People on a train during the pandemic

Is it OK to promote Thought Leadership during the coronavirus crisis?

TLPR PR Tips and Blog

During unprecedented and stressful times like these, it is hard to know whether your usual marketing campaigns should be put on hold and whether it’s appropriate to continue to produce thought leadership content. Should you still release your next podcast episode if it was recorded before the world shut down? Should you carry on with your scheduled blog topics if those topics have nothing to do with coronavirus? Should you still host that webinar on ‘how to win new clients’ when the markets are free-falling? Should you still post infographics on LinkedIn with your snippets of wisdom about whatever your subject matter expertise is?

We’ve highlighted four considerations when it comes to changing your PR, marketing and thought leadership strategy in a time of crisis.

Focus on internal communications instead of external comms

For people working in internal comms, it’s easy to shift focus. Their usual remit is to communicate company processes and messaging to staff and customers. But for PRs, marketeers or thought leaders, whose goal is usually to drive awareness of a brand by getting media coverage, these times are more difficult to navigate.

It could appear completely tone deaf to continue to pitch comments, interviews, articles to the media. Yet we are still working, the economy still needs driving, businesses still need to keep the sales pipeline alive. So it’s a dilemma, right? 

Many of our clients have asked what they should do with their PR strategy. Usually we focus on promotion and thought leadership. But now we’ve found ourselves advising on whether they should send a newsletter out to customers and what to put in it or what their tone should be on social media.

So at times like these, spend more time on your internal PR and comms efforts to update your team and customer base. And spend more time on your social media posts so that they are responsive to the latest lines in the news.

Pivot your expertise

It is still ok to do the things that thought leaders do – post advice, write articles, release Youtube videos. But re-angle it to reflect what people want to know. The Coronavirus crisis affects every aspect of our lives. No matter what you are a subject-matter expert in, you can apply it to now. For example, we have one client who is a SaaS conference organiser. He was planning on writing an article on ‘how to put a conference together’ for an online business publication. Instead he wrote a diary piece for VentureBeat of his tumultuous week having to cancel a big conference.

Look at Joe Wicks, the well-known personal trainer. He’s pivoted his expertise to help children off school by streaming a morning PE session online

At Thought Leadership PR, we have our own podcast called, The Media Insider, in which we interview editors on how they commission stories. Guess what we’ll talk about with our next editorial guest? How newsrooms are responding to this.

In short, evergreen thought leadership is not appropriate now. But reactive, considered, useful advice which reflects the things that people are searching for answers to, is very well-received.

There is a good article on The Business Desk, categorising the areas of advice that businesses are likely to be searching for now.

Adjust your media pitches

I’ve seen other PRs asking whether it’s still ok to pitch non-Coronavirus-related stories to the media. As with every single question related to pitching to the media, the answer lies in ‘research the destination publication!’ News journalists will undoubtedly be covering the latest developments in the Coronavirus crisis. 

But features desks still have certain ‘slots’ to fill. For example, the Daily Mail still runs ‘Femail’ on a Thursday with beauty pages, fashion and first-person stories. They may give their stories a Coronavirus angle – ‘what beauty products can you buy in the supermarket now that all the makeup shops are closed’ (for example!), but as you can see it isn’t only the scientists and medics who are making it to print.

Business publications may still have their weekly ‘How I Made It’ type of sections, but they’ll probably feature someone who has pivoted their business online during this crisis.

Then there are some media opportunities which are totally unrelated to COVID-19.  We’ve seen a few requests by journalists on Twitter asking for non-coronavirus story pitches.

Show compassion in your PR communications

We probably don’t need to say this, because anyone whose tone isn’t subdued in a time like this is either emotionally lacking or in denial! Singing about your gains, promoting past achievements that have nothing to do with the current situation, and overly promoting your business or product in a time like this will grate on people, and rightly so. If you want to keep up your social media, but don’t know what to say, stick to posting updated and timely articles that genuinely interest you – scientific steps to find a new vaccine for example, or a feel-good story about how a community has come together to help someone in isolation. 

These are the stories that deserved to be shared and thought leaders always share content that has a purpose – never for their own gain.

Have you considered how to become a thought leader to better position yourself as a leading expert in your industry? A trusted profile is one of the best ways to attract new business. Contact us at Thought Leadership PR if you’d like some ideas.