How to Spot ‘Strike Now’ Public Relations Opportunities

By Thomas Raynor

A well-executed “stunt” has long been a favorite tactic in the public relations space when it comes to grabbing the attention of both consumers and media. However, the key to is to elevate the activation by tying it to something tangible with in-the-moment relevancy that resonates on a deep level with target audiences.

We like to call these “strike now” opportunities, and they can present themselves in a variety of ways. Learning how to identify these public relations opportunities and leverage them in your campaigns can yield highly impactful and unexpected (for the better!) results — especially now as consumers gravitate toward brands they know, trust and love.

Below are some examples of “strike now” public relations opportunities and how they can be used to create a timely and impactful campaign that captures media attention and consumer consideration.

The Foreseeable “Strike Now”

Some of the simplest and often most effective “strike now” campaign opportunities are foreseeable moments, such as seasonal and annual holidays that align with a brand’s campaign timeline. These moments are especially beneficial when widely known by target consumers and if they have typically received regular coverage by media in the past, requiring little education and eliminating a common obstacle when trying to utilize the event or catalyst to explain the thought or meaning behind the campaign.

For example, when Boston Market made the decision to add baby back ribs to its menu this February, the company capitalized on the Valentine’s Day holiday and created a highly visual, one-of-a-kind BAE-by Back Rib Bouquet that was sold in restaurants on Feb. 14 only. By packaging the new ribs in an Instagram-worthy way that tied directly to media-beloved holiday, it enabled the campaign to resonate with social-media-savvy and click-bait hungry consumers alike. As a result, Boston Market was able to cut through the media noise and dominate the conversation during an otherwise cluttered time.

To more easily identify opportunities like this and ensure you have time to effectively plan for them, try laying your brand’s marketing calendar out against all national holidays, months of awareness and other cultural moments. Free online resources such as National Today and National Day Calendar are often great places to start your search.

The Timely “Strike Now”

As recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement have shown, it is imperative that brands find ways to address timely topics in a way that demonstrates to media and consumers why they care about the issue at hand — walking the walk while talking the talk. While these moments make for timely “strike now” opportunities, the key is to make sure any messaging or activations are authentic and genuine. Acting just for the sake of acting most often causes more harm than good, so be very strategic in your approach.

Michaels and its recent donation of $1 million worth of fabric to mask-making efforts amid COVID-19 shows how a company can use its brand ethos and the media to serve the public good. By announcing its commitment to donate fabric to mask-making efforts and sharing patterns, directions and the necessary supplies to make your own at home, Michaels was able to connect with consumers while generating media coverage at a time when the news cycle proved challenging.

When executing a timely “strike now” campaign, be sure to remain sincere to your brand voice and avoid simply jumping on the bandwagon. Think carefully and critically about how your brand can show genuine support to a cause or engage in the conversation around the issue that lets consumers and audiences know you aren’t blind to it — even if this means acknowledging areas where you can do better and presenting a list of actions that you plan to execute in an effort to do so.

The Reactive “Strike Now”

The opportunities with the least amount of planning time are reactive “strike now” moments, which can be particularly helpful in staying ahead of crisis scenarios. You can identify these opportunities in a variety of ways, but one of the simplest and often most effective is making sure you’re setting your own personal as-it-happens alerts so that you’re staying abreast of breaking news and even industry updates in real time as they pertain to your client. You can take this a step further by working with your social media team to identify phrases and sentiments to monitor for via social listening tools.

The reactive “strike now” will often appear in the form of a crisis scenario, such as a customer who receives poor service taking to Twitter or Facebook to vent his or her frustration. If you aren’t actively monitoring social channels and media, situations such as these can very quickly escalate into media firestorms.

On the other hand, reactive “strike now” opportunities can be positive and present fantastic opportunities for any company or brand. For example, when Planet Fitness received an inbound Facebook message from an engaged couple thanking the brand for playing such a pivotal role in their love story (they met and got engaged at the gym), the company shut down an entire club for the day and offered to host their wedding. What started as “love at first lift” blossomed into a “strike now” tale as old as time that no one could have prepared for — but that media instantly fell in love with.

When a reactive “strike now” opportunity presents itself, it is good practice to run through multiple scenarios and outcomes for any response or action you consider taking. This exercise will help you prepare the necessary statements and materials and help limit the number of last-minute approvals needed once a response is agreed upon.

While “strike now” opportunities can be an effective tool to help you engage with consumers and media in a relevant and timely way, you must approach and execute them with great care and strategic planning.

To learn more about making the most of your public relations efforts, download our eBook, “PR 101: A Guide for Today’s Public Relations.”

This blog post first appeared on the O’Dwyer’s blog.