Best Practices in Proactive Media Relations During COVID-19

April 7, 2020

Gwen McGuire

COVID-19 has thrust the world into uncharted territory. Companies across the globe have been forced to dramatically shift and reprioritize. Included among these are media organizations, now facing one of the most intense news periods many have experienced in their lifetime.

If you are pitching the media right now, your success will depend on your ability to craft thoughtful and relevant content. In fact, some reporters have told us that the majority of the recent pitches they have received from companies and communications people have not been useful.

However, opportunities to “safely” secure profile for your organization still exist if handled carefully and in a genuine manner. In a world where journalists are being inundated with information and pitches, we’ve put together some tips to help you navigate the current media climate.

Timing is everything – It is still too soon to pitch something that is not COVID-19-related. Most companies get this and are having the necessary “heart-to-hearts” within their organizations about timing of key initiatives. Companies are widely putting product launches and unrelated announcements that have been in the works for months, on hold for the time being. However, this gut-check on timing applies even to the micro-story pitch level too. Ill-timed content will risk coming across as tone-deaf and could potentially hurt your long-term relationships with media.

Be helpful, not promotional – Even if your organization has an announcement or story that is in some way related to COVID-19, this is not necessarily a green light to move forward with media outreach. Ask yourself whether your pitch offers something helpful to the reporter and their effort to produce content that is relevant and informative to their readers. Also be mindful that many reporters are currently responsible for covering breaking news in a global pandemic situation that is changing by the hour. Be respectful of their time and workload.

If your pitch comes across as promotional or self-serving, media will not only ignore it, but may also question your judgement as a reliable source of information. Ensure that your pitch content has the right nuance of helpfulness and that you target it very carefully to the right media outlets and individual editors and/or reporters, in a personalized way.

Offer value-ad commentary – There is a tremendous opportunity right now for organizations to offer expertise and commentary to help media navigate the current landscape. As we speak, both general assignment and beat reporters are trying to understand and cover what is happening. Primary to this is the far-reaching impact COVID-19 is having, and may continue to have, on the economy, across industries and sectors, socially and among workplaces. Offering sound information, insights or analysis that supports their coverage will be received well by reporters, who very often need commentary to complete their stories.

At KLC, we have successfully offered client spokespeople as credible sources across numerous areas including financial services, real estate, currency and foreign exchange, technology, human resources and payroll, as well as regarding the broader market and economic impacts of the pandemic response.

Consider paid media options – Newsrooms are providing an essential service right now and those hard-working journalists are stretched more than most have ever been in their lives. Therefore, this is also an optimal time to consider paid media strategies with carefully curated content to compliment traditional media efforts.

For example, if you would like to get the word out about something that could help people, or you have a more in depth story that would be of interest to your (consumer or industry) audiences sitting at home, this tactic could be a fit. This approach not only allows you to maintain complete control over the content and the timing of its release, but also supports the survival of already-lean media organizations by directly contributing to journalists’ salaries. Numerous media outlets across the country are now offering discounted pricing – so it’s a particularly good time consider advertorial opportunities.

Also remember to leverage your owned channels, such as your social media platforms to tell your stories. Be creative and strategic – you may have more to offer a reporter right now than you realize.

As the situation evolves and the world begins pivoting to the recovery phase of this unprecedented event, we anticipate that more opportunities will arise to tell ‘good news stories’ or talk about how your organization is contributing or navigating a new post-COVID-19 era.

At KLC we’re closely monitoring the news cycle and assessing the situation day-by-day to determine the right opportunities and the best approaches to engaging with media. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions about navigating media relations for your organization.

Have a question? Interested in finding out more?