What PR Pros Need to Know Now
COVID-19 has altered nearly every aspect of our lives. We’ve had to rethink the way we work, socialize, exercise, and sanitize. Journalists, in particular, have had their professional lives become more challenging than ever before as they report against a backdrop of an historic and highly polarizing presidential election, a social justice tsunami, and, of course, a global pandemic—all often while working remotely and serving as their own production team.
MediaSource, a communications agency, recently surveyed* journalists across the country to better understand how their world has changed and how that impacts the way in which they cover the news. Unsurprisingly, 67% of journalists believe their newsroom will never return to the way it was before the pandemic.
As PR professionals, we are paid to forge connections with journalists and act as brand stewards to promote our clients’ narratives and story lines.
We analyzed the national media survey and believe the following tips are critical for PR professionals to thrive in the “new normal.”
- Every journalist surveyed said they are more open to receiving content in new and exciting ways, including videos produced via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, or smartphones.
- Reporters take a mere 5-10 seconds to read an email before deciding “yes” or “no” to an interview, so capturing their attention with the subject line and getting to the point right away is a must.
- Humanize your pitch and show you did your homework prior to contacting a journalist. Doing so doesn’t go unnoticed, especially now with journalists being under more pressure than ever. A simple, “I enjoyed your story on XYZ,” or acknowledging their busy schedule and thanking them for their time goes a long way.
- Follow the reporters you work with on Twitter and LinkedIn. Oftentimes, they will tweet or post what they are paying attention to or planning to write about, so this is a great way to anticipate and be one step ahead with a source ready and available.
- In the wake of the social justice movement, diversity is at the forefront of journalists’ minds, so offering diverse story ideas and sources that speak to the moment provides a leg up in pitching and appeals more to reporters. A simple thing, such as including a headshot of a client of color, will also create opportunities, as 81% of journalists said their management is now requiring additional steps be taken to ensure diversity in the news.
One of the most unexpected takeaways from the survey was that 74% of journalists say they are open to receiving pitches that are unrelated to the most prominent stories of the day. However, even these pitches should tie into one of the bigger stories in one or more ways.
Whether it is the challenge of the endless 24/7 news cycle, learning how to use new technology to effectively report remotely, or grapple with the uncertainty ahead, journalists are facing new challenges this year and are likely to continue to do so in the foreseeable future, as we all embrace this “new normal.”
*MediaSource conducted its 2020 National Media Survey between July 6-20, 2020. The survey responses included 102 journalists within broadcast, print, online and radio.
by Ellie Johnson & Elena Muller