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Media Relations // January 27th, 2021

How to Navigate Media Relations During a Pandemic

Written by Carly Smith

It’s a critical moment in history – on many levels – and the media landscape has been hit harder than most. With magazines folding, journalists getting laid off and more “out of office” emails being received than ever, it takes some research and savvy to connect with writers during these novel times.

Here are four effective tips we’ve compiled over the past year that will help you find an audience during COVID-19:

  1. Find Common Ground
    • We’re going to assume that before you reach out to any writers, you’ll do all the necessary research via their posted articles and social feeds to make sure they are still working right now. Right? Good! But then what? Find common ground. Be human and remind them you’re not a programmed robot sending out mass pitches. For example, “I read your article on BIPOC winemakers and picked up a bottle that I really enjoyed.” Or “I see you live in Austin! I was just there last summer, and Torchy’s Tacos officially changed my life.” We are all in these uncharted waters together, so something as normal as a personal acknowledgement can start up a conversation that helps build a long-term relationship.
  1. Connect to the Current Times
    • Speaking of finding common ground, before you send your pitch, ask yourself: How does my news relate to the current global health crisis? Journalists are looking to cover their traditional beats through this lens, so be sure your pitch is doing the same. Aim to share a relevant story that will be of service to communities instead of simply trying to promote a new product, which can come off as tone deaf. It is okay to ask, just to be sure, what their current focus is and what stories they’re interested in right now. By asking a few simple questions, you may find out they’re working on covering something other than coronavirus.
  1. Include Resources
    • Journalists are living in the same modern world as you and me – with a never-ending to-do list and constant news headlines pulling at our attention. Offering them data or subject matter experts (SME) from the start is going to show them you’ve thought about their needs and save them time. Anyone who owns a business or works in a related field (chefs, dieticians, authors) can potentially be viewed as a SME. And anchoring your pitch in data can help the writer to extract certain insights or see a unique angle that presents a larger story idea. Ultimately, these resources can really drive your pitch home since you are supplying the writer with quantitative evidence and third-party insight.
  1. Go Virtual
    • We know there’s Zoom fatigue, Microsoft Teams fatigue, even regular old fatigue fatigue, but that’s no reason to sit this one out. Really cool events are happening virtually – products are being launched, brands are being discovered and stories are being written about them. Before sending out that e-invite, you’re going to need a good reason to meet, an innovative concept and an engaging presentation. By keeping things short and even offering some free stuff, we’ve found that writers are usually open to connecting virtually. Afterall, they relied on desksides and IRL events in the past to build relationships and drive story development. It’s honestly kind of great to connect with media face-to-face, or rather screen-to-screen, again. Don’t forget to follow-up via email after your virtual meeting or presentation.
  1. Digitize your PR
    • If sending snail mail and media mailer packages wasn’t already tricky enough, 2020 was the year that really switched things up. The new approach? Digital media kits. Not only are digital kits an easy way to share images and video, they’re environmentally friendly too. And let’s face it, the copy and paste functionality rules. We use Adobe Spark to create ours because it’s user friendly and can handle it all – press releases, infographics, downloadable product coupons and high-res images.

Keep these tips and tricks in your toolbelt – they’re sure to help you as we continue to navigate this “new normal.”