Pitching and Relationships in the time of COVID-19

A few weeks back, we hosted a virtual panel on ‘Pitching and Maintaining Brand Relationships in the Time of COVID-19.’ We were delighted to be joined by Amy Skelding, Senior Partner at Brighter Group and Barry Johnston Account Director at Gosh PR, as well as Des Burke who represents the DMO Tourism Ireland as their Publicity Executive. 

In this “unprecedented” situation we find ourselves in, it has been a really uncertain time for digital content creators, particularly those in the travel industry with campaigns and paid projects being postponed or cancelled entirely.

We’ve put together this blog post to share some of the key questions that were put to the panel and the main takeaways from our guests who speak from both a DMO and PR perspective.

Header image: Photo by Allie on Unsplash

Do brands and PR agencies still want to hear from content creators at the moment?

The short answer here is yes! Obviously however, as Barry reminds us, brands and DMO’s marketing budgets would have been slashed massively, if not completely. Creators should be understanding of this, and will need to be flexible and realistic when pitching to brands and PRs.

While brands and agencies are still eager to hear from creators, any new or cold pitches should be approached carefully and should be well thought out. Make sure to highlight your value as a creator because now more than ever (with these reduced marketing budgets) investment has to really be worth their while. 

Something that was highlighted during the discussion was the importance of maintaining relationships, so that as and when any opportunities for PR’s clients do arise, they have that influencer network readily available to reach out to. Make sure to drop an email to any existing contacts and highlight any ways you’ve pivoted or adapted your content to be relevant.

What is the kind of thing you do and don’t want to hear from content creators?

A good pitch is one that shows a lot of passion and research. Research is key here so ensure that you’ve done your homework, you know who you are pitching to and you know not just about the destination (or brand) but the current environment.

“A good pitch is one that shows a lot of passion and research.

Amy Skelding suggests that going forward the trends indicate that we will travel with more purpose and with a greater importance placed on sustainability. Are there was you can focus your content on being more eco-friendly and communicate this to your audience and new clients? Don’t forget to look at the trends, and the recovery strategies of DMOs.  

It’s also important to ensure that you are still sounding authentic too for your audience, as there are some really inauthentic ads and brand partnerships that we’ve all seen. While we understand the importance of getting paid work now more than ever, make sure it’s done in a way that’s in keeping with your channel – stay on brand and true to what you are. Be sensitive about the content you’re publishing and try to keep it genuine for your audience.

What are the best ways for creators to “do their research’?

Website and social channels are a good place to start. Follow the social channels of that brand or destination. Subscribe to PR’s mailing lists or media databases, to find out about the latest goings-on. 

Des highlights the importance of taking time to look online at resources such as Ireland.com or tourismireland.com for inspiration and to learn more about current news and trends in particular destinations.

What’s the best way to be on a brand/PR’s radar in a positive way once this is all over? 

If you are at all able, one of the best ways to stay on people’s radar in the current climate is to engage on social channels with brands and destinations. Be sure to put out any old or unused content you may have (from previous trips, or recreating travel to the destination or a favourite dish, for example) to show support and solidarity. 

If you show a bit of willing to potential clients, they are much more likely to show willing back as and when they have the budget to allocate.

Michael, moderator of the panel and Founder of Traverse, enforces the point that if you show a bit of love to these great clients such as posting any pictures from past trips, it will really be appreciated at the moment and won’t go unnoticed. 

The key messages were to have empathy and sympathy for the situation – be sensitive and thoughtful with the messaging of your content. 

Where possible, support campaigns such as Antigua’s ‘Messages in the Sand;’

Barry reminds us that re-purposing content is also is a great way of pitching existing content to brands especially if you’ve already visited that destination or stayed in a particular hotel.

Most travel bloggers traffic has completely plummeted since the lockdown and restrictions were imposed. Will brands and destinations take this into consideration going forward? 

The short answer to this one also is yes, of course. Many small businesses, content creators included, have taken a massive hit due to COVID. Brands will be understanding, but where possible, it’s a good idea to have media kits and statistics on hand to demonstrate good blog traffic prior to this, from the past few months prior to COVID.

Also consider the ways of driving traffic to your blog in other non-travel specific ways, i.e. “best things to do while at home” or write about the things that people want or need during the lockdown, for example arts and crafts, online courses etc. People are online more now than ever, so try and make your content relevant. 

If you enjoyed this then make sure to stay up to date with our latest virtual events, to join in the next one via Zoom.


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