How to win media friends during COVID-19

Engaging the media as we fumble our way through COVID-19 is one thing; supporting them is another.

This is a period unlike any other we have lived through, and almost every sector is welcoming the opportunity for new and alternative ways of working collaboratively. As PRs we have a responsibility to support the media if we expect them to also be supporting us.

Here are our five tips to help find ways to achieve a harmonious quid pro quo:

1. Be strategic when sending out business as usual content or media releases.
While it’s not imperative that everything is exclusively related to coronavirus, everything should nonetheless be considered within the context of our world right now. Anything that isn’t will feel careless. All media pitches – crisis managing or not – should align with a brand’s core positioning.

2. This is a sensible time for crafting intelligent op-eds and expert by-lines
Cut only if there is an authentic, sensical link to your organisation. Retro-fitting a brand risks coming across as tenuous and being exposed as driving your own agenda. Use this as an opportunity to garner genuine brand loyalty and consumer trust by providing helpful advice and insights to those impacted.

3. If you’re pitching, particularly for broadcast opportunities, remember the media world looks very different at the moment
Many newsrooms will be bare; most press events are cancelled. Consider this when packaging up information. Provide content in ready-to-go formats where possible. While many sectors are more agile and may be familiar with working from home, producers and reporters are traditionally not, so be mindful and considerate of this.

4. Don’t just settle on the default assumption that things need to be cancelled
It might be the most suitable outcome in certain circumstances but there are ways to adapt; ways which we might utilise long after this crisis is over. How can you deliver product launches or panel events to journalists and influencers via video conferencing? Can you transform desk-side or coffee meetings into video chats or phone calls? Creativity surely falls within the realms of our skillsets, and now is a great time to put it to good use.

5. Of course, aside from reacting and adapting to this unique and challenging moment in time, now is the prime time to think ahead, do some strategic forward planning and prepare proactive media materials to be deployed in the future. Keep a close eye on the news agenda – including the tone of what is being reported on – and place yourself on the front foot to press ‘go’ and start pitching once the time is right.

The relationship between PR professionals and the media is a fundamental one. While the mutual benefits can swing back and forth from time to time, we need each other always, and now more than ever.