How to Build Digital PR Campaigns and Stories around Marketing Calendars
When it comes to publicising your own brand or a brand you’re working with in the media, through Digital PR, you get the chance to hone in on your creative skills and think outside the box.
And while this is certainly fun, for many, it can be difficult to do – especially if you’re trying to create relevant, eye catching and engaging PR campaigns and stories – with little material to work with.
But fear not, because this is where Reactive PR comes in. Traditionally, Reactive PR relates to crisis management and ‘newsjacking’ – which means offering up yours or your client’s thoughts and opinions about current, breaking news stories or issues already being talked about.
While this is still the case, now, reactive content can be described as anything that relates to trending news, topics and hashtags. We can’t predict the news, but what we can do is use marketing calendars to get an idea of what kind of topics journalists will be writing about, at a certain time each year. And this can be super helpful.
Since the end of 2021 I’ve been using this marketing and retail calendar which shows you all of the important weeks, days and months coming up in 2022 that are recognised nationally in the UK, or even internationally across the globe. This is useful because you may be able to link your campaign or story to one or many of these, to increase the relevancy of your content and secure press coverage.
Examples include World Mental Health Day, National Vegetarian Week and International Women’s Day, and you’ve also got all of the standard holidays on there, like Easter, which is a great one to use. I’ve used Easter multiple times to create media coverage and links for clients and later on, I’ll tell you how.
Be sure to use a calendar relevant to the country you’re working with the media in, as the UK and the USA often have the same days, but on different dates throughout the year. And, some days are UK and US only.
My top tips for using these calendars are as follows:
Relevancy is key – Don’t assume that just because a day is nationally or globally recognised, journalists will want to talk about them, and use content or comments from a brand or spokesperson with no tie to it. Do your research, look at how much each topic has been covered, and who by, in previous years. Choose the right dates for you or your brand from this calendar, and make sure the story or campaign you’re putting out there is linked to your brand or spokesperson in a topical and relevant way.
Find a new angle – The fact that a day or week is simply happening isn’t enough to get good media coverage. Work with your brand or client to find a new angle for a campaign or story that relates to the topic at hand. Think about what’s new, what you can offer the journalist, and what you want to tell the public that they don’t already know. Do you have a story to tell that relates to the topic? Or are you launching a new product related to the day? Think hard about this.
Add something interesting – A good way to do this is by using new data or stats, that you’ve either found or created yourself. You might want to use a survey to gather data relating to the topic, giving journalists something new to use, and giving your story a stronger news hook. Lots of companies commission market research and PR surveys through OnePoll, and stats from these surveys are widely used by journalists – but make sure you ask the right questions. You can also make use of data from Freedom of Information requests submitted to public bodies, like the NHS for example.
The data comes from questions people submit as part of the request, so you can ask your own questions or look up submissions which have already been published online, but haven’t been covered in the press. You can also add powerful and informative expert commentary that offers a new insight, into your story.
Consider a case study or real life story – Adding a human element to a story or campaign, if strong enough, can be the key to securing brilliant press coverage. It’s no secret that journalists love real life stories, and they’re so successful because readers love to ‘feel’ something when reading a story, and reporters know this. The stories that stick with us are often the ones which bring out some kind of emotion in us. For example, if you’re a homeless charity, you might want to share the story (with their consent) of someone you’ve helped and changed the life of, around World Mental Health Day.
Timing is everything – If something is happening at the start of July, you want your campaign or story completed and ready to send out to the press by mid-June at the very latest. You don’t want to be scrambling around at the last minute, trying to get coverage. Leave enough time to reach out to reporters, follow-up, and even change your angle or pitch if you need to.
Find the right reporters – Search for stories and terms similar to the topic you’re covering and take note of which publications and reporters like to consistently write about similar topics. You can usually tell if a person has a keen interest in covering stories relating to mental health for example, or new data, or food.
