The coronavirus has affected countless things in all of our lives. For many of us, working remotely has become the norm, replacing blazers with T-shirts and staff meetings with zoom calls. In several industries this has come as a shock. Thankfully, however, for many of us working in PR, working remotely isn’t a new concept. At BLND, we’ve always dabbled in remote work as an agency. Sometimes working weekends, traveling for clients, and managing events onsite while simultaneously managing another client’s interview schedule.
However, under normal circumstances, many PR agencies – including ours – regularly meet with reporters, editors, and bloggers for deskside meetings. These meetings give the brand or PR agency a chance to speak directly with the media about any news they have to discuss. Desksides were a great way to personally connect with the media as a brand, but with COVID-19, precautions made in-person desksides impossible.
To replace traditional desksides, agencies and brand have had to get creative. Through utilizing tools like Zoom and Skype, some have started conducting virtual desksides. While there are obstacles with connecting online, there are certainly some unforeseen benefits. This may mean that even after restrictions are lifted, virtual desksides will stick around. Therefore, it’s helpful to understand what they are, why they’re beneficial, and how a PR agency can best conduct them.
What Does a Virtual Deskside Look Like?
In the virtual age, a deskside could be conducted via video chatting platforms, like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet. The traditional deskside featured a PR professional and one journalist, giving a thorough and personalized presentation about the brand. This meeting gave the journalist the freedom to ask questions as necessary, without the responsibility of leading the interaction like an interview. This takes the pressure off of journalists, and makes the meeting a more organic and personal experience for both parties.
However, while many desksides are one-on-one, virtual desksides do give the opportunity to host group desksides. These meetings would present the information to many journalists at once, saving time while still giving an opportunity to ask questions. In an era where information is everywhere and time is of the essence, this could be a great way to get your brand’s news to journalists fast and efficiently.
Why Are Virtual Desksides Better (or Worse) Than In Person?
Whether or not virtual desksides are better or worse than traditional ones would depend on who you ask. While some people prefer the in-person interactions, many working in this profession enjoy the flexibility of these virtual meetings. Additionally, conducting these types of meetings virtually increases the chance of smaller brands and agencies getting in front of, and making connections with, journalists who may be out of their local area.
For example, before, agencies who were based in New York had desksides with only journalists who were based in New York. Now, any PR agency can virtually connect with journalists all over the country easily and efficiently, expanding reach and visibility for its clients. This is game changing for smaller brands and agencies, and will ultimately lead to better and broader story opportunities for journalists.
How Can I Host a Virtual Deskside?
In our experience, the best way to start a virtual deskside meeting is to reach out to your relevant contacts that you haven’t caught up with in a while, and just get the conversation started. Ask them about how they have been during this crazy time, and offer to share a coffee over Zoom. Use the meeting time to genuinely catch up and talk about them before moving into business. From there, ask about what stories they are working on and if you have any clients that could help. If your PR agency has the budget, you could even offer to Doordash them a coffee or breakfast, or send them a follow-up thank you card or gift for their time to keep the relationship nurtured and show your appreciation.
When your brand or client has some exciting news, you can send out an e-blast to your media contacts and offer to host a group vido call explaining the details. If any of your contacts can’t make the time you propose, offer to set up a one-on-one. Alternatively, you can send them a screen-recording of the session afterward. That way, they will see what these meetings are like, and maybe even inspire them to join the next one.
In our opinion, virtual desksides are the future for PR. Embracing them now will lead to bigger and better opportunities for your brands. Plus, it will help connect you with opportunities that you would have otherwise missed before.