media relations, emphasis on the relations

A global pandemic is uncharted territory. Deciding if and how you’ll move forward with a media relations campaign can be difficult to navigate. While there’s no pandemic playbook to act from, akhia communications is sharing some best practices for media pitching during COVID-19.
Be authentic. If the company or product you’re pitching doesn’t have a tie to COVID-19, don’t force it. Seeming too opportunistic is where a lot of companies can get into trouble. It’s OK to promote a new product and continue PR outreach; however, it’s crucial to find a delicate balance of not capitalizing on COVID-19 while also not charging forward as if nothing has happened. Stick with what makes your product or company newsworthy in an authentic and sincere way.

Focus on the good. On the flipside, if your company has something important to say about COVID-19 or offers a helpful solution, now’s the time to speak up. Media is craving coronavirus-related content, especially feel-good stories. If your company offers a product to help healthcare workers, has recently donated to a community cause or is providing resources or solutions to anyone affected by COVID-19, media will want to know.
Know your audience. While some media, like local and national broadcast, are focused on COVID-19, lifestyle and trade magazine reporters may be working on long lead pieces that fit their editorial calendars. Before pitching, do your research and see what outlets and contacts have been covering lately. Are they focused on COVID-19 stories or covering other content as well?
Consider availability. Journalists are going through the same life disruptions we’re all facing, such as working from home and homeschooling, all while feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Journalists are picking up additional assignments on top of what they normally handle due to furloughs and layoffs. Understand that coverage may take longer than you’re normally used to and be as helpful to media as you can. You can do this by providing assets, responding to requests quickly or offering to set up calls with experts to support their stories.
On top of more responsibilities, some media are seeing an influx of PR pitches. Casey Newton from The Verge tweets he’s “getting four times as many pitches as he was before the pandemic.” Find a way to cut through the clutter by pitching thoughtful stories that fit with what reporters are currently covering.
Reevaluate messaging and planning. Be careful not to drive consumers in-store. Stay away from saying the stimulus check gives consumers money to spend. Don’t make light of social distancing. Reevaluate all your pitches to make sure you’re being sensitive to the current situation. When thinking through PR planning for the rest of the year, consider virtual press conferences or meetings, video product how-tos or Zoom coffee dates.
The uncertainty that comes with COVID-19 can trip up even the savviest of communicators. When in doubt, reach out to your media relationships and ask how you can best support them. It’s an unusual time for media, so checking in to ask how you can make their jobs easier is always a good approach.