In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how media pitching was going to go earlier this week.
A craft brewery client of mine had to (like many others in their industry right now) pivot their business and drastically change the way they sell their beer. They asked me to write a press release about the brewery starting to ship its beer anywhere in California.
Press coverage is never a guarantee, but in the wake of COVID-19, I couldn’t help but think: Is this angle truly unique or “new” enough? Will reporters even care, when they’re busy covering a pandemic? Will consumers?
While alcohol consumption during shelter-in-place is on the rise, craft breweries are seeing a drastic decrease in sales due to COVID-19–nearly a 42% decrease across Northern California, according to a California Craft Brewers Association survey. Unable to invite beer enthusiasts to their taprooms where most of their money is made, small breweries now must rely predominantly on carryout sales and, thanks to relaxed ABC laws, many are now delivering and shipping their beer statewide.
When creating content during this unparalleled time, I’ve urged my clients to remember that any piece of content can end up sandwiched between two COVID-19 related posts or headlines. It’s so crucial to be mindful of the content you’re putting out there and the context in which it can show up so your brand doesn’t come across as tone-deaf.
With that in mind, I crafted my press release and made it clear throughout: This business pivot was a direct response to COVID-19. This is a small business that has been impacted by the pandemic. And of course, it didn’t hurt that the brewery was named Brewery of the Year in a large beer competition and has kick-ass beers.
We got some great coverage, and there’s still more in the works. But just like my client, I had to pivot in the way I do things, too.
Here are my three takeaways I recommend to brands when pitching media in the current news landscape.
1. Do your research. This is always something I tell clients to do before approaching the press in general, let alone during a pandemic. In many cases, publications and news outlets are working with less staff, if they’re in operation at all. Your usual press contact may be out of work or covering a different beat. I was even more diligent than usual with this in mind and was careful to research how publications were covering the topic of craft beer in their area. With any pitching effort, do your due diligence to avoid unnecessarily cluttering a reporter’s inbox and be mindful of their time when you do send an email. It will help build (or preserve) your relationship with them.
2. Expand your definition of “the press.” I knew getting media coverage in the client’s target markets – namely the Bay Area and Southern California – would prove more difficult than usual. With publications looking to support their own local businesses and report on COVID-19’s impacts in their area, I wasn’t expecting them to take too kindly to the idea of promoting a business that was, in some cases, on the opposite side of the state from them.
Instead, I approached social media influencers in these target markets. Anyone who knows me knows that I love good influencer coverage! I researched influencers in our target markets who met my additional criteria, and I asked if I could send them product and the press release so that they may consider posting about it. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I know it will make a huge difference for my client–both increasing their following on social media (hello, awareness!) and moving the needle for their sales in new markets.
3. Be relevant. When approaching news media or industry-centric publications, think about other angles or insights you can offer that provide value. In the case of pitching this release, I sent it with the caveat that they please keep the brewery in mind for future coverage. On a macro level, their brewmaster could speak to beer trends or the pandemic’s impact on small businesses. Regionally, they could attest to the state of the Sacramento Region’s beer industry. While coverage may not happen on the press release topic right now, I created a foundation that furthered my client as a resource and industry thought leader that can come back ten-fold for them in the future.
And it’s important to never discount your local media outlets. The relationships you build with local media will support you beyond the pandemic and be even more helpful when things return to normal (or whatever the “new normal” will be). Publications are looking to support local businesses right now. Even if you are expanding to a market that’s not in their coverage area or feel like it’s too similar of a topic they’ve covered about a competitor, still send that press release…taking Tip #1 into consideration, of course.
I earned coverage for this effort in the Sacramento region’s largest news publication and in less than a day of the client posting the article to their Facebook page, their engagement went through the roof. At the time I’m writing this, their post has nearly 200 Likes and more than 20 Shares. Who said media relations doesn’t work!?
If you’ve had to pivot, think about ways to communicate it to your target customers through social media, news outlets and the other platforms you have available. You’ll be one step closer to building a resilient brand that survives this crazy time and is stronger than ever when it’s over. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.