At this past MozCon, Client Services & Delivery Director of Aira, Shannon McGuirk, spoke in-depth regarding the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on their agency and the overall future of digital PR.
The COVID Effect on Aiva
During the initial two weeks of the lockdown, Shannon highlighted how Aira saw a 50% revenue drop, but in April and they had landed a massive project from a well-known brand. November saw Aira have one of their highest-earning revenue months ever. Shannon’s key role as head of PR was to find avenues and manners in which to attract links and traffic while getting the company through everything was Shannon’s main focus as the Director.
Challenges of the Changing News Agenda
As anyone could expect, the pandemic reached far more than only Aira, the news agenda as a whole was reeling due to pandemic fears, COVID conspiracies, lockdowns, and more. Almost 74% of all Aira’s campaigns were paused and planning ahead proved to be virtually impossible due to the aforementioned issues. With the industry spinning and over 44% of journalists not working, Shannon and Aira had to change their mindset to a more reactive method, which made pushing links that much more difficult.
Stories with A Spin
Highlighting stories and having bolder and bigger headlines was vital to push their stories and links. The industry as a whole (including Aira) had to sacrifice quality for fast launches and stories. Obviously, this made for a news cycle that lacked some substance and was somewhat repetitive. Also, how long would Google put up with this approach was another worry.
Three Keys to Success
Shannon and Aira came up with a three-step solution that would help them, and any PR agency, get through this new and ever-evolving news agenda.
The first one was ideation; every story needs to start with an amazing idea which should include relevancy, opinion, and a resolution. The need to overlap the theme and topic in Reddit and Buzzsumo, as well as the need to highlight the brand’s opinion, are all very important.
Next came production and the awareness to allocate much of the budget to get as many people to see your story as possible. Being sure to use interactive formats, GIFs and static images to maximize your story is very important. Such things as long-forms and quizzes proved to be less effective.
For promotion, while Shannon didn’t get too deep regarding the ins and outs of promotion as a whole, always be sure to evaluate a story to see how big it can be (or is). When a topic is trending, it will almost always end up in the press. It is very important to know when to pursue a story, and when not to; and it’s equally important to communicate these things with stakeholders and clients.
While Shannon’s presentation showed how Aira pushed through and adapted to the pandemic and the challenging news agenda, the big takeaways were to never lose sight of curating authentic stories, keeping your brand ideals, and always concentrate on producing quality and pertinent content, no matter what.