Navigating the loss of face-to-face pitches: Lessons from a remote PR team on thriving in lockdown

PR agencies with remote teams were not as hard hit when businesses had to shift to working from home during the global lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Networking, pitching for business and employee interaction are all integral parts of any agency in the media landscape and can be difficult to replicate in a remote environment. 

But as countries around the world continue to go in and out of lockdowns, this drastic change in everything from how we hold meetings, pitch for business and interact with colleagues may challenge PR firms whose business growth relies significantly on the face-to-face interactions that occur at networking events, meetings and conferences around the world. 

The ability to build new connections virtually that convert to new business opportunities  has been the difference between success and failure throughout this global shift to remote working. 

Since day one, when YAP Global began in March 2018, we have been pitching to new PR clients across Europe, Asia, Australia and the US on a regular basis, with contracts signed and invoices paid without ever meeting in person. 

These experiences have helped prepare us for the challenge 2020 threw at us. We are grateful to report that we have been able to continue building business and expanding the team during the pandemic and I would like to share a few lessons that might help other PR companies that have had to completely rethink the way they work during this time. 

Messaging apps are key to building rapport

Messaging apps are essential for building rapport and strong working relationships with both existing and potential clients. 

They are the virtual equivalent to face-to-face meetings or visiting a colleague at their desk. 

When we bring on a new client, the first thing we do is we create a WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal chat group as an informal and direct line of communication between our teams. 

By creating an informal line of communication, we are providing a voice they can turn to when they need clarification or an update, to share news and information or to ask advice. 

Virtual networking takes proactivity

Networking remotely is a proactive process and my team is always on the hunt for virtual conferences, meetups and events to form relationships with key industry figures and keep up to date with what’s new in the spaces that our clients are in. 

Since lockdown began in the UK in March 2020, YAP Global has supported a major flagship blockchain and cryptocurrency conference, CoinDesk’s Consensus: Distributed as their PR partner, co-organised a free virtual conference called RESET EVERYTHING and supported UK’s largest AI conference, CogX’s 2020 with MC duties for their Web 3.0 stage. 

We also officially partnered with Blockdown conference for their 3.0 Halloween edition. Blockdown was born this year as a virtual conference as a result of the lockdown which prevented many people in this industry from physically building relationships, and connecting with one another. 

All of these opportunities have helped us connect with new journalists, members of this community and clients which in turn, has led to promising business leads even during lockdown. 

It is also important to sharpen your online presence and make use of social media networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to maintain industry connections and build a network of potential new clients. 

Going the extra mile with remote pitching

Pitching for new business remotely might seem foreign to many that are accustomed to in-person meetings but going the extra mile with the proposal and presentation will help to compensate for any shortcomings. 

Letting your work speak for itself is the best way to get clients to sign on the dotted line and we do this by showing potential clients what the next three or six months of working together would look like with well thought out story ideas.

These three to six month strategies have gone a long way in getting clients to see what PR can achieve beyond a single launch or announcement. This is also a great opportunity to discuss the benefits of a long term partnership that allows a business to align PR and communications with their marketing plans and growth strategies. 

A slick and personalized presentation is also essential for virtual pitches where you cannot rely on charm or charisma to build rapport and confidence in your services.

Go global

With the global landscape changing rapidly in 2020 and international travel dramatically reduced, PR service offerings must adapt too. 

If you can be a one-stop-shop PR team that covers several regions, you automatically become the more affordable and flexible option for a potential client. 

This has been YAP Global’s service offering since the beginning as we quickly worked out that you don’t need to be bound by a region when you service clients in emerging technology. Many media publications in this space are online and have journalists or contributors based in several regions. 

My team members are located across the globe in London, Paris, Berlin and Melbourne, which allows us to offer 24/7 support.  

The various platforms and organisational tools such as WhatsApp, Trello and Slack help us stay on top of client work across time zones to ensure that no tasks fall through the cracks. 

Our internal handover system not only allows us to track our workflow, but also enables our team to be agile and provides a strong work-life balance that is super important in a remote team environment.

Moving forward

The long term effects of the pandemic on the global economy will make pitching for new business more competitive and reduce the pool of potential clients. 

If you can master connecting with potential  clients and partners in your industry in a virtual environment, you will greatly increase your team’s ability to navigate through the hard times and come out the other end stronger than ever before. 

Samantha Yap is the founder and CEO of YAP Global — an international PR agency with a focus on helping meaningful fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrency companies tell their story on the global stage. Samantha is a fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrency media specialist with past experience working as an international freelance journalist in Jakarta, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Prior to delving into fintech PR, she worked at Channel NewsAsia in Singapore as a broadcast journalist and current affairs producer.

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