By Jessica Price, Senior Associate
The breaking news cycle is rapidly changing in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, journalists are working around the clock to keep up with ever-evolving information. As PR professionals, it is more important now than ever to respect reporters’ limited time and resources.
At Lambert, we value the relationships we have built with members of the media. Therefore, when the outbreak of COVID-19 spread across the United States, we recognized right away that we had entered uncharted territory. We reevaluated media relations strategies with our clients and worked together to provide alternative options amidst the pandemic.
Here are a handful of (until now) unwritten rules we established to maneuver media relations amid these uncertain times.
Don’t pitch if it’s not important. This rule should apply regardless of circumstance, but it’s especially relevant in the face of a global pandemic. We must reexamine all ideas and storylines against the backdrop of what matters. Many stories that were newsworthy three weeks ago maybe irrelevant today.
Acknowledge the unprecedented. Living through a global pandemic stirs a wide range of emotions, and we must remember being human is what connects us all. When pitching, be sensitive to journalists’ time and identify the information audiences need to know upfront. Journalists are receiving pitches at a fast and furious pace, so prioritizing critical information will help them manage their inbox accordingly.
Reach out and offer support. It doesn’t hurt to send a quick note to close contacts to see if they are interested in receiving run-of-the-mill news releases; relevant, coronavirus-related pitches; or need-to-know only information. Then, share their feedback with your colleagues to ensure your team is providing useful updates.
Think outside the box. Not everyone has the same schedule as you. Set an alarm to send an early morning email to morning show producers who may be starting their day at 3 a.m. For print publications that are short on resources and time, develop a byline or op-ed to submit for consideration. If a television station is not allowing guests in-studio, offer a video interview instead. Be mindful of how journalists are altering their storytelling efforts and determine creative ways to support them.
When it is once again safe to resume normal activities, interact with journalists face-to-face. Building a human connection with reporters is a better use of everyone’s time than blindly pitching or only communicating via email. Offer to meet over coffee or lunch or invite your contacts to the office to discuss best practices with your team. As events and conferences begin again, host media dinners in a more casual setting where you can establish a genuine rapport. Don’t take media relationships for granted and realize we all have the same goal—telling stories that matter.
Communication is and always has been a two-way street. The most efficient way to navigate the new normal is to adapt and be thoughtful. Whether in initial outreach or ongoing conversations, PR pros have strong opportunities to be supportive of members of the media in this new landscape.