Here are a few examples of ways in which I’ve used nationally and internationally-recognised dates and holidays to secure media coverage for my clients, which relate to the tips above, and examples from others.
The time of year when everyone is talking about eating sweet, delicious treats, where to buy them, and the impact on our health of eating a lot of sugar. I’ve worked with two clients from the health and wellbeing sector to offer readers expert commentary and advice about the effects of eating too much chocolate at this time of year.
For a food intolerance testing company, I interviewed one of their nutritionists about how the effects of eating a lot of chocolate can also overlap with the effects of a food intolerance, like bloating. Bloating is a popular topic of discussion among health journalists, and as a story like this hadn’t been written before as far as I could see, I knew it would be newsworthy and offer up something a little different.
We shared with readers of The Metro that if symptoms like bloating persist after consuming a lot of chocolate eggs, which include copious amounts of dairy, it could be a sign of an underlying issue, like a food intolerance.
I recently worked with another health and wellbeing brand’s nutritionist to give advice to readers about how to avoid falling into a chocolate egg-fuelled pit of sluggishness this Easter just gone. To create this story I used data from a OnePoll survey the brand recently commissioned about Brits’ sugar consumption, and how often people feel sluggish as a result of the food they consume. I knew I was going to write about this topic come Easter, and so I made sure I asked the right questions in the survey earlier this year.
This, paired with expert commentary and advice from the nutritionist, worked well and resulted in two pieces of coverage on the Daily Express, both with a link.
These are both examples of how you can work up a story for a business or clients in a topical and relevant way. The news hooks in all of these stories was the expert advice I gave readers by asking the right questions, and the data from the survey.
This is one of the most hyped up days in the marketing and retail calendar, here in the UK, which came from the US and is still very popular there. It’s a time of year when brands slash prices on everything from products to services, and journalists work round the clock to bring readers the best deals. They start planning for Black Friday, which is in November each year, as early as the end of the Summer.
If you don’t have a product on sale, think about how you or your client can offer discounts on services. Deals need to be decent and attract the attention of journalists in the same way it would customers. They see thousands of deals in their inboxes in the lead up to Black Friday, so yours really has to stand out.
I worked with an eBike retailer to decipher how much the brand should offer off its signature electric bike. We decided to knock off £300, offer a Halfords voucher with every purchase, and stress that the deal would only run for a limited amount of time. We hyped up the promotion by stating the bike would make a great Christmas present for loved ones, too.
This got covered on the Evening Standard and across multiple Yahoo! websites. Make sure you target consumer reporters and those covering Black Friday deals, some will also have specific niches they’re interested in from lifestyle and tech to beauty and skincare.
World Mental Health Day
I want to share with you this example from the charity CALM, which for World Mental Health Day, shared the story of a man who almost committed suicide – but was saved by talking through his thoughts, feelings and problems with a support group who he grew to love being a part of after he came out of hospital.
While a story like this might do well without being attached to World Mental Health Day, by tying it to that day, it bolsters the chances of the story being used because the news hook is even stronger and more relevant. For CALM, this move allowed them to highlight their new campaign in which it was encouraging people to reach out for help if they’re struggling.
The journalist even used the title of the day in the headline of the story.
National Vegetarian Week
This story is an example of how you can create a campaign or movement specifically for one of these dates to gain publicity, which in this instance, is National Vegetarian week. A nursery in Edinburgh decided to serve up an entirely meat-free menu to children in honour of this week, giving them the chance to try veggie cuisine they may never have done before.
They were also encouraged to learn about different vegetables through play time. Had it not been National Vegetarian Week, this story probably wouldn’t have made the local press. The news about what the nursery was doing, the new menu they’d created, along with commentary from a spokesperson about why, and the value it would add to children’s lives, was strong enough for the media to want to cover the story.
I hope this blog post has given you some food for thought about how you can work with marketing and retail calendar to create stories and PR campaigns for your own brand or for your own clients.
If you need a little help, our PR team can assist. Get in touch with us today.