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5 Do’s and Don’ts for Navigating the Evolving COVID-19 Media Landscape

Annie Gudorf

The emergence of COVID-19 across the globe has changed nearly all of our lives. As a result, communicators and PR pros must make adjustments. And the greatest challenge? The media landscape is changing weekly, sometimes daily. With things moving so quickly, how do you adapt?

Our team of media experts has provided a list of do's and don’ts for B2B PR professionals to consider in these changing times:

Do: Reassess your company announcements and their place in today’s news climate.

Weigh which priority is greater: media buzz around the announcement or to keep business moving forward. If awareness and buzz of the announcement is your top priority, consult your agency partner about whether you should delay the announcement. However, if the news must go out to keep business moving, expect an adjusted media relations strategy that complements today’s media landscape.

Don’t: Forget to reset expectations and identify your place in today’s story.

Newsrooms are swamped, so what reporters might have covered three months ago is not what they’ll cover today. Instead, both trade and mainstream media are prioritizing stories tied to COVID. Know where your company stands on a spectrum of impact as it relates to this climate and remind yourself to stand out of the way where applicable.

Do: Pay attention to how the media conversation around COVID-19 is evolving.

COVID will remain a part of the media conversation throughout 2020 so it’s important you understand how the conversation is shifting and where you fit in. Here are three phases of the media conversation we’ve either already encountered or expect to encounter:

  • Phase 1 - What the heck is going on: This included media coverage around initial COVID developments, rising case numbers, federal and state response to COVID and country-wide shock as more businesses shut down and organizations moved to WFH.
  • Phase 2 - Business continuity in the new normal: This is where we sit, as of mid-April. Media has quickly pivoted from only covering COVID developments to reporting about how businesses can adapt to the new normal. We’ve seen a surge in news stories offering best practices for working from home and managing a remote workforce. Success stories about how businesses are rallying also came to the forefront, whether it was local restaurants piloting take out or grocery stores offering delivery. Lastly, the human struggle has come to the forefront as healthcare supplies remain limited for front-line workers.
  • Phase 3 - Re-imagining business in the new normal: We’re already starting to see the media narrative pivot and enter this phase as reporters look to identify what the new normal will bring. Whether you’re looking at sports, social interactions or tech, nothing will be the same. And as people look to identify what the new normal holds and get back to some level of normalcy, media will look to industry experts to share their predictions.

Don’t: Stretch your messaging to make a connection to the pandemic.

If there isn’t a direct tie for what your company is doing to help people to get the resources and support they need through this pandemic, steer clear. Keep your contributions to advice around things you are doing and know well, like leading a team in times of crisis or uncertainty, for example.

Data is another way to shed light on industry trends without “ambulance chasing.” The data can come in the form of proprietary data or a quick poll survey, and can help you address the questions and concerns crossing the minds of industry decision makers.

Do: Remember, reporters are people first.

Reporters are dealing with a lot of the same challenges everyone else is, on top of facing a non-stop, COVID-driven media environment. When working with them, communicate your understanding of the times we’re in, lend your concerns and ask if now’s a good time to pitch a story.

From there, the offer should be purposeful – either material you think would provide value to their reporting, or a news tip you think their audience would appreciate.

 

The media landscape is changing at a rapid pace, and Walker Sands is here to help you navigate these complex times. Learn more about our PR services and contact our team here.