To say that these are unprecedented times is an understatement. Every news outlet has reported on the coronavirus pandemic, from national news to life sciences, including business trades, event news, even entertainment and fashion publications. Many PR professionals may be questioning how to go about their daily media relations when it’s anything but business as usual.
So, how do we go about media relations at a time like this? With a little extra humanity, respect and kindness, that’s how! Here are six ways to ensure you are respectful of their time and understanding of the news cycle:
Start with Thank You
Those two little words can go a long way, and while journalists are not technically first responders, they are providing us with the information we need to stay safe, the news we need to understand the extent of this virus and the reporting on progress being made to flatten the curve and fight this viral predator. They are feeling overwhelmed, with one of our favorite trades sharing, “We have almost published things that are incorrect because the facts have changed from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. News is changing fast, so the interview/review process needs to be faster than it normally would.” Reporters are also sharing the heartwarming stories of the strength of the human spirit, the triumphs of humanity, and stories to brighten these long-quarantined days. So for that, start with a thank you!
Take the Time to Ask
Many reporters are covering this ever-changing global story, but many are not. Before you pitch a story about a corporate hire or a new unrelated drug trial, ask the journalists you are working with what their current focus is and what stories they are most interested in at this time. As PR professionals, it’s our job to make their work easier. By asking a few simple questions, you may find they are eager to hear about something other than coronavirus. And then again, they may not….and we need to respect that response as well and tailor our pitches appropriately.
Like many of us, journalists rely on conferences and trade shows to build relationships and drive story development. With the transition to virtual events, the hurdles to gain access to story leads becomes a little more challenging. When asking your contacts what news angles they are reporting currently, take the time to understand how they intend to participate in virtual events, and how you can support their efforts. It may be that they will appreciate a follow-up call with your client after their virtual presentation. Maybe they are blocking off time to meet with virtual event participants – ask them if you can grab a time slot for your client.
Respect Their Time
Time is everything during a crisis. Be thoughtful in making your email outreach short, concise and to the point. If you are sharing coronavirus related news, make the pitches quickly consumable, so they can swiftly decide if it is something they wish to respond to or move on from. If you are working with a reporter that is not explicitly covering the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still important to be respectful of their time by drafting pitches that immediately tell them, “what’s in it for me.”
Be a Mind Reader
Now more than ever, this is a time to predict the questions the reporter may ask. While all PR pros have this nailed, a gentle reminder to be a step ahead is never a bad thing! Draft potential questions, get client approval, prep your spokespeople, and be prepared to respond quickly. The saying the early bird gets the worm has never been timelier. Pardon the pun!
Don’t Be Afraid to Jump In
Again, with respect and consideration in mind, jump in if you think you have in interesting pitch. Do you have great tips for working at home, a human-interest angle that may add a little happiness in this challenging time, or is the company you represent doing innovative things to serve their customers? While these stories may not seem crisis worthy, a creative approach to this situation may be exactly what your media contact is looking for. We are all in these unchartered waters together and, while our daily norms may have shifted a bit, we must continue to do what we can to support our clients and maintain healthy, strong relationships with our media network. Thoughtfulness, respect, and a little creative thinking may be just the key to supporting your clients’ media goals today, and the next time we find ourselves grappling with stretches of trying business times in the future.