January 18, 2021
Last year was a challenging year for everyone with the way we work and live being turned upside down, and Digital PR was no different.
When the world went into lockdown in March 2020 it put a stop to the majority of ongoing outreach campaigns, and subsequently forced companies everywhere to reevaluate their marketing spend due to uncertainty and media disruption.
Add in the restrictions COVID-19 has placed on business everywhere in what they can and cannot be seen to be profiting from – as well a diminishing pool of journalists to talk to – and you could be forgiven for thinking PR campaigns would have to take a step backwards.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case at Blueclaw and in the industry generally, as we pivoted to create successful campaigns that were both popular, relevant and impactful despite the current climate.
As a former sports journalist, my focus tends to be around sporting campaigns and while it was a tricky year with matches being cancelled, tournaments postponed and a greater scrutiny placed on betting companies, there were some notable successes. Here are some of my top picks from 2020…
Of course I have to start off with a piece of work that we did, as I was particularly proud of the reactive approach to outreach we did around the UK heading into its first lockdown last March.
We had a campaign that was doing well, but with the Premier League postponed and thus severely limiting to future outreach potential, we had to think quickly to keep the campaign relevant and use the postponement to our advantage.
Fans of the EPL was a piece looking at how football fans consume football, so with matches being banned at elite level but kept on at non-league level, we decided to look at the increase in crowd numbers. We managed to show through some quick research that fans were moving to watch local football after being denied the chance to watch any Premier League action.
We secured 17 pieces of coverage despite the quick turnaround, and it led to a further piece of research when we showed that more people were playing Football Manager than ever before in a bid to get their fix of football during lockdown. This approach added a further 27 pieces of coverage including the likes of Forbes, The Telegraph, The Times and Mashable – before more reactive work on the financial impact of COVID-19 secured another 26 pieces of coverage.
Not bad considering not a ball was kicked in that entire time!
You can read more about that campaign in our case study.
There’s nothing worse than getting beaten to the punch in outreaching a campaign, and that’s what happened with this one.
Instagram earnings is a popular outreach tactic and one that is easy to turn around quickly, keep costs low and prove popular in the media – thanks to the ease of manipulating the data to generate highly clickable headlines.
What this campaign did that added a bit of extra insight is add in how much each club could potentially be making through sponsored posts on Instagram every week, while also capitalising on a COVID angle by suggesting how much money had been made in the weeks since the lockdown started.
Without wanting to be critical however, one of the issues I find with creating and outreaching sport content is that figures or statistics can quickly become out of date and unless you are able make your asset update automatically, you are giving yourself a very limited outreach window.
Despite this risk, the piece secured strong links in The Sun, The Mirror and Sport Bible as well as coverage on the MailOnline, showing the effectiveness of the tactic.
Simple, but effective.
This one is a really smart piece of research that combines two outreach favourites – famous names and finances – to get some really good results with just a simple infographic.
The piece, featured on Gamblingdeals.com, looks at the top 20 most expensive signatures of footballers past and present and analyses pieces of signed memorabilia to work out an average price per item.
It is a unique approach to a sports campaign which is why it is a favourite of mine.
With so many lifestyle and travel campaigns in particular out there, it can be difficult to find inspiration from newsletters or Twitter accounts like we usually would, so this angle – which was a new one to me at least – was a breath of fresh air.
It did pretty well too, earning high quality links from the likes of the Mail, Calvin Ayre, GiveMeSport.
While putting this piece together, I reached out to a few journalism contacts to discuss the state of play in Digital PR, and what they look for in a press release.
It threw up some surprising results that have already influenced my approach to ideation sessions in an attempt to cut through the noise.
Robert Thomson, a sports reporter for the Scottish Sun, told me:
“Traditional press releases sent on spec don’t really capture the attention all that much nowadays. The spate of ‘53% of fans believe this or 75% of football tops have this’ (releases) have had little relevance for a long time now in newspapers (online may be a different beast as they are working on volume).
“Unless you know where the release is coming from and think it’s an announcement or an invite to a presser, I don’t really open them.
“Paddy Power have got a turn by with their interviews or details how to access their interview with paid columnists and that works. Especially if they set up access prior to whatever magazine, podcast or website blog goes up.
“Data-driven things don’t hold any interest in terms of writing something, but there is always room for topical (pieces).”
He added: “People simply don’t have the time or resources to filter through a 800-word (or even more in some cases) press release looking for a line.
“If you can offer a tightly-written, relevant article (for free!) then you’d have a very good chance of getting it in.”
So, what does all of this mean for gaining coverage in 2021? Well, from our perspective, the golden ticket to press coverage is to have access to a brand ambassador on behalf of the client, who can provide newsworthy insights or exclusive interviews relevant to the news agenda – but we can’t always be that lucky.
However, it’s always important to remember that the popular topics are always safe to fall back on in your campaigns and outreach. Always keep the tried and tested ideas in the back of your mind, such as: footballers and the money they earn or are worth, controversial things such as VAR in the Premier League that you know are always going to be relevant due to the weekly nature of the football calendar, or even climate change.
But how do we avoid repeating the same mistakes Robert mentions above?
Thankfully at Blueclaw we don’t have to rely too heavily on survey-led data to dictate our outreach strategies – unless using them as supplementary angles.
I believe there is a difference between a data-led approach and a survey-led approach which journalists are beginning to tire of, and we are making a conscious effort to focus on the statistics in sport with things such as expected goals or chances created per 90 minutes more widely available than ever before.
With that said, it’s clear that sports data journalism has never been as big or as popular as it is now, with publications such as The Athletic leaning heavily on their in-house analysts to produce content and we are lucky to have a data team who have the knowledge and experience to do the same. Should you not be in a similar position, check out our brief guide on how to leverage data to create link worthy content for further insight.
Overall, 2020 was not an easy year in the iGaming sector, but some of the examples above show that it is still possible to succeed in outreach if given the room to think creatively and react to the latest news trends.
For more information on any of the tips or campaigns mentioned in this post, or to chat about how we can help create a Content and PR strategy that’s right for you, get in touch with Will and our senior team today – https://www.blueclaw.co.uk/contact/.