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PR In The Time Of Coronavirus

These are alien times. This week I’ve had various, worried emails from travel PR officers asking me what to pitch? What on Earth are editors looking for?

Good question. Alas, I’m none the wiser, because what I heard from the Independent’s new travel editor or Hattie at the Daily Mail this week is probably out of date already, so fast is the situation progressing. Staycation coverage is all well and good while foreign borders close – but not so much if we enter lockdown here.

In broad terms – and aside from bulletins about cancelled trips or updated booking policies – I’ve noticed four different travel PR tacks playing out. First, and most brazen, is the ‘Continue as normal’ approach, epitomised by one press release about a sunny long-haul destination with absolutely no mention of the dreaded C-word. There’s something obstinately British about this strategy – drink tea and carry on – but I reckon it’s unwise to ignore such all-encompassing public affairs.

Far more topical are promotions of escapist places ideal for that current buzzword, isolation, including British ones and those few countries which remain visitable. A nice idea, but too riskily prone to changing circumstances and FCO advice.

Next comes forward-thinking: places to visit when the coronavirus has been subdued. 2021-focused pitches, mostly. Good call, I say, as this is the one piece of travel terrain safe for editors to cover. But also think about why your suggested place might particularly need booking now? Is there a big-deal anniversary looming? Does it usually sell out by the prior August?

Top marks, however, go to those rolling with the punches and adapting inventively. The Park Hotel Group cleverly got their restaurant chefs to knock out some ‘nourishing recipes to keep your immune system in shape’, while Princess Cruises produced a photo-caption story, with lights on one of its ships spelling out ‘#WeWillBeBack’.In a time of cruise-line crisis, this was admirably smart – and, crucially, offered a positive, easily-publishable piece of news.


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