Media relations in uncertain times
Our Associate Partner, Marion Cordiner, looks at how the pandemic has changed the way we communicate with the media
No matter what industry, we are all undergoing a monumental shift and everyone across the board has faced disruption in our work and personal lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a constant rollercoaster, just when we feel there may be a glimpse of normality on the horizon, the situation changes and we are, again, thrown into unknown territories.
The media has been and will continue to be dominated by news related to COVID-19. Whilst the media landscape is constantly shifting, for the past eight months, news has predominantly focused on the latest COVID-19 related developments, the impact the virus is having on business, the economy, people’s personal lives and the government’s response.
So as PR professionals, whose job it is to still try and communicate our clients’ stories through the media, where does this leave us? How can we reach our media contacts, build relationships, and ensure we’re acting at all times, in our clients’ best interests? Once upon a time, it used to be a case of just calling the relevant news editor at their desk in the office to pitch a story. Not any more. Most of the media, like the rest of us, are working from home using a personal mobile
So as we navigate cancelled media launches, events moving online and restricted business travel it’s important to remember that the fundamentals of our industry remain the same. We must act strategically as our clients seek to differentiate themselves and relate to their audiences in this new world.
Liaising with the media has always been something that is surrounded with dos and don’ts. And now, there are even more hurdles to overcome. With more and more media titles operating on a skeleton staff, our media pitches must be even more catchy and newsworthy than ever before. Messages must have the right tone and fit. The media’s time is precious, and they won’t be interested in your story if it doesn’t have the correct hook, tone of voice, or fit for their publication. On the plus side, as journalists find themselves strapped for resources, the relationship between them and PR professionals looks set to grow in importance.
The old media landscape continues to evolve into an increasingly fluid digital ecosystem of competing platforms and outlets. Social media algorithms are impacting journalism on a daily basis with traditional media constantly competing with the flow of social media content. With every man, woman and beast these days having a social media channel, we must use this to our advantage. Even now the power of an email seems to be dwindling and at SPEY we’ve certainly seen a huge shift in communicating with our media contacts less over email and more over social media direct messages, something that no-one would ever have thought possible back before Instagram, Twitter and Facebook took off to become what they are today.
So what else can we do? Firstly, create engaging content that is useful to journalists and relevant to consumers. Secondly, ensure our activity fits into the new landscape and works in partnership with other areas of our clients’ business to ensure message consistency across paid, owned and earned media. And fundamentally, consider how best to communicate a brand’s message, maybe looking online instead of traditional approaches. We must operate with a stronger degree of agility and fluidity, always aim to seek out what journalists are asking for and respond to those queries. We must be more sensitive and selfless in our communications and remember that ultimately whether we are a PR consultant, a client or a newspaper editor we’re all navigating this storm together. Yes we are facing a crisis, but now is not the time to put media relations into hibernation. We can still promote our news sensitively and appropriately, it’s just a case of being more clever and thoughtful in how we do it.
If you'd like to find out more about how SPEY can help your business navigate the media landscape during the pandemic, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.