6 tips for better media relations during COVID-19

Here’s how you can turn yourself into a crucial resource for reporters during this global crisis.

How to build relationships amid COVID-19

Media relations has become a pivotal component of PR efforts amid COVID-19 fallout. How communicators represent their clients is perhaps more important now than ever.

So how can we ensure that the information we are putting out there rises above the noise on social media and provides real value to readers and our audience?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Provide genuine value and information.

It is important to position experts in a way that is not going to come across as disingenuous or moving away from the obvious news cycle that we are currently in.

Here at Circa, we work with university faculty who are true experts in their field and regardless of their background/expertise, whenever we reach out to reporters or editors we make sure that we are drawing a clear connection between our faculty/experts and any given topic. We also explain why their perspective will give the reader information that is significant, timely and important.

2. Stick to industry protocol.

The pandemic is understandably causing widespread panic—and subsequent haste—in many industries. But media relations specialists still need to ensure they do their normal due diligence when reaching out to reporters.

Questions to ask yourself before sending a pitch include:

  • Do they cover the topic you are pitching them about?
  • Are they actively writing at the moment?
  • Are they quoting experts in their writing?
  • How is their publication covering COVID-19?

3. Go the extra step to stand out.

An editor’s job can be challenging and overwhelming. You can stand out by understanding their situation, adding value to your submissions and thinking ahead to what they might need from you. Always thank them for the ability to work with the publication.

To better understand editors’ needs and perspectives, you can follow them on social media via a company account or a personal account (though if using the latter, use an account where you don’t post content that could be seen as controversial or unprofessional).

Don’t pitch editors directly on social media unless you’ve established that kind of relationship. Just engage with their posts and do so in a way that respects boundaries (i.e. don’t like and comment on every post or send too many private messages). Stand out by making thoughtful comments, not throwaway quips, in order to keep them interested.

Yes, this is more work than just emailing the news desk or submitting your ideas and articles through an online form. However, the results that come from building this relationship over time will be well worth it when you become a trusted source for the editor.

4. Now is a great time to build trust and relationships.

Now more than ever, reporters need sources they can trust. Be strategic about what you can provide them—and how consistently. If you are building a solid foundation, this might open up the opportunity for a reporter to put you in contact with their colleagues who are covering different beats and need insight from genuine industry experts.

5. Find fresh angles and perspectives.

With so much being written and published about a wide range of topics in relation to the coronavirus, editors will be on the lookout for unique angles and perspectives.

For example, there are already many articles out there that offer generalized tips for working from home. Instead of pitching more of the same, can you pitch tips for working from home while taking care of children at the same time? Or working from home while your spouse or significant other is also working from home? Fresh angles will catch an editor’s attention.

6. Lend a hand.

During this time, an outstretched hand can make a world of difference. Consider reaching out to existing media contacts to see what they might be working on and if there is any way that you might be able to ease their present load.

Since the news cycle is heavily saturated with coronavirus news, the simple offer to connect them with a relevant and reliable source could play a pivotal role in strengthening their article and your professional relationship for the future. This fast-changing news cycle leaves opportunities to reconnect media professionals with industry experts they’ve worked with before, taking time to highlight and call attention to how their varying industry expertise can apply to COVID-19.

There is virtually no industry that has not been impacted by COVID-19 in some way, whether directly or indirectly, and media relations is no different. Remembering and implementing these tips may require a bit of extra work, but by doing so you can help ensure you’ll be representing your clients in the best ways possible.

George Bradley is the PR manager at Circa Interactive, a digital marketing agency based in San Diego. Alyssa Susnjara is a senior media relations specialist at Circa.

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