2020 has been a year of intense change for businesses globally, so here’s a summary of how the year went for us…….
The year started off brilliantly for the Vitis PR team as we all settled straight back into a busy January after a relaxing and quiet 2019 festive break. I’m sure the same is true for most other PR and marketing teams out there too.
After conducting an extensive piece of research late 2019 for one of our IT services provider clients into the top technology priorities and concerns UK businesses had for 2020, we hit the ground running in January 2020 with media outreach. In offering the research findings as a state of the nation predictions piece, we achieved 40 pieces of coverage in a variety of media from SME and business titles to regionals, verticals including retail, IT and technology, and retail, and security – as all of those media like to give their readers insights in January into IT and security options for the year ahead.
Following such a successful kick-off month in January, in February the Vitis team focused on pitching event briefings for clients for upcoming shows including Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, The Photography Show, IoT Expo, SXSW and Hannover Messe.
Then, by the end of February, COVID-19 awareness was rising and most of the events we were planning media briefings for clients in March and April were starting to get a bit jittery, with confirmations that they were still taking place……but then the inevitable came and these confirmations turned into cancellations and postponements. Vitis PR’s team rolled with those changes though, working to turn secured at-event briefings into Zoom video interviews so our clients could still discuss new products and services that were to have been launched at those events with interested media.
By the middle of March, the Vitis team – along with the majority of other businesses UK-wide - realised that the UK was making the turn towards flexible and remote working, where possible, to ensure the country stayed safe and we embraced that.
Thankfully the Vitis team is made up of senior level staff with access to home office set ups, where we could work straight from Day One as if we were all still in the office. This meant we weren’t even out of business for an hour during the remote working transition so we were still available for, and working on behalf of, all of our clients while they themselves underwent their own remote working setup. Even though we really miss seeing each other around the office and having catch ups by the water cooler, we made the decision not to renew our rented offices as we foresee remote working continuing into 2021, so we will just be taking advantage of coworking office space as and when we need it.
Vitis PR prides itself on having a pipeline of content ideas and angles to hand for each client – from podcast and interview pitches to editorials that we can place using existing client content. This means that where necessary during the remote working transitioning for clients, we could keep PR momentum going. Taking pressure off our clients, Vitis PR’s plan was to allow them to concentrate on other priorities for their teams - without dropping any regular media mentions or other coverage opportunities.
We have some good experience in the information security sector and one of our clients is a cyber security services provider so we suggested that they might be able to offer tips on how businesses of all sizes could ensure network and company systems’ security measures did not fall short during remote working. By providing us with a wealth of information and insight, we had enough content to place a series of articles and opinion pieces on the team’s behalf – from a background on what the key considerations should be for working remotely and tips on how managers could keep teams happy and motivated when working from home to advisory pieces on what security teams should be offering to ensure secure remote working for employees.
While businesses implemented remote working environments for teams, media titles also had to do the same. This meant that a lot of journalists were not as easily contactable as before lockdown as in some cases they were furloughed. For one of our technology product clients, this meant it took slightly longer to secure review interest in new devices and that the review coverage itself was delayed. But we enjoyed a great summer of review kit activity as journalists were open to relieving the boredom of being stuck at home by trying out new products and devices.
Publications shutting down
Like retailers and hospitality venues that had to shut down during lockdown though, some media titles were sadly forced to shut. After the summer, we found that some of our established magazine targets were no longer operating, including Gizmodo, Computer Shopper and Practical Photographer, mainly due to ad revenue going down or just because they could not sustain office locations during and after the extended lockdown period. SC Media in the UK has also transformed and now doesn’t run news stories, but rather focuses on insight. There have been a few take overs too, including CNET, which is now part of Red Ventures. It was sad for Vitis PR’s team to say goodbye to so many of our contacts - a far larger number than we’d have foreseen or wanted.
While speaking to some ex-staff journalists, we have found that they are taking on more corporate work and there is some concern that as publishing houses tighten belts a bit more, writers from countries with a lower monthly salary and journalist bots will be talking more roles.
