An election year always serves as a great opportunity for the public relations industry to learn and grow. Considering that 2020 was an election year unlike any other, it’s especially important for PR professionals to take some time to reflect on the timeframe and refine approaches. Here are three big takeaways to consider during an election year.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. You must be well prepared in the months before an election to ensure your brand or your client is still heard as the election approaches. Election coverage hits its peak in September and October, and as we know, it will dominate headlines at least until the results are finalized. You should be thinking about six months ahead on what angles you can pitch earlier in the year so that coverage is secured and running in the third and fourth quarters. Do your research, hold frequent brainstorming sessions and prepare strong angles and news hooks that will break through the clutter of dedicated election news coverage. The earlier you prepare, the better you will understand the editorial calendars and how to best execute your pitch. In addition, it will also give you more time to reinforce your relationships with key media contacts.
Remember – just because the election is dominating headlines doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance for your story to be heard. It all comes down to media relations preparedness.
It’s important to continue your due diligence as the election is happening. Is there a tasteful way of inserting your brand or client in the current news cycle? Maybe there are opportunities for you to be a part of the election coverage in a way that deals with the issues but is also appropriate. Read up on the daily political stories and understand what specific news outlets are covering. Scan headlines from unbiased sources to ensure you’re receiving ample information while considering the viewpoints from each side on the biggest issues. This kind of research can help you discover an angle that can be an “in” for your brand or client. Think about a side of the story that hasn’t been told yet, or ways that you can provide more context to your brand’s involvement. Then, work with the appropriate executives or spokespeople to fine-tune these angles to insert yourselves into the conversation in a tasteful way.
Always pivot. In normal years, you would likely pursue national coverage opportunities at any point in the year. During an election year, however, you’ll either want to begin your pitching months in advance as discussed, or focus on local and trade publications as election coverage hits its peak. It can be difficult to insert your brand into breaking national news coverage when the election is upon us, so pivot your strategy to focus your energy on trade and local outlets that would be more interested in community news such as upcoming openings, charity events, etc. This is your best bet when it comes to optimizing your outreach and results as the election news cycle peaks.
From a PR perspective, there are no shortage of opportunities to learn from an election year. As election years come and go, keeping these three tips in mind will help your team or your agency continue to spread the word and be a part of the conversation.