10 ways to get media attention during this pandemic
Here’s how reporters say you can get their attention during these turbulent times.
One of the biggest challenges for PR professionals now is conveying stories and trends that resonate with journalists. Since the pandemic, news cycles and media consumption have shifted dramatically. Nielsen predicted media consumption would jump by 60% as a result of the pandemic. Remote work coupled with the quarantine-imposed restriction of life events and obligations has meant most of us have more time on our hands. As a result, we are online more, and consuming more videos, articles and podcasts for both educational and entertainment purposes.
The question is, does “news” that’s not directly tied to COVID-19 matter in this climate? The short answer is “yes” – but it’s not as straightforward as that. I recently moderated a virtual panel, “Earning the Legal Media’s Attention in Times of Crisis,” where I was joined by Bob Ambrogi, LawSites blogger and LawNext podcast host, and Zach Warren, editor-in-chief of Legaltech News.
The prominent legal journalists offered several key takeaways to help media professionals understand how to get attention for their stories in these unusual times:
1. The news cycle is “topsy-turvy.” Industry standards for issuing news on certain days and at certain times no longer apply. Ambrogi and Warren said readership patterns have changed since the pandemic hit the U.S., with readers consuming content at all hours versus traditional “peak” times (mid-morning, late afternoon, and evening). The boundaries between work and home life are less distinct, and that’s particularly true when it comes to news consumption.
2. What constitutes “news” is different. Today, most media coverage relates to the pandemic, and those get attention in a pitch. While companies continue to launch new products, close on new funding and drive other events that would be considered news during normal times, staying relevant is important too.
3. Analysis articles are worth their weight in gold. With so much uncertainty, readers are looking for coverage of macro-trends that offer insights from industry peers. While practical guidance has always been important to readers, content that educates readers on how to deal with challenges in this new paradigm is in greater demand.
4. The more unique the better. When offering contributed content, solving a specific problem and providing a distinct perspective will get an editor’s attention. Keep in mind that multiple authors are pitching similar topics. Contributors need to find a way to provide advice that is both novel and valuable.
5. Know who you’re pitching to and fine-tune your message accordingly. This has always been solid advice, but it’s even more important in these demanding times. Make sure you do your homework on the reporter you’re hoping to land an interview with – especially at bigger news outlets where reporters change beats more often.
6. Make journalists’ jobs easier. Most are getting bombarded with more emails and pitches than ever, so it’s even more important to get right to the point in your pitch. Highlight what is new or different upfront. And don’t try to reincarnate an old pitch unless you have a new, distinct angle.
7. Don’t assume no response means “no.” If you don’t hear back, a quick, friendly follow-up with the reporter can make the difference between a story being covered or not. For reporters flooded with emails, it’s easy to miss even a great story idea that gets buried in their inbox.
8. Pay attention to what reporters have already covered, especially if you are pitching a timely topic. It helps to point out you have taken an interest in their coverage and make it clear how your story fits in with topics they are regularly covering.
9. Personalize your pitches to individual reporters. To save on time, many pitches are sent via a template and often sent en masse. Even if a media list is well-researched, sending a general pitch won’t cut it these days. Instead, make your pitch more personal. Tell a reporter why a recent article they wrote resonated and how it connects to the story you are trying to sell. In doing so, you demonstrate to journalists you value their work (and you make their job easier by connecting the dots.)
10. Be transparent and accessible, even when you have bad news. In difficult times, there will no doubt be difficult stories to share. Today, we are reading more stories about layoffs, bankruptcies and other ways COVID-19 is taking a toll on businesses. Taking a proactive approach and getting in front of the message with authenticity will typically lead to more favorable coverage.
While these practices are particularly relevant in times of crisis, marketing and PR professionals would do well to follow them post-pandemic and beyond.
Erin Harrison is managing director of Plat4orm. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Instead of trying to get attention for what you have, tie what you have to what the public already wants, wisdom on what’s gonna be and how to make the most of it.
WHAT’S GONNA BE IN WASHINGTON. Good news wanted. Everyone wants it. So point to an important national need—like jobs, reasonable consumer prices, healthcare without hassle or whatever—and show the good news of how the public may happily be a lot better off if Washington has the wisdom to do that which your management is yearning for Washington to do.
WHAT’S GONNA BE IN HOMEMAKING. Coming are challenging days and the public is more likely to buy now what will be helpful or important to have then. Your marketing managers may be delighted to see your PR for what they are marketing.
WHAT’S GONNA BE IN PERSONAL FINANCE. Your PR work can influence not only what people pay for but how they pay, how they repay, and how they protect their ability to pay.
WHAT’S GONNA BE IN HEALTHCARE. Whatever your management wants or fears, your PR skills can win support in the media and online for our healthcare system to improve—and better meet the public’s needs—in ways your management will love to see promoted.
WHAT’S GONNA BE IN YOUR CAREER. While almost everyone thinks of how can I get ahead, the biggest successes-to-be may more likely focus also on how can I help my management to get ahead. The schools are teaching better and better what works in PR and what works best. Our universities are increasingly wise in teaching about theoretical PR, and PR Daily courses teach “real world” PR strategy a
nd tactics that make students more successful. What’s gonna be in PR is that some will go for this education and the rewards, and some will not.
In PR achievement and PR career management, what will be will emanate from what has been. The more successful will look ahead to being (a) more productive and (b) more rewarded.
Those who get management to consider adding a great PR firm may add to their own chances for a great future. It’s because the great get that distinction by getting great results, a rising tide that lift all boats. But with or without this addition, what’s gonna be for PR people of today will depend on their focusing now on what’s gonna be tomorrow. It can be somewhat like dieting, deciding whether to plan for increased success now or “when there’s time.”
Very good article, Erin!!
I like, mainly, the tip number 4 about providing news from a distinct perspective.
In my opinion, journalism is a very competitive business and professionals have to differ from others to rise and show their work.