By ICR PR Team
We are all operating in uncharted waters as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended social norms and fundamentally altered how companies communicate with their stakeholders. It has also significantly impacted one of the primary channels through which individuals get and companies deliver information: the news media.
The airwaves and internet are overwhelmed with endless coronavirus content, which raises many practical questions for companies and organizations about if, how, when and under what circumstances they should be interacting with the media during this time of global crisis.
Here are some thoughts to inform your media relations during this unprecedented time period:
Corona is King
Understandably, the news day is packed with coronavirus content. There are a number of implications to this:
Trade Media Tries to Stay Focused
While the national and mainstream media are consumed with coronavirus, trade media outlets are largely staying focused on their industries and continuing to report on non-virus related news. Of course they also include virus-related coverage when it impacts the industries they cover.
Is it Possible (or Advisable) to Conduct Proactive Media Relations Outreach?
While some companies are proactively engaging with media, it needs to be done in a strategic way, and only if relevant to what the reporters are covering now. That said, for companies considering proactive outreach, you need to be very careful at this time for a variety of reasons, including:
How to Connect Your Story to the News Cycle
While companies need to be careful to avoid clumsy efforts to be relevant, there are many ways to appropriately engage with the media appropriately during this time. Companies with stories that are directly relevant — therapeutic treatments, medical supplies, virtual communication/education tools, at-home fitness, food delivery, grocery, health and wellness, etc. — should be using their platform to educate and support the current situation, while others can offer insight and commentary on how they are responding to ensure critical product supply and business continuity. Business and financial print and broadcast media are also looking for companies that are well positioned to not only weather this storm, but drive growth through it by virtue of the products and services they sell — as they are looking to help investors identify smart investment opportunities during this period of market volatility and beyond.
The Tide Will Turn (Eventually)
Just as the world is addressing this pandemic and getting back to normal, so too will the news media. It’s important for companies to monitor closely and be prepared as the shift will be gradual and reporters will start to look for stories that illustrate the transition (e.g., How were employees affected? What were some lessons learned? Will there be more pervasive work-from-home policies? Can certain businesses just start back up? Are there supply chain issues?). Where it is in a company’s interest to profile their individual situation, there will be opportunities to do so.
Take Advantage of the Lull in Proactivity
As previously stated, the tide will eventually turn. With media relations, as it relates to promoting normal course of business at a low, take advantage of this time to mine your company for interesting stories that can be pitched when the time is right. Polish content that’s been waiting in the wings so that when normalcy resumes, you have a plan in place to begin interacting with the media again.
Remember the Basics of Good Media Relations
At the center of good media relations is maintaining relationships with your core group of reporters and producers. Just because you can’t — and likely shouldn’t — pitch them right now, doesn’t mean you should be a stranger. Especially when it comes to your beat reporters who you have likely become friendly with, check in with them. This crisis has disrupted their work and personal lives too; a call to say hello and see how they’re doing will go a long way. The conversation will likely lead to insights into how they’re covering the virus and ways you may be able to help.
Enhance Your Direct Communications
During this time, companies should be expanding, enhancing and fully utilizing channels that allow them to directly reach their audiences including social media, customer email lists, videos and other content posted to the company website.
Learn more about our recommendations for engaging in social media during this time, and if you have additional questions about your media relations strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic, please reach out.