As PR professionals we are well accustomed to working with fast news cycles, adhering to tight deadlines and putting creative spins on client news to secure the media attention that they deserve. But due to the pandemic, the challenges we face when competing for limited airtime or print space have intensified, and we are faced with a new set of issues to navigate. As the ways we communicate have shifted, we compiled five ways in which media relations has changed and why some of these adjustments are likely permanent.
1. Standing out in crowded news cycles
Over the past two years, we have lived not only through a global pandemic but also felt the effects of climate change through multiple natural disasters and have witnessed a powerful social justice movement. During times when all news is breaking news, it is more challenging than ever to garner meaningful media coverage for our clients’ projects and initiatives. To stand out among an onslaught of pitches that reporters receive, tailoring, targeting and timing are key. Be sure to do your research, get to know each reporter’s beat and time your pitch around news cycles.
2. Adjusting to longer lead times
With COVID-19 related coverage taking up a lot of airtime, space for other news has become more limited. While securing media placements for an announcement could be easily accomplished on a two-week timeline pre-pandemic, longer lead times are preferred in this crowded space. Between coordinating interviews, handling follow-up questions, fact-checking and other logistics that go into each article, journalists are often unable to devote the necessary time on a short turnaround when there are multiple breaking news stories they have to prioritize.
3. Shifting to virtual interviews
Setting up face-to-face meetings and interviews between clients and reporters to get one-on-one time is crucial for building relationships and is a big part of media relations. As we’ve had to adapt to new safety protocols and varied comfort levels with in-person interactions, the majority of interviews has shifted to being virtual. While this has slightly altered the way we prep for meetings, it can often increase clients’ level of comfort when speaking to reporters. Since virtual meetings not only provide increased flexibility for scheduling but also save commuting time, we believe that this change is likely here to stay.
4. Adapting to a changing media landscape
The media landscape was evolving long before COVID-19 started to spread, with many print publications shuttering and moving to online-only formats. This shift has only been accelerated by the pandemic and, with a smaller number of traditional media outlets and a larger amount of news coming out each day, reporters have to be more selective than ever with what they choose to cover. The expectation of having a client’s announcement reported in multiple top-tier publications is no longer realistic, and many PR professionals have adapted by seeking out exclusives or more in-depth coverage in a select target outlet instead.
5. Working around sensitive news
Being mindful of what is happening in the world each day has become more important than ever. As PR professionals we have always had to keep our finger on the pulse and yield to significant news but, when the world as a whole is going through challenging times, pitching a non-life-altering story on the wrong day can be perceived as anything from out-of-touch to downright offensive. Monitoring news cycles and tailoring our timelines and strategies around world events is key to maintaining strong relationships and attaining key press coverage for our clients.
The tumultuous events of the past two years have represented challenges in all areas of our lives and, as PR professionals, we’ve had to rethink many tried-and-true strategies we’ve relied on in the past. These times have shown us that, as an industry, we have the capacity to pivot quickly and continue to serve our clients in meaningful ways even during turbulent times.