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Troubleshooting your underperforming PR campaign

Shannon McGuirk shares her process of troubleshooting underperforming PR campaigns.

If you want to get your business noticed, an effective PR campaign can work wonders. It can help establish valuable relationships, earn trust and build brand awareness for your business, but it must be well planned.

So, what do you do when you've launched a campaign that's not getting the traction you had anticipated? Shannon McGuirk shares her process for improving the performance of your underperforming PR campaigns.

Video Transcription

Hi everyone. My name's Shannon McGuirk, and I'm the head of PR and content at a UK based digital marketing agency called Aira Digital. I've headed up the PR and content team now for three and a half years. So, we've learned lots of things along the way, and I want to share some top tips with you today related to content marketing. So no doubt content marketers, digital PR's all around the world right now have had to re-pivot, rework, relaunch their campaigns, they may even have had to put some on the bench because the current media landscape is ever-changing. When coronavirus broke as a news story in early February in the UK and kind of dominated the media within Europe, we saw that a lot of our campaigns were struggling to get some traction in the way that we usually would expect them to because of the over-saturation of the media itself. It also meant that some of our campaigns topics had to be kind of reworked so that they're more relevant now for audiences and users.

So really today, I want to be talking you through how to work through things when a situation like this unfolds. It may be that you're looking ahead three to six months and thinking are my campaigns still fitting, what should I do? So there are three things that we're going to talk about today, that's reevaluating your campaigns, repurposing your campaigns and relaunching your campaigns. So when things aren't going quite well and you've launched a campaign and it's not getting the traction that you thought it would, the first step to working out really where things have gone potentially wrong before things could flop completely is the reevaluation stage.

1) Reevaluating your campaigns

Now, there are a couple of reasons that your campaign may not be working. It could, yes, be because of the current media landscape and how oversaturated it is, but you also need to take a good look at things like your data. Is it from a credible source? Have you got it from, if you're partnering with a survey company, have you got it from a credible survey partner? Are you ensuring that quotas and quantities are hit and you're getting survey pools that are 1,000 to 2,000 people strong? You also need to have a look and make sure that you've got a robust methodology in place. It has been a couple of occasions where having that methodology has definitely ensured that we've got something to share with journalists when we're being questioned and asked around tricky stats questions.

There's also the argument that you should be looking at things like your design as well at this reevaluation stage. So, have you overcomplicated things? Would a table tell the stories that you're trying to convey and portray? Could you get your designer to have a quick look at it? And I know one thing that we're quite guilty of is having these big campaign, our set of ideas, knowing and feeling what they should look like and then saying to the designer, hey, could you do something like this? Whereas actually, instead, we should probably be letting the creatives do the work, and they're thinking they're experts in their field. So, what would they recommend from a design perspective?

And also at this point, take a look at your media list. So, just because a journalist has a job title of digital travel editor doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be interested in your travel campaign. It could be that they cover things like hotel reviews and restaurant reviews and airline breaking news stories. Instead, spend some time researching and go back over that media list to find out if you have got the right contacts and you have been trying to speak to the right people. So after this reevaluation stage, you should be able to understand the clear thing that is holding your comeback, campaign back, sorry, and what you need to be looking up to go again.

2) Repurposing your campaigns

And this is where you move into the repurposing stage. So if it is your design, work with your designers to, you know, it could be to simplify things. Get a couple of tables created that are really simple and easily digestible for the journalist audience to understand, top 10 lists and stuff like that.

Also, at this repurposing stage, you should be going back in and looking at things like your media list. If you've done that research and you're convinced that's where things have gone a little bit wrong, make sure you're using platforms like Roxhill Media and stuff like that to get the right contacts. Also, spend some time on Twitter understanding what journalists like and what they're publishing. Look at the kind of headlines and languages, and language, sorry, that they're using within that, and also start to think about how you can then introduce those different types of languages at the next stage here, which is the relaunch.

3) Relaunching your campaigns

It's important at this repurposing stage to make sure that before we go into this relaunching stage that you are making it different what you've already changed as a result of reevaluating and repurposing. So it could be that you're looking at new data, it could be that you then are looking at a new design. But either way, if you're going back to people that you've already pitched to you that perhaps haven't answered, you should be making it clear and understanding why you're changing things because you make get asked about it.

So once you've done your reevaluation and you're repurposing, you should be at a solid position to relaunch things. Now, this is the exciting thing, right? This is almost like going again for the second time, and you're going to hit that big green launch button to kind of propel this campaign off into the internet. So, you need to make sure, as I said, that your prospecting is right. But at this point, it might be worth taking and changing your tact a little bit. So, have you got somebody that you can offer this to as an exclusive, for example? That usually means that you've got one really kind of heavyweight top ten journalist in mind. If that comes through, it's going to relieve pressure from internal stakeholders and also client-side as well. So, for example, if you get a link through from the Irish Independent or something like that as a first hit, that really kind of lets everyone breathe a sigh of relief. And then after that point, kind of go far and wide.

And we do phase launches, so phase one, it's likely to be that you go out to the rest of tier one press. Then phase two, a couple of days later you could be going out to regional press or sector-specific verticals, and then phase three, you should be doing your blogs and your really coordinated titles. Now, having this kind of phased approach to launches, it lets us communicate with clients and stakeholders all the way through things. Well, actually, we wouldn't be expecting links to come in just yet because we haven't gone out to this many people and stuff like that. And taking that step by step approach means that you're not going and putting salt into wounds that already may have been opened up thanks to the first launch there, but also you're giving everyone the time and the space to be able to cover the campaign in a way that they need and hopefully get those all important links in.

The main thing as well that I just want to reassure and finally say here at this point is that you can do it, you can bounce back from these things, we've done it multiple times, take a deep breath when things are going wrong and focus on reevaluating, repurposing and then relaunching. You can find me on Twitter @ShannonMcGuirk, please send me any DMS, any questions, more than happy to help support through these difficult times and best of luck, best of luck, sorry, with that campaign launch.



Shannon McGuirk
About Shannon McGuirk
Shannon is the Head of PR and Content at Aira Digital where she oversees all elements of content production and media outreach. Her key skills include developing integrated creative content campaigns, digital PR strategies, and media relations/link building. She has experience in working with well known consumer brands such as TravelSupermarket, Vouchercloud, RS Components, Goodyear Tyres and AXA PPP healthcare.