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How to Approach Media Relations During a Pandemic

Posted by Tom Rice on Apr 23, 2020 12:06:36 PM

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In times of crisis, there’s a right and wrong way to go about marketing and media relations. Part of the right way means following all the normal best practices, like pitching for relevant audiences and including all important facts in the release. Professionalism still matters.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is beyond the norm, however, and you’ll need to consider a few more factors before you engage in media or influencer relations. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Don’t Pitch Tone-Deaf Angles

When you work in marketing, sales, or PR for a B2B or B2G company, you get used to following your corporate content timeline. This isn't the time to do that.

At all hours of the day, reporters are being inundated with updates on the COVID-19 situation. Chances are good that, unless your story is a matter of life and death, it isn’t news right now.

Understand the News Cycle and Pitch Appropriately

Most stories in today's news involve matters of life and death. Pitches from B2B and B2G companies can and do still make the cut, but usually only when they offer new information about the pandemic.

For example, in late March, vacuum company founder Sir James Dyson designed a hospital ventilator and set his company to produce 15,000 of them. That was news. So are the fashion companies that have transformed their factories to make personal protective equipment like face masks and gowns for hospital workers.

People also want to know how the crisis is affecting people economically, socially, and emotionally. If your research team has a new study about how unemployment is changing spending habits or contributing to a mental health crisis, pitch it. Just make sure the story is current — which, in this constantly changing news environment, means your data is no more than a few days old.

Only Pitch What's Truly Relevant

If you do have useful information, people want to hear about it. Still, that doesn’t mean you should pitch it to every reporter in your contact list.

Eric Savitz, associate editor of technology at Barron’s, has this to say:

“We over here in media land are being bombarded with coronavirus-related pitches. Please think carefully before you hit the send button about whether what you are proposing is REALLY relevant to our readers. And please - PLEASE! - stop resending pitches a second time to get stuff to the top of my inbox. It is the moral equivalent of spam, and will not help your case.”

Consider your story carefully and match it with the right reporter. If you’re announcing that your company is going to start making face masks for hospitals, you don’t want to pitch that to your contact on the life sciences beat.

If you have any doubt about whether something is relevant, reach out to a reporter with whom you have a long-standing relationship.

Remember that Reporters are People Too

Finally, remember that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone, including reporters, and you never know what someone is dealing with. Maybe you’re talking to a reporter who has to write story after story about the devastation of COVID-19, when they have a loved one who has contracted or succumbed to the disease.

Approach media interactions the same way you’d approach any conversation today — with sensitivity, compassion, and understanding. It goes a long way.

If you’re looking for more pointers about how to position yourself in today’s frenzied news cycle, watch our video Pandemic Response: 7 Strategies for Adapting Your Customer Engagements or visit our COVID-19 communications free resource center

Topics: content marketing, Security, Healthcare, government, branding, public relations, performance marketing

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