The COVID Effect – Media Challenges in 2020
Far from being immune from the influence of COVID, the media may be one of the most affected industries as a whole. It’s impossible to turn on the television without seeing multiple stories related to the pandemic, as the country continues to wage war against the virus. This shift toward constant emergency updates has created an interesting challenge when it comes to disseminating company achievements or pitching proactive topics. A few of the new changes we’ve seen in the media landscape:
News Cycle Is Hard to Crack
The pandemic has created an ongoing breaking news environment. In “normal” times, it’s advisable to hold company news until the frenzy dies down. However, with the extended and ongoing length of the pandemic, delaying announcements just isn’t feasible. Depending on your industry, there may be ways to break into the cycle by relating it to how you’re making life easier during this tumultuous time. This strategy comes with a caveat – it should only be employed if there is a direct connection that you can defend. The number of pitches promoting unrelated products linked to the COVID pandemic is large, and journalists are savvy enough to see through the fluff.
If achieving high-tier tech or business press is challenging during this time, shifting the focus to target outlets specifically in your industry, or outreaching to new verticals that make sense for your business, could be a way to keep the cadence of coverage going. As national publications continue to cover COVID or election news almost exclusively, many industry and vertical publications have returned to their regular news topics.
Another effective strategy is chiming in and providing commentary on how the pandemic affects your industry as a whole. The media is exploring the wide-reaching changes COVID is creating across the board, and they may be interested in speaking to someone with your specific expertise.
Fewer Journalists/Writers on Furlough
Like all industries, many media outlets were forced to downside or furlough employees. This tightening of the team puts a strain on the remaining writers and may make interviews harder to come by. Recognizing this, it’s a good idea to spend a little extra time crafting a powerful pitch. Connect your story idea to ongoing industry themes, provide links to independent research that back up your claims, or offer to write a contributed article on your proposed topic. The less work the writer has to do, the greater your chance of generating a response.
Contributed Article Lead Times Are Longer
As mentioned above, contributed articles are a great way to build a profile for the thought leaders within your organization, and they’re relatively low-lift for the media outlet, as well. These articles must be neutral and cannot be self-promotional; however, they’ll often include a link to your website and a bio.
Given how easy and effective it is to get your message across with a contributed article, it’s a solid strategy to employ in lieu of an interview. However, contributed article publication dates are longer than usual due to COVID. It’s not uncommon to submit an article and wait a few weeks for it to hit the web. Still, recently, we are seeing extended go-live dates across many different verticals – articles are booked out weeks or even months, in some cases. The solution? Pitch early and pitch often. Securing articles in various publications ensures a steady stream of coverage and keeps the company queue full.
Event Cancellations/Virtual Events
Many companies rely on industry events to meet with journalists, rub elbows with VCs, and promote their products. With cancellations across the board and many events moving to a condensed, online format, it can be hard to replace those face-to-face opportunities. Keeping track of original event dates and leveraging a writer’s freed-up calendar may lead to a better chance of securing a ZOOM call or phone chat.
Getting creative with your invitation may be even more enticing. Set up a fireside chat or “mock panel” with SMEs from your organization and invite your target media during a time when they would have been attending a canceled event. Virtual networking/cocktail hours have been popular as a replacement for conference social gatherings. With a little creativity and a mind for newly-opened calendars, interviews are possible to secure even without a corporate conference draw.
Pivot, then Pivot Again
It’s the wild west when it comes to navigating the rapid changes happening across the business and media landscape. The tolerance for creative thinking during this period is high, and it may be the perfect chance to experiment a bit with your messaging and outreach tactics. As with any seismic shift, the organizations that come out on top are typically those willing to look outside the box and stay nimble. Looking for the golden opportunities in an otherwise challenging situation is an excellent way to approach both media opportunities and life.