Today, we feature a Q & A with Ayelet Noff, the Founder and CEO ofSlicedBrand, a global PR agency headquartered in Berlin. Noff joins us today to discuss “PR strategy tips to navigate smoothly through the 2020 election.” In the last 20 years she has successfully led the PR activities of over a thousand technology companies in various fields, including AI, blockchain, mobile, cybersecurity, fintech, and many more.
Noff has worked with a wide range of clients and also early-stage stealth startups. She has been named as one of the five female rock stars leading the crypto scene in 2018, and named by Business Insider as one of the world’s 50 best public relations people in the tech industry.
Do you think the U.S. election will have that much of an impact on the PR industry?
Of course. No matter where you do business in the world, you will be affected by the U.S. Presidential election taking place on November 3rd. This election year is unlike any other. It’s ugly, brutal, noisy, and chaotic. To summarize it shortly: it would be a really, REALLY bad week to launch a product or pitch more or less anything.
Is this year an outlier? Are there other times of the year you’d give similar advice?
In the past, election day was never a good day to launch, but this year, due to all the chaos, everything is blown out of proportion even further. The political upheaval of the past four years, topped with a deadly global pandemic, has led up to what could possibly be the most momentous election in years and an extremely contentious and chaotic election week (or even weeks).
There are already a few days of the year where PR professionals know to pause outreach or stall releases. Holidays like Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s weeks, Apple announcement days, and Amazon Prime Day (unless you are working PR for consumer products) all distract the attention of journalists and consumers worldwide.
With active voter suppression and interference, and a Supreme Court that shares the views of the ruling political party, we only need to look to the2000 election to get a slim view of what we can expect this year. From challenges to the validity of votes, to possible protests after a disputed outcome; the attention of consumers will be elsewhere for much longer than a single day. This runs straight into Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, nearly negating the entire month of November.
How would you advise PR professionals to navigate this time of uncertainty?
We know that launching a product early can be detrimental to the success of any company, as details might not be ironed out, or development bugs may not have been addressed. Launching later than intended is less risky, but can still throw a wrench in planning.
Based on early election analysis from pundits much more versed in the U.S. election landscape, is that thinking that election day is only going to be a single day is a strategic mistake. Recommending to clients that we simply push a Tuesday release to Wednesday is a lazy approach to a complex geopolitical issue that affects the entire world. Even if your client is technology based, the news cycle will not allow for anything other than election news for at least a week following the election.
Are there any exceptions to this strategy?
Absolutely. If there is a way to tie your clients or brand to the election then some targeted outreach could be in order. Perhaps it’s an app that helps with finding voting locations or detects when someone is lying during a debate (the latter we literally did during the last election). But PR professionals should tread carefully here. Stretching the functionality of a product or service to simply come up with a cheeky pitch — with no real connection to the election — can leave a bad taste in journalists’ inboxes.
When do you foresee things getting back to normal or settling down?
The first week of December should be a bit more relaxed as whatever will happen will begin to sink in, and folks will attempt to return to whatever “normalcy” means these days. As we’ve discovered with a global pandemic, the populace yearns for a sense of “business as usual” (and against the best advice, returns to it as best they can). The same will be with journalists, exhausted by the political cycle, hunting their inboxes for stories of new apps or products.
What should PR professionals be doing in the meantime, as things settle down?
The news cycle, while neverending, will hopefully have enough holes in it by the time December rolls around. Take this time to tighten up releases and build out long-term strategies, or work on your own website or client materials. While there is always some sort of unpredictability in the marketplace, this election one is obvious, loud, and intrusive so take advantage of whatever moments of calm may appear. Such as the time between the end of Thanksgiving and the beginning of Christmas, where there is a small window of time to push your releases.
So use this time between election day and that sweet spot between Thanksgiving and Christmas to do some housekeeping. With all the chaos in the world, you may as well make sure there is none within your walls. Communicate frequently with your clients, reminding them that you are still working for them regardless of the world outside. Take the time to strategize and brainstorm together for the upcoming months, taking into consideration all possible scenarios.
Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom to pass on to readers?
Our main responsibility should be to our clients and making sure that their projects and initiatives get the attention they deserve. There will always be something going on in the world that will provide a distraction to journalists and consumers. It’s our job to appropriately navigate that distraction. There is no doubt that across many industries, the next few weeks are going to have ripple effects that could be felt for a long time, PR is no different.
There is still a chance that come election day, everything will happen as it should be, calm and orderly, just like there’s a chance that Elon Musk will kill it at doing his own PR. Regardless of what happens though, we do know that we have an obligation to our clients to be at the ready, for whatever happens. We can’t always plan for chaos, but we can definitely plan around it.
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