The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented challenges for the news media. Social distancing has forced journalists to change nearly every aspect of how they do their jobs as they navigate a new way of reporting amid the biggest health crisis in a century.
For communicators, that means nearly everything you thought you knew about interacting with the news media has been turned upside down. But the unique climate is leading to new opportunities to be a trusted and valued resource for journalists during a time of need.
Know the new production norms.
Who would have thought that TV newscasts would be produced from a kitchen table or living rooms transformed into makeshift studios for anchors to broadcast from inside their homes? But it’s the new reality as the journalism industry is sending reporters, producers, anchors and editors home to report on the COVID-19 pandemic in real-time.
Now, more than ever, journalists are relying on every type of video chat technology to get interviews, including Skype, FaceTime, Google Meet, Zoom and more. If you’re offering an interview, then be prepared to use whichever platform the journalist prefers. And always be ready with a backup plan if the technology fails.
Journalists are also looking for new ways to gather photos and video, and will have a new appreciation for any quality multimedia you can provide.
Share some positivity.
Journalists are being bombarded with pitches, both related and unrelated to the COVID-19 crisis, so now is not the time to be mass-pitching anything. That doesn’t mean that you should be sitting on the sidelines either. You should be extremely selective and strategic with who and what you pitch. But if it doesn’t feel appropriate, then trust your gut.
Stories of inspiration and positivity are breaking through with journalists and resonating with audiences right now. Whether it’s sharing how someone is overcoming the challenges of the coronavirus or a feel-good story unrelated to the crisis itself, a little bit of good news can go a long way during these uncertain times. (Just look at John Krasinski’s recently launched “Good News” show.)
Be a helper.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
That quote from Mr. Rogers has gained new relevance in reference to health care workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Communicators can also be the “helpers” to the media right now. Whether you have important COVID-19 information for them to share or an unrelated story that is so thorough it makes their story creation process easier — continuing to be a credible and reliable resource to journalists is the best thing you can do right now.
Remember, we’re all in this together.
Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, an award-winning communications agency that specializes in video production, public relations, social media and strategic insights, constantly securing national exposure for major brands. Connect with Lisa on Twitter: @LisaArledge. For more information: www.MediaSourceTV.com/COVID-19
Photo credit: shutterstock
This post makes a really interesting point about how important it is to be a helper in times of crisis. Now more so than ever, PR practitioners and journalists should band together to help one another during this rapidly evolving situation. Lisa also made a great point about the importance of exercising discretion when choosing which stories to pitch.