Date
26 March 2020
Author
Dan Cooper
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navigating the media landscape during COVID-19 

As business owners, marketeers, PRs – as people – we’ve all become more aware of the need to connect in these isolating times. The coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought unprecedented changes to our personal lives and the way we work and communicate. Brands and businesses are understandably unsure about what to say and how to say it. Should we talk about the virus and if so, how? What news should we be putting out there? Are journalists concerned with anything other than COVID-19? These are the tricky questions and challenges we, as PR professionals, are here to help you navigate. 

Good communication is always more about listening than talking, which is why we’re taking care during this time to find out what the media is focusing on, how best to contact journalists and what they will respond to. We’ve attended several online webinars hosted by media outlets, such as a recent one by Roxhill which hosted prominent broadsheet travel writers, and another by Daniel Jones, consumer editor at The Sun. Here’s what they are saying: 

Online readership is increasing 

Online subscriptions are increasing, especially as stories move quicker than print can keep up with, and media outlets expect online engagement to become more important as we go forward. Don’t discount the importance of keeping your online content relevant and flowing, now more than ever before.  

Non-coronavirus stories are still important

News desks are calling for stories that are corona-led with a focus on businesses observations from reliable data. However, they are also looking for stories that give their readers a break from it all, and they are turning to PRs for help.  

For non-coronavirus related content, it needs to be light, funny, quirky – nothing too heavy. Success stories about individual people or kind-hearted pieces are welcomed. Importantly, if it is noncoronavirus story, keep it separate and make sure it is appropriate and sincere.  

Sustainability stories are now second on the list   

Before coronavirus, sustainability was top of the media’s agenda. This topic has now moved down to second position but is still vitally important. Positive sustainability news is still encouraged, valuable and relevant – and can be linked to COVID-19 if appropriate. 

The people element 

There is huge appetite for positive stories and content that lightens the mood. For those in the travel industry especially, think about how your content can inspire people. There is also a demand for anything linked to the ‘other side of CV’, such as the dramatic C02 reductions in China, or French multinational luxury group LVMH converting perfume factories to hand sanitiser facilities. Readers want something positive to counteract the negativity they are experiencing, such as advice on what to do at home, how to work well digitally and, wherever possible, messages of normality. 

We can all do with a laugh 

Humour is paramount and there is always time for it, even during a global crisis. Positive stories with a humorous angle keep people dreaming and engaged with not only the piece but the publication in general. Any creative content with a quirky humorous angle will do well. 

The how is just as important as the what 

Email is key. Some journalists don’t mind being called but only have a few available minutes at best, so calls should be important and quick (this point is always true). Another evergreen tip is that email subject headings are vital, as is the first line of the pitch or press release. If it is irrelevant or badly written, expect the delete button. Broadsheets are shortening and refining their print editions and are paying more attention to what the industry needs from them. Now is the time for good, relevant ideas. 

Think ahead  

We will get through this crisis; the question is when? So, plan ahead. Time spent on planning future campaigns, drafting contentcreating corporate videos or generating new ideas will not be wasted. A tip from a recent webinar: travel editors will have more capacity for inspirational long reads in the coming weeks, so don’t miss the opportunity. 

Dan Cooper

Account Executive

Article Author Dan Cooper