Today, an interview with Justin Hall, Co-Founder, Voxus PR
2020 has been a rough year for most organizations, one that literally no one anticipated would include of all things, a pandemic. As we look toward recovery and opportunity in 2021, the role of communications becomes critical. Planning for PR and communications in this “new normal” is both important and – in a sense – unprecedented. Undoubtably teams will be asked to do more with less, from streamlining programs to increasing tactical efficacy to showing more creative value. Yet tactics that were once standard – take industry events, for example – are now virtually non-existent. How do we face the realities of this current market and still deliver a powerful (and realistic) 2021 PR plan?
Here’s a quick Q&A with Voxus PR co-founder, Justin Hall, about some of the key challenges and tactics to think about as you surge into next year.
How has COVID-19 impacted your ability to execute on 2020 plans?
“This pandemic has had a profound impact on the companies we work with, and the organizations we partner with. If I had to choose one word to best describe it, it would be ‘change.’ While some change has been negative, like budget and staffing reductions at clients and with media partners, some of the change has also been incredibly positive. For example, embracing the work from home culture and increase in video communications, or clients investing more in creative campaigns and thought-leadership content. As an agency partner, our ability to change with our clients is what’s allowed us to continue to deliver value, even as 2020 plans derail a bit.”
Can you explain how 2021 PR planning will be different from previous years?
“At least in the tech industry, we’re already seeing organizations be more selective and strategic with their marketing spend. This impacts PR and will lead to a lot of really tough discussions about what strategies and tactics deliver the most value for a brand, and how that value can be measured. Companies are also heavily focused on working with what they can control (for instance, content assets) and less with what they can’t (virtual events). As we begin 2021 planning with our clients, we’re already being asked to focus more heavily on media and content outputs, and to come to the table with new creative approaches to messaging and storytelling.”
When it comes to PR, marketing teams seem hyper-focused right now on coverage outputs. What can PR teams do over the next 6 months to improve in this area?
“This is often the bread and butter of a good agency and a foundational metric for success. As we move into 2021, teams should focus on three primary areas for improvement. 1) Teams need to tidy up their entire process and ditch the old shotgun approach. Have a solid, focused process and invest the time to properly execute against it. This includes in-depth analysis of audiences and relevant publications. 2) The story needs to matter and demonstrate impact. Spend the time to create (or find) compelling data that lifts your narrative up. Stop spamming journalists with pitches that don’t clear the bar and be willing to provide clients with honest assessments of their stories. 3) Make it simple for press. Fact: they are overwhelmed. When pitching, include comments and content that can immediately be attributed and flowed into an article. Offer email Q&As. Better yet, offer to author the article, include an abstract or the entire article for review.”
Measurement matters in PR. What are some tips for measurement in 2021?
“Every penny is being more heavily scrutinized due to this pandemic. That means measurement can be a powerful tool for demonstrating value (and growing programs). As we move into 2021, think about the following measurement strategies. 1) Baseline coverage and outputs. This includes the basics of clip counting, circulation, setting goals around number of blogs written, etc. 2) Understand the impact of the coverage. Is the message coming through, is your brand dominating the article, are you quoted? Perhaps create an impact scoring matrix to track this against goals. 3) Prioritize websites and media outlets based on site traffic. Why waste time on sites with little influence, or those that don’t allow dofollow links. 4) Optimize coverage and content for search. PR can have a tremendous impact on organic search. Get your keyword strategy in line and for pete’s sake, measure PR’s impact. 5) When applicable, track engagement on content (across forums, reviews, social media, etc.). Understand what’s driving form fills, downloads, shares, likes. Then double down on what works.”
If you could only do one PR activity for a client in 2021, what would that be?
“Our agency loves working with subject matter experts (SMEs) on creating thought-leadership content for publications. We actually have many tech clients that just rely on our team to ghost write articles across a variety of publications like Dark Reading, TheNextWeb, Politico, TechCrunch, Forbes and more. These deliver tremendous value for marketing beyond just the article placement. They can be repackaged into a blog post, used on social media, leveraged for customer or partner communications, etc. If you’re an organization looking to get into the content game, a thought-leadership program for contributed content can be a powerful first step.”
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