We can’t open a newspaper without reading that coronavirus is going to change fundamentally the way in which we live and work. For those of us working with the media, we have to address how we work alongside our colleagues in news and features to continue getting stories out in a timely and seemly manner.
What the crisis has taught us is that short-term thinking does not bring long-term rewards in PR. If your media relations are nurtured carefully and are, as a result, authentic and transparent your clients will trust that you are handling their story appropriately, and your media contacts will have faith that you are a trusted and reliable source of information. Anyone suddenly trying to cultivate a cosy relationship with a journalist mid-crisis would have received short shrift.
As a PR the relationship is between you, your client and the media. A relationship with the media should never be treated as a disposable asset, or one to be treated with disrespect.
Bombarding journalists with irrelevant or badly thought-out or written material shows a level of disrespect not only for the contact but for the craft of PR itself.
Since March this year, we have seen blanket coverage of COVID-19. Not many pitches will make it across the line if they don’t at least have a coronavirus angle at the moment, but flogging any story relentlessly is tactless and pushy. Be aware of your tone and your angle; even if the pitch is non-virus related, you’re still operating in a post-COVID world and that should colour any pitch you are contemplating. For example, positive financial result releases are going to be received badly if staff were made redundant or furloughed.
Immediately after a big government policy announcement is not necessarily the time to start approaching your contacts no matter how relevant your story. Those contacts are going to be frantically trying to get the bottom of the implications for the entire sector. If you have something genuinely new and useful to add, then go ahead; if not, don’t add to the noise.
Remember, you’re dealing with human beings, not just a story. Human beings who may have lost someone at home or at work, who may have had to cover some very upsetting stories or who have seen colleagues made redundant. Rather than pinging over a DM or a formulaic email to a media contact, try picking up the phone and asking how they are. Find out how you can help them rather than telling them what they should be covering. The story, whether it’s about the coronavirus crisis or not, should never be bigger than the people.
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