Following the launch of our marketing and communications masterclass series last week with a session on marketing strategy, Alice Weightman, CEO of Hanson Search and The Work Crowd, chaired our second session on PR and reputation management webinar, featuring panellists Alexander Clare and Matt Fincham.
Alexander Clare is an expert when it comes to representing challenger brands and blue-chip companies. His sector experience includes fintech, aviation and enterprise technology. A trained journalist, Alexander has a track record of securing press coverage in every major media market. He has worked both in-house and for agencies, in the public and private sector. Last year he was the interim Head of Communications at the Green Party.
Matt Fincham is a media and communications professional with agency and in-house PR expertise who started his career in the army. Specialising in B2B technology, including fintech, regtech, proptech, cloud, SaaS, mobile, blockchain, crypto, agritech and financial services. Matt has worked with a number of brands, including Cobalt DL, RSRCHxchange, SETL, Salesforce, HP and more.
The evolution of the media landscape post-lockdown
“Now is a time to be optimistic. In going through a difficult period, we will start to see new opportunities for PRs and businesses.” – Alexander Clare
Alexander believes that because of COVID-19, we are seeing a change in the media landscape.
''People and companies need to find outlets to be noticed, and in terms of the media landscape, we’re going to see an evolution here. I think towards podcasts and radio, with a convergence of different types of media, primarily towards digital'' -Alexander Clare
The Story – What do the media want?
Alex talks about working with clients and the media, reaching new customers, the story and how good PR helps.
''You need to find the middle ground between what you are trying to ‘sell’ whether this is a product or service or idea, and the news agenda.''
''A good PR, will help you find an emotional resonance between your brand or your product and the wider community. That will give you the high profile coverage you need to stand out from your competition.'' - Alexander Clare
This elevates a product above the competition and makes it resonate with a wider audience, providing greater product visibility in a shrinking media market.
Matt encourages businesses to engage with the media.
''The media don’t always require a hard news angle; if you can offer an interesting point of view and explain why its relevant now, then journalists will want to hear from you. The trade media, especially when looking at podcasts, are interested in customer feedback, what impresses your customers, what demand or challenges are your customers seeing, and what matters to them. This shows you really understand the issues and your market.'' - Matt Fincham
''Journalists are now interested in the counter-intuitive story, requiring fresh content ideas.'' -Alexander Clare
A counter-intuitive story is one that’s opposed to what’s commonly accepted or understood and establishes a point of difference for a brand and makes the journalist’s piece more interesting. A good PR freelancer can help you find the angle.
Communication with journalists has transformed
During lockdown the media landscape was dominated by COVID-19, with most news agendas covering this exclusively. Matt has found that since May, this has changed across national, trade and investment press.
What he feels is important is to research and understand your media.
''You need to do your research, who is actually more interested in a general news agenda, who is going to be interested in your news, who wants views, and who is more into opinions.''- Matt Fincham
Alex advises not to rely on emails; instead pick up the phone and speak to journalists.
Both speakers confirm that journalists’ schedules are clearer than ever, and so they are more receptive to PR news stories now. PRs and businesses must capitalise on this opportunity and build strong, remote-working relationships.
The key to successful PR campaigns, product launches, and achieving top-tier coverage
Matt on media launches for a new product, services of business:
''Go hard or go home. You only have one chance to launch your product or brand. You can't launch it to the media twice. Get all your ducks in a row and everything right the first time.'' - Matt Fincham
If you don’t have anything newsworthy, there are other options available:
''Commentary and thought leadership... Writing about something you identify with, an issue in your market. Think about the insight you have, that no one else has. Surveys and figures, data that no one else has access to might interest an editor, particularly if you know something that others don’t. This can be a good starting place for an article. ''- Matt Fincham
Alexander advises PRs to plan where a story should be pushed.
''Offer a publication an exclusive, and then share the story wider. A short, simple, precise email is more effective than a lengthy pitch as the PR needs to distil the business’ message.''- Alexander Clare
Access to figures and audience insights can sparks editorial interest and strengthens a story. It is important to study a publication’s content and tailor relevant pitches to specific journalists and practically write the story for them.
External PRs in addition to an in-house communications team are beneficial for providing objectivity. These PRs are able to circumvent the internal culture and challenge clients. This also has a positive impact on PR-journalist relations, as it generates a more open, frank and impartial conversation without those internal ties to an organisation.
“Silence creates suspicion.” – Matt Fincham
Matts explains how reputation management was transformed post-credit crunch and is even more relevant today. ‘Silence creates suspicion, which leads to assumptions of a struggling business.’ Therefore, it is important to construct a response and convey transparency. Alex adds that there is more pressure than ever on PRs to make a meaningful difference and create engagement. Using social channels to engage with an audience, increasing coverage for SEO purposes is a short-term solution. Reputation management at c-suite level is a long-term investment and requires an established trusting relationship.
Businesses need to approach the situation with great sensitivity post-COVID. The consequences are still unfolding, with people just coming to terms with the many challenges ahead. Only incorporate COVID in communications authentically; a falsely positive story is more damaging. Now more than ever PRs and their clients must be totally honest in their contributions to public discourse.
How can we help you?
Thanks for reading! If you are looking for expert freelance talent to help you drive your business forward during these uncertain times, please do get in touch with our team at The Work Crowd. We are a community of marketing and communications experts and we’d be happy to discuss your needs and connect you to the right professionals in our network.