As marketers, timing is always important. In the PR world, knowing exactly when to launch a campaign or to publish a new media asset can make the difference between success and a less-than-stellar performance.
But it’s safe to say none of us have had to deal with scheduling situations like the ones we’re in now. Elections seasons are contentious and take up more than just the political sections of news publications. COVID-19 lingers on, and new reports and CDC updates are constantly in the news, even after all these years. Add in natural disasters, war in Ukraine, political committee hearings and civil rights movements, and you’ve got an incredibly busy landscape.
[Read More: On Working in Communications During a Global Crisis]
So, how do you know when to publish your sponsored content campaigns? I sat down with David Olson, our Senior Vice President at Brandpoint, to get his take on distribution and what PR and communications professionals can do to make sure their brand gets in front of their target audience. Read his answers and thoughts below.
Q: With a lingering pandemic and midterm elections coming up, how can I make sure my brand’s message does not get lost in the noise of the news cycle?
A: The news cycle surrounding the election is guaranteed to be an impenetrable wall of noise. Collectively, the candidates have crushed all-time records for political donations, which are funding massive ad spends across the spectrum of media channels.
However, omnipresence doesn’t ensure engagement. Remember that many people are turned off by the negative tone of political ads. Commercial-skipping technology is common on most TVs, and ad blockers are popular on all web browsers.
I believe the winning move is to provide an escape from all the noise. And this is where sponsored content become relevant for PR agencies. The key is guaranteed results. If you get a chance for guaranteed media placements, audience metrics, clicks and engagement in a saturated media landscape, you take it.
Not all sponsored content providers offer guarantees, so be sure to do some digging. And search out providers that work with the nation’s biggest media outlets to ensure your reach is as big as possible.
Q: What is the best timing for media distribution and placements this election season?
A: The election is fast approaching. Keep these tips in mind to give your campaigns the best chance for success:
- Lower expectations around high-profile dates, including major news events and election night. The opportunity for PR pros to get non-political messaging out is just too limited. Your best move is simply not to play.
- Pitching earned media — which has already been difficult this year — will only get harder as the election gets closer and media coverage reaches a fever pitch. Your best bet is to focus on paid media to ensure coverage at the timing that best suits your campaign goals.
- Election fatigue is real. The general public can only take so much political news on TV, radio, Facebook and Twitter. Increased polarization among the electorate doesn’t help. Assuming the election isn’t contested, there will be a news vacuum to fill once it’s over. Generating media placements will continue to get easier as the communal mindset shifts to the upcoming holiday season.
Q: Are newsrooms still looking for MATs right now? What about in 2023?
A: Yes, media outlets are actively searching for MATs and sponsored content. The demand is higher than ever.
The sad reality is that the pandemic has made life difficult for media outlets, just as it has for thousands of American businesses. Newsrooms are shedding staff, as thousands of journalists have been laid off or furloughed.
The end result is that media outlets with depleted resources are increasing their use of sponsored content to supplement the news they create in-house. But that doesn’t mean that their quality standards have gone down at all. Brand content needs to be informative, topical and produced by skilled writers.
Looking forward into 2023, I expect more of the same. Political unrest, the lingering pandemic and televised presidential court cases will take up plenty of air time, and that means sponsored content should continue to thrive.
Q: How can my brand avoid looking tone-deaf during the elections and other societal issues?
A: The good news is that we’ve seen countless examples of brands communicating effectively in this perfect storm of historical events. Some commonalities in these efforts include:
- A perspective grounded in empathy. Companies that lack this basic quality in their communication efforts are in for a tough Q4. But those brands that communicate with a sensitivity toward the challenges facing many Americans today have a chance to humanize their public perception.
- A nuanced understanding of tone. Corporate-speak and jargon appear especially insensitive right now. While it’s important that your tone aligns with your brand voice, consider a softer approach with word choices and phrases in your writing. The right tone helps you relate to your audience’s emotions and can build credibility and trust.
- An interest in taking a leadership role when faith in politicians is fading. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer Special Report, 55% of respondents said that brands are responding faster and more effectively than government has to COVID-19.
Note: This post was first published in October 2020 and has been updated to reflect our current situation.