Edtech PR Playbook During Covid19
Quick Intro: My PR firm Ditto specializes in edtech PR, and we have seen such a huge uptick in new business since Covid19, so I wanted to share with edtech companies what our PR playbook is and why we are seeing so much success with the media.
Background: Since Ditto PR was founded over eight years ago, education and education technology has been a specialty. Before coming to New York, I was the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education, handling K-12 and Higher Education issues. Leslie Ankney, an Associate Vice President in SF, was a public school educator before she got into journalism! Ditto has worked with traditional institutions of higher education like Brooklyn Law School and Columbia, K-12 specialty schools like AltSchool, back end K-12 software like CiteLighter (acquired), coding bootcamps like Flatiron School (acquired), Thinkful (acquired) and Fullstack Academy (acquired), online test prep and tutoring companies ArborBridge and TutorMe, and corporate brands like Zovio — which spun-off from Bridgepoint.
Why This Matters: There has never been a bigger moment than now for edtech companies. Colleges are unable to provide a quality online education, the unemployed are looking for new skills and a new job, families are stuck at home, with parents working double shifts as full-time teachers and employees. Remote work is no longer something people imagine — it’s here to stay.
Be Smart: The rules of PR haven’t changed. In fact, they are more important than ever before. But edtech companies simply can’t afford to take a chance on a PR firm with little experience in this space — they need an agency with a proven record of success that can guide them through difficult times such as these and that have the relationships with top reporters to get them coverage. More media are covering education than ever before and your PR firm needs strong media contacts, a deep understanding of the industry, a smart strategy that is ahead of trends and a scrappy day-over-day approach with the press.
The global pandemic has dominated the news for the last few months and will continue to drive the news cycle for the foreseeable future. Ditto clients who have fared best in this media environment have been those who are able to move quickly to comment on news of the day and those with regular announcements.
Messaging, Positioning and Media Training
Some companies have significantly changed their business model to fit the needs of consumers who have had to drastically change how they work, learn, shop, and socialize. Other companies are figuring out how to talk about their business and services in a new COVID-19 world. Also, executives are finding their voice as thought leaders to talk about what COVID-19 means for their industry. In other words, your message must evolve to these new circumstances.
Takeaway: You need to completely adjust your messaging and positioning. How you talk about your business, your customer and your industry (currently and in the future) needs to be sharp, compassionate, forward-thinking and newsworthy. This is especially challenging given how quickly the news is changing.
Why This Matters: Everything you say will be somewhat different and you need to have that message down in every interview, virtual conference, employee stand-up, etc.
Edtech companies need two things: a smart month-over-month strategic plan coupled with scrappy day-over-day pitching.
Here’s the bad part: If you are trying to do PR on your own but you’ve never had amazing success, you may not see much success. Reporters are too busy, they are relying on sources they trust and the news is changing so quickly, it’s difficult to keep up with what they are writing now and in the future.
But here’s what we are doing that’s working:
- Real genuine value — How is your product actually helping people right now?
- Industry point of view — Reporters want to know what this means for the future of education and work, so it’s important to create strong, forward-thinking viewpoints on your company and industry.
- Company data — Many edtech companies are reporting upticks in new customers. Leveraging this data demonstrates value to potential customers.
- Tips and Listicles — Power in numbers. In some cases, your company alone may not be interesting enough to get coverage. How can you be a part of a larger story or listicle? We’ve all seen the stories highlighting “3 Things You Can Do at Home to Learn Something New.”
- Surveys — Whether you survey your own customers or do a quick survey on Survey Monkey, the media still loves hard data and information. But don’t make it self-serving. Think about the pain points of your potential customers first.
- Customer stories — Reporters are still looking for human interest stories. And case studies are a great way to get media coverage. Your customers can be your biggest advocates and help drive sales.
This is an excellent time to position founders and CEOs as thought leaders in their industries. Whether it’s through commentary, bylines or social media posts, consumers want to hear leaders’ voices. But just like in media relations, one op-ed, blogpost or video will not change your business. You need to come up with a smart, manageable week-over-week approach that reflects you as a leader, how your company is doing, how this impacts your industry, and how and where you see the industry headed in the future.
Some content ideas that could apply to almost any brand:
- Re-organizing internally to service clients. Are people being asked to do things they normally aren’t responsible for?
- Remote work best practices. What are companies doing — and not doing — to ensure continuity? How are they maintaining a strong work culture with a remote workforce?
- Industry insight. Now: Students are flocking to online learning platforms. Future: Will colleges survive? Or is online learning finally getting its credibility?
- Your commitment to customers and why they need you more than ever.
Lastly, it is essential to put thought behind the platforms used to promote content. Content that works well on one platform may not always go over well on other platforms. Tailor your messages to your audience.
Social and Digital
Take a look at top leaders across various industries. What do they have in common? Each has a pattern of a strong, engaging online presence. They use a range of platforms to drive thought leadership, explain the company and promote their products. They take the content and media coverage their agencies create and transform it into strong digital content.
While maintaining this type of presence may seem next to impossible, it does not mean that you have to start tweeting every day. Our job is to identify the online channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, Medium) best suited for your voice, and then help you strategically build and manage your presence.
For many edtech companies, this is a huge moment for you. And there are ways to break through the noise to gain awareness, credibility and customers. Covid19 isn’t going away for the forseeable future, which means your can’t afford to disappear because of this uncertainty.