COVID-19 Crisis comms

Engaging with journalists in a crisis

Newsrooms, editorial teams and freelance journalists across the UK are themselves contending with the extraordinary challenge of covering the COVID-19 pandemic while also reporting on other timely news events.

And, working with journalists across sector, regional & national business press, it’s clear to our PR agency team that news priorities and procedures are continuing to change rapidly as journalists race to keep up with the unpredictability of the pandemic.

Media relations certainly plays an important part in the campaigns we deliver for our clients: we do it every day. So when we’re working in the current media climate providing editorial content, news stories, images, video, comments – where things are changing by the hour – our approach makes sure we include a number of considerations.

Sharing our Team AMBITIOUS experience from the past few weeks, this should probably include the following:

Compassion Counts

We’re working in more stressful conditions, so we have to take that into consideration. This includes:

  • Reporters are human too – Consider the challenges of others’ working lives. Do they have children at home/are they sharing a workspace, are they under more pressure than usual.
  • Don’t assume too much – check what journalists is reporting right now. Keeping in touch with media contacts – their planned features will change with the times and we need to know about them
  • Email not phone – we favour the phone as a first approach to pitch in a story but for now we are flipping our approach
  • Give them what they need and more – go beyond an initial pitch idea. Do you have images to support the piece, is your spokesperson available & briefed to do a ‘talking heads’ style video, ready written quotes, another assets that might work for social?

Context is King: know your media landscape

Understanding who the publication or media is published for is always the priority and over the past few weeks, we’re seeing activities that include moving almost everything to digital first.

  • Trade & sector press – depending on the titles, there’s still forward planning to consider. Journalists are certainly interested in current stories about businesses supporting the COVID-19 effort but they also want to hear about future plans as they prepare editorial content later in the year
  • Business press – practical advice for businesses in a live environment – interactive and collaborative. Editorial content presented in other ways including some great webinars. According to the FT, it’s launched a COVID-19 newsletter, a webinar called Digital Dialogues, The Rachman Review podcast (Gideon Rachman, foreign affairs) and a channel on messaging app Telegram
  • Regional media – we’ve seen that regional media have been getting behind regional campaigns and are showing support for local businesses. Their reporting is including campaign #hashtags such as #ThereWithYou
  • National Press – don’t just take our word for it. There’s a good article from national journalists at The Sun Jane Hamilton on how to pitch to national journalists in this time. Here’s her article on LinkedIn

We’re also seeing media working in new ways to retain and grow their readerships. From Time Out rebranding as Time In, The Big Issue being sold in shops for the first time due to vendors unable to sell on the street to more publishers investing in their online properties such as e-mags. Publishers like Hearst have seen web traffic increase across all their media assets with magazines like Prima and Runner’s World hitting record audiences.

Timely Trends

Engaging with journalists in a crisis like COVID-19 isn’t just about what’s happening right now. It’s also about being prepared to anticipate and plan ahead.

At AMBITIOUS we’re starting to have conversations with our clients about plans they will need for their businesses post lockdown and post COVID-19. Communications will play an important role in this and will include content around trends and future business activity.

That may seem like months away, but we’re already looking at PR messages and PR strategies that can help our clients get ready to go when they need to.

If you think we can help you with any aspect of the COVID-19 communications planning, then please get in touch via Maybe we can help?

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