How has Covid changed the PR landscape?

Written by Lemongrass Marketing on 30th Apr 2021

Think you know Travel PR? Think again.   

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the media landscape and consumer behaviour, especially in tourism and travel.  

To effectively reach and engage your customers in an accelerated digital age, travel brands need to embrace new, agile and data-driven ways of working – or risk getting left behind. 

New consumer behaviours pose new questions. There’s no playbook, so we’ve all got to learn along the way. 

We’ve mapped out the most important changes to the media and PR landscape, and what this means for travel brands in the months ahead. 

No travel allowed

Pre-Covid press trips were a must for securing in-depth coverage, but that all came to a dramatic halt in 2020. 

Journalists and travel writers are keen to get abroad once again – but the logistics of how to host them around the world amid a pandemic leaves a lot to be considered: coronavirus tests, quarantine and last-minute changes to the ‘green’ list. 

Is it worth investing in planning a trip that may well be cancelled due to a last-minute border closure? 

One way to get around the confusion is to find local, on-the-ground journalists that write for UK publications. 

Not only is this better for people and the planet, but it also allows for local understanding and credibility when it comes to storytelling.  

In 2020, we launched a brand new hotel concept in the Italian Dolomites, FORESIS – and did exactly that.   

We invited Julia Buckley, a freelance journalist based in Italy for National Geographic Traveller, to experience FORESTIS.

Curating her experience from end to end secured us extensive coverage in targeted print and online channels. Her experience showcased the property in-depth, and gave us quality coverage that no virtual experience could have matched.

Still, we’re seeing a rapid surge in the demand for virtual tours (searches related to global tours have grown 500% year on year). As a result, many travel brands have pivoted their offerings accordingly: the German National Tourist Board offered virtual tours, and Airbnb launched a platform where people can virtually experience the cities they would have been visiting.

As borders begin to open up, it’s hard to predict the bounce-back of press trips – but we expect to see a hybrid model emerge, which can provide more cost-effective solutions for brands.

Smaller newsrooms and the importance of the personalised pitch

The shift in media consumption from print to online is not news – but has been accelerated by Covid.

Budget cuts for many print media brands has meant that editorial teams have shrunk. This means fewer writers are responsible for generating more content.

The journalists who have kept on working are busier than ever. This, combined with the need for remote working, has made it even more difficult to get hold of journalists and pitch to them. Away from their phones in the office, most journalists are now only contactable by email

Consequently, editors have less time to read press releases, which in turn means adapting every pitch that is sent out.

In the past, meeting face to face was a sure-fire way of establishing a bond with a journalist, however their remains anxiety around physical meet ups post-lockdown and the general consensus from media is that they will only meet up with PRs if it is really worth it. Marie Claire for example will insist on getting access to an exclusive and will only meet if it’s a story they really want to scoop.

The solution? Developing personalised pitches and editorial-style releases, that the publication can lift straight into an article or generating unique stories they will absolutely want to cover.

The need for this personalised approach is critical if you want to get noticed – but it comes with a hefty investment of time to get it right. For example, we invest time putting together a detailed, sign posted dropbox for journalists. This means there is a one stop shop for everything the journalist needs including images and videos, information, links and resources.

How to stay ahead of the news agenda to land a timely pitch

Covid-19 has led to a rapidly-changing news agenda, and it’s harder than ever to plan your PR and comms in advance. Breaking news stories are changing on an hourly basis.

For landing top-tier media placements and links, newsjacking has fast become one of the most simple and effective strategies.

What is newsjacking?

Newsjacking is a digital PR tactic where we continuously monitor live news to spot opportunities for your travel brand to be part of the conversation, with expert commentary and thought leadership pieces.

Newsjacking is successful when clients are able to share their insights, opinions and expertise on a range of topics. Most recently, our client Lanserhof contributed to the long-covid news agenda story.

We worked with Lanserhof doctors to provide timely health tips and advice, landing coverage on Sky news and in FT’s How to Spend It. This secured millions of impressions and drove links directly to the client’s website – which also boosted their organic search ranking

For another client based in Portugal, Martinhal, we contributed to the travel news agenda regarding the ‘safe travel’ countries list. When Portugal was added to the ‘green’ list in August 2020, we secured a Sky News interview with Founder and Owner Chitra Stern.

British tourists account for a high percentage of travellers to Portugal and the Country’s economy depends on their tourism. Chitra expressed her relief that Portugal made it on the green list and that visitors would be allowed to Portugal from the UK without quarantine restrictions. There was also room to mention why Martinhal is the best family holiday option when visiting Portugal including the outdoor and nature activities and all the quality facilities – all resulting in significant uplifts in traffic to their site.

Newsjacking is a reactive strategy that requires a super quick turnaround, so it’s vital to have an open and collaborative relationship with your agency partners. For the best results, trust them to jump on relevant opportunities for you as they emerge.

The battle for attention has never been greater – so how do you stand out?

Today, travel editors at nationals will get anywhere between 400-800 pitches in a single day. Getting on a journalist’s radar and landing the right story is becoming increasingly challenging.

Here’s how we have adapted our tactics to maximise coverage opportunities and stand out in a journalist’s already full inbox.

Be clear and incisive

  1. Keep emails short. Only include the key information and facts. The trick is to help journalists save time with easily digestible and accessible pitches that solve their problems.
  2. Include all assets a journalist needs to write a story – client quotes, availability for an interview – and if using data, outline the methodology clearly. Use Dropbox for images and video; most inboxes will reject large files.

Give the journalist everything they need

How?

Always include all the details a journalist might need – statistics, images, quotes, spokesperson available for interview, methodology – and ensure they’re high quality and royalty free. Tell the journalist this.

Why?

Journalists have NO time to waste. They’re writing 6-8 articles a day, make their lives easy by having everything they’d need easily accessible. However, that doesn’t mean make it lengthy – it actually means the opposite. Keep it short. Concise. To the point. But useful in ticking all the boxes.

Be aware of what is trending

Writers are increasingly driven by what’s in vogue or the next big thing, which means the timing of pitching is more important than ever – leaving less room for analytical and discursive pieces.

We use tools like Google Trends to find out what consumers are asking (see our recent blog post here, with 4 tools to unearth trending topics before competitors).

How to build an effective strategy and measure what matters?

Customer-centric brands are 60% more profitable than brands that don’t focus on their customers (Source: Deloitte)

Audience first

2020 proved the need for a strategic, audience first way of thinking.

Start with your first party data (see this infographic), then analyse third party data, combine that with brand vision, objectives and what this means for your customers first. We take many of our clients through strategic workshops that build a detailed framework around how to address key marketing challenges, gain a deeper understanding of target consumers and how to engage with them, as well as developing a clear communication roadmap, content pillars and measurable KPIs.

Measure what matters

It’s impossible to compare year on year results for 2020 – so focus on new metrics for success to keep travel brands buoyant.

Your PR and communications activities have to work harder than ever before. To accurately measure the impact of any activity we undertake, we have developed a proprietary real-time measurement dashboard with an impact score. Instead of outdated metrics like AVE, we now measure:

Our dashboard shows which publications have driven the most traffic and gained the most engagement and provide real-time results.

This makes it clear to all your internal stakeholders (CEO, social media manager, marketing manager) exactly what is and isn’t working.

2020 has taught us to think bigger than circulation figures or domain authority, and look at the strategy holistically – to ensure we truly measure what matters to your business.

 

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We’re Lemongrass Marketing – a specialist digital marketing &  PR agency for travel experiences in the world’s most beautiful destinations. Let’s talk about your next digital campaign. Message grow@lemongrassmarketing.com or call +44 (0)1865 237 990.