the journalist that hosted the session suggested sending a story twice or to multiple journalists on one publication. Read her blog here to find out what else she learnt.

  1. New business pitches went virtual

Pitching to a prospective new client face-to-face gives you the opportunity to gauge reaction and respond to expressions and body language. Through lockdown, we’ve been pitching for new business via video call, which is a new experience for us all. On a couple of occasions, prospective clients have muted their microphones or turned off their camera, making it even more difficult to read what they might be thinking! However, this new approach to pitching has seen us develop a new skill. We’ve overcome the initial awkwardness of talking to (and often over!) each other through a screen and developed a whole new art of communicating virtually from wherever we might be.

  1. It’s brought us closer to our clients

Pre-Covid, we’d usually meet face to face with our clients at regular intervals, but otherwise, our updates took place over the phone. At the moment, all our client meetings are taking place over video call, which feels a lot more personal and meaningful than a phone call. We’ve been talking to our clients much more regularly and feel that our client relationships have grown even stronger.

As the Skout team gears up to head back to the office from 1st September (with all the correct safety measures and precautions in place, of course!) we will continue to find ways to adapt to the ‘new normal.’ While it has undeniably been a challenging time for everyone, we’ve had valuable experiences and learnt many new lessons along the way!




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