5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic is changing media relations

With social distancing and remote work on the rise, are best practices for reaching out to reporters changing?


Navigating the ever-changing landscape of media is never easy. Now, COVID-19 has forced media relations professionals into overdrive to not only tell their client’s stories, but do it during a pandemic-focused media cycle while news outlets are furloughing, laying off or outright shutting down.

In the midst of this, the media landscape continues to evolve. Here are some of the biggest trends and changes during this time, and how we’ve been able to adapt our approach to continue success:

1. Fewer long leads. The news is changing so fast, journalists aren’t spending time with long articles anymore. If they don’t publish it when they’re working on it, there’s a good chance the news will be totally different the following day. With hot topics, we touch base with clients at the beginning of the week to understand how flexible their days are and the best way to reach them.

2. Nationwide coverage is more accessible. Prior to COVID, unless your clients lived in a major media market, chances of regular national TV appearances were slim. Producers and hosts wanted clients in-studio as much as possible. Now, with concerns of COVID, most interviews are remote allowing for companies from all over the U.S. to have an equal chance at being on shows.

3. Phone pitching is (becoming) obsolete. Yes, some of you will say phone pitching was already obsolete, but there are still plenty of journalists who appreciate a follow up call. Phone pitching in February resulted in my team securing both Business Insider and WSJ for a client announcement. That said, coronavirus has resulted in journalists continuing to work from home for the indefinite future, which means no office line. Some might still have that line forwarded, but that can’t be counted on.

4. Newsletters are on the rise. COVID-19 may be affecting ad sales but subscription newsletters are a whole different story. Many laid-off journalists took to substack and its competitors during the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, Substack reported doubling its user base during the pandemic. In the grand scheme of things, does this affect the media? Yes. Newsletters allow for either reaching a more targeted audience or amplification. Either way, it’s a win-win for media relations professionals.

5. A picture is worth…the top of the article. Good photos and b-roll are more important than ever for reporters and producers. It used to be easy for them to get their own photos, but now media outlets don’t want to endanger employees unnecessarily. So journalists are more willing to accept photos from their interview sources provided they are high quality and help strike the right tone during COVID-19 (people wearing masks, etc.). Though some outlets might still send out a photographer, you need to be a partner on keeping everyone involved safe.

How have you seen the media landscape shifting since the beginning of COVID-19?

Tara Parsell is director of client satisfaction at Geben Communication where she oversees strategy and execution across the agency.


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