2020 changed everything: how and where we work, the way we communicate, the way we greet one another, and how we pitch media.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the news cycle was extremely chaotic. Reporters that used to cover business quickly began exclusive coverage of the Coronavirus. Their days completely changed as they essentially had to become breaking news reporters overnight. This means they would start their day by publishing quick hits such as a study that just came out, and their afternoons were spent doing interviews and writing a more in-depth analysis of the pandemic. On top of this, journalists were dealing with the same challenges we’ve all been facing, such as the transition to working remotely and attempting to define boundaries between where work ends and life begins.
The news cycle shifted dramatically, and things were happening in rapid succession—right on top of each other. First came the pandemic, then the murder of George Floyd and the many protests that sparked throughout the country in response to that. 2020 has had no shortage of breaking news.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy on PR people, either. Unfortunately, none of our clients are creating the cure to COVID, so we’ve had to be extra cautious and strategic when pitching stories to media to ensure we aren’t being tone-deaf or taking advantage of the situation.
As the year has progressed, both journalists and their readers have become fatigued by COVID stories, and are now looking for stories that distract from the constant stream of bad news. Topics such as COVID, racial inequality, and others will not go away entirely, in fact, they will continue to ebb and flow for quite some time. But, as things trend toward a more normal news cycle, here are some pointers to keep in mind when pitching stories to media:
Every Company Has a Story
Take a deeper look at the companies you represent. What aspects make them interesting enough to break through the monotony of the news cycle? Bring these stories to the forefront and really target your outreach to the journalists who are focused on these stories. As publicists, it’s our job to find the right angle, for the right journalist, at the right time.
Don’t Force the Angle
There are plenty of stories we want to tell, but if they have nothing to do with the issues currently plaguing our country, we may need to re-evaluate. Is it necessary to tell that story now? As PR professionals, we need to find the balance between being creative and pushing the limit. If your story isn’t related to COVID, don’t try to make it seem like it is. Media will be completely turned off if you try to exploit the issues for your client’s gain.
Leverage Social Media
Some media, such as Jefferson Graham, Tech Columnist at USA Today, will actually tell people what they’re working on via Twitter. They’ll often tweet a story that they need sources for or put their beats in their bios. If you scan their socials and provide them with a timely and relevant source, it’s likely that they’ll remember you or your client a few months down the road, and use you as a go-to for information when they’re under a deadline.
Do the Heavy Lifting
To build a solid relationship with a journalist, the PR pro will need to do most of the heavy lifting. Research the journalist and their publication, follow them on social media, comment on their posts, like, share, offer some opinions. The digital world we’re living in makes it pretty easy to find out what a journalist is interested in—so do it—and pitch them a good story. If you’re relevant, timely, and concise, the relationship will be cemented moving forward.
Need help pitching your next announcement? We can help.