However, it’s not been all sad as the pandemic has proven to be a business opportunity for flexible PR agencies such as ours. During the lockdown and immediately after the summer, there was still a great deal of interest in digital transformation and cloud-based services, healthcare technology innovations, the Internet of Things, remote working security practices and at-home smart apps making life and work easier. So, our clients could still provide content to assist editors with revised features that focused on angles which came about off the back of the pandemic or talk about how to mitigate any disruptions in supply chains for unforeseen circumstances like COVID-19 in the future.
One of our clients launched a new electric vehicle division this year as, although not many of us were out on the roads during lockdown, the UK-wide adoption of EVs is growing evermore popular. Conscientious consumers are recognising the need to live more “green” to help save the planet, so they’re ditching petrol and diesel cars for hybrids and EVs.
Medtech and healthcare PR stories fill the news
Anything health related was of interest to media, including IoT in the medical sector. More media sought expert insights into the new technologies being developed for that field or were being introduced specifically to help the NHS stay on track and reduce patient and staff contact while restrictions were in effect. Ensuring elderly and those with serious medical conditions who had to socially distance on their own at home were safe and well was another significant consideration for IoT in medicine developments. We were very lucky to work with not just one, but three clients who were each involved this year in assisting the medtech sector with their own solutions and services.
One of our clients, headquartered in France, had taken an insightful look at how the 2020 update to the European Medical Device Regulation (MDR), which had been postponed until April 2021 due to the pandemic, would bring IoT healthcare into the mainstream. Another client had worked with a hospital to implement a new app, aimed at helping its central hospital nursing team overcome visiting restrictions and reduce the number of staff contacts with the patients from three to one. This reduction in contact has had a positive impact on infection control measures at the hospital without compromising patient care and safety.
The third client conducted research into how the electronics industry was responding to the coronavirus pandemic and the results showcased how electronics companies had turned their attention towards supporting healthcare systems during the pandemic. Respondents had focused on supplying and developing medical equipment, providing circuits for ventilators and other medical devices, and creating flexible IoT solutions for social distancing and track, trace, test, therapeutics and patient care.
As a result, perhaps unsurprisingly, the medical/healthcare industry is the healthiest with quicker recovery anticipated. An encouraging 22% of the survey’s respondents stated that they are not experiencing any dip in sales activity, while the majority (86%) believed that the electronics industry and their own businesses would be back to normal within a year.
International PR effort to support crowdfunding
Another field that remained optimistic during 2020 was that of crowdfunding. We worked with a network of agencies globally to help on a consumer and lifestyle crowdfunding campaign for a US-based client that had a big initial funding target. Through outreach to consumer, lifestyle, specialist, national and technology media, Vitis PR secured the product a slot in Wired’s buying guide, which only assisted the client in exceeding pre-orders and absolutely smashing its funding goals. The project ended with the client having secured £4 million pre-orders from early-bird customers in over 65 countries.
Vitis PR is used to working with clients internationally, but we also regularly work with other PR agencies in a range of countries including, this past year, China, France, the US, Switzerland, Taiwan, Norway and Poland. We find that co-ordinating with other PR agencies is an important part of international PR efforts, for clients to actually get results on the ground in country-specific media, as newswires often don’t reach individual media contacts. Having knowledgeable PR peeps in the countries that your client is trying to generate awareness in and secure media interest and coverage in is an international alternative that works.
We're also extremely proud of our PR efforts to support a local housing association, especially to promote initiatives like food parcels, uniform shops and wellbeing packs for those who are lonely and isolated.
In addition to keeping our entire client portfolio, we also welcomed new clients into the Vitis PR fold, including brands from the digital asset management, 3D printing, IP law for technology, Making Tax Digital software, and photography and digital imaging spaces.
As well as PR, we have supported our clients’ SEO and social efforts, from troubleshooting a drop in international traffic, sourcing hashtags that would work for promoting editorials or whitepapers or research to drafting and scheduling posts on Twitter and LinkedIn to help increase our clients’ social outreach and followers. Clients realise that they can use us, as a PR agency with SEO and social expertise, to help them strengthen their efforts to drive more traffic to their websites. It’s been a whirlwind year and we can’t believe it’s almost 2021. We are looking forward to seeing what the new year brings and hopefully we can all meet up again soon…………