It is no secret that COVID-19 has transformed the way we live and work, and no one knows for how long. The transformation of society has certainly been disruptive to say the least. This period of change has forced everyone to reevaluate traditional approaches to our work and pushed many to innovate, providing each of us with a real-life example of classic proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

Even before COVID-19, we understood the trade show world was evolving; however, we never expected that we would have to suddenly transition to conducting all trade shows virtually. Without a traditional event landscape and with round-the-clock pandemic news coverage, we have found ourselves at points wondering what we can do to navigate this bumpy and unfamiliar landscape.

The Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger put it best, “if you don’t know, ask. You will be a fool for the moment, but a wise man for the rest of your life.”

Let’s face it, there are clients out there that have storylines that fit this dominating narrative, but also many others that don’t. This leaves a number of questions for PR professionals like us. How do we capitalize on virtual event presence? How do we get interesting news covered when it doesn’t apply to majority of news focus? What is the best and most respectful way to work with journalists?

To get to the bottom of these questions, we decided to ask directly through a survey we sent to our media contacts and shared on our social media accounts. Namely, we wanted to understand how we can best work with and support them in this changing environment.

We found their responses to our questions incredibly helpful. Here are just a few of the learnings:

Event Coverage Is a Little Different

Events provide a platform for news-sharing and corporate coverage. By way of example, HIMSS booked over 4,000 news stories during their May 2019 event. Now that events have gone virtual for the time being, we wondered how journalists would participate. We were pleased to see that even when virtual, events are still relevant. When we asked, “how does your publication plan to cover virtual events?” More than 42 percent of respondents indicated that they will be making interview appointments. Furthermore, 25 percent of respondents indicated that they would be accepting press releases and pitches related to event news as they would traditionally. 

They Want Non-COVID-19 News

How many want general news pitches? 100 percent of respondents said they were interested in traditional pitches. That was music to our ears as we look to serve each client’s business needs. However, that resounding “yes” did come with a few polite reminders to practice patience and understanding.

“Please be patient if you do not hear back from us about a pitch. We are looking at everything that comes across our plates but have reduced capacity.” 

“Honestly, just be understanding that our email load has tripled.”

“Please understand that we simply cannot reply to every story pitch.”

What They Need from PR Professionals

Public relations is all about maintaining relationships and supporting contacts to find mutual successes that enable everyone to excel at their work.

Like all relationships, our interactions with the media ought to be a two-way street where everyone benefits. As PR professionals with the desire to be good partners, we are happy to get a better understanding of how we can proactively serve their need.

“I need access to people who can answer the questions I have on particular topics,” 

“Connect me with clinical executives from pharma and biotech companies willing to discuss the challenges they face,” 

“Help arrange interviews with scientific and medical personnel,” 

These comments reminded us of what a solid partnership is all about: win-wins through symbiosis. Public relations is all about maintaining relationships and supporting contacts to find mutual successes that enable everyone to excel at their work. With this insight, we will be more proactive in our efforts to identify thought leaders and quote sources ahead of time to assist our media partners with story development and information gathering.

Our Journalists Appreciated the Ask

All said and done, we are glad we asked these questions, and it seems they were too! A number of our contacts responded to our short survey with comments like:

“Appreciate your help in bringing news to our community,” 

“Thanks for this survey! Hopefully, it helps.” 

These responses gave us further inspiration to ensure we are good partners to our reporter network. In the midst of this unusual time, it is more important than ever to practice empathy and understanding to extend a helping hand.

In addition, the process has helped us to serve our clients more successfully by better understanding how we can adapt our processes. It also serves to remind us that not having an answer to a difficult question is an opportunity to learn from others. The Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger put it best, “if you don’t know, ask. You will be a fool for the moment, but a wise man for the rest of your life.”

If you’re worried about gaining the media’s attention with your upcoming announcement, let’s talk.