It’s forever been a challenge for public relations professionals to wade through the muck and gain the ear of journalists.
But it’s our job. It’s what we do. It’s what we take pride in.
We cultivate relationships in the media, sometimes even friendships, and we develop contacts and sources. And we never, ever burn a bridge. We never take rejection personally. We offer help even if we don't have a client that fits. We are a resource wherever we can be. We just get back to work because you never know when that writer or booking agent will be an asset down the road.
Now, think about doing all that during a pandemic. Since the coronavirus has taken over every aspect of life in 2020, it has been difficult to help craft a message to then be delivered by the media.
But, if anything, PR folks are resilient. And there are ways to get media attention during the pandemic.
To start with, know your audience. Journalists in every medium are under increased pressure. Media businesses have been downsizing for the better part of the last two decades. Writers, reporters, broadcasters, they all have been doing the work that used to be done by two people. Sometimes three.
To get something in front of them, to get them to consider writing about what you’re pitching, PR professionals need to be sure of their audience. Does this reporter, even with increased duties and beats, still cover the topic you’re putting in front of them? Does this media outlet serve its purpose? Let’s face it, you’re not pitching a story on soup to Women’s Wear Daily.
Another insight – don’t leave journalists hanging. By that we mean, do a little legwork. Don’t just pitch a story; pitch a story or product and tell the writer, ‘And here are a few experts you can talk to’ with their name and contact information. That’s not doing the work for them; that’s helping the process, and if you don’t think a journalist is going to look at that and give it a second thought, you’re being delusional.
Don’t shy away from the virus, either. Frankly, as much as the general public might bitch and moan about media coverage of COVID-19, they’re reading about it. They’re going online, picking up a paper, watching the nightly news. And journalists are dying for different angles about the pandemic. If you have a pitch related to the virus, pitch it.
But – and it’s a big BUT – watch your tone. Let’s not be glib about a pitch, virus-related or not, when 170,000 Americans are dead.
Finally, be real. Right now, media members are looking for authentic stories. They are looking for context amidst this year – this crazy, abnormal, heartbreaking, awful, aberration of a ****ing year.
They’re seeking a genuine way to tell a story. Give it to them.