What The Last Year Taught Us About COVID And Media Outreach
Like me, you are probably saddened by news reports that COVID-19 is making a resurgence.
Once again, the pandemic is poised to dominate news cycles and, in addition to worrying about health concerns, anyone who is trying to gain media coverage will need to think about how their message fits into the current media conversation.
One bright spot in this otherwise dismal situation is that we learned a lot over the last year about the opportunities for and the importance of PR during a pandemic, and we can all put those lessons to use going forward.
In the spring of 2020, we encountered something we rarely if ever had faced in the more than three decades that News & Experts has been in existence. Practically every single news story every day was about one subject – the coronavirus.
Under those conditions, how could we pitch clients whose expertise and messages had absolutely nothing to do with medicine or health? The one-topic news cycle seemed like a barrier – but only momentarily.
Quickly it became clear that the pandemic affected more than health. Finance, sports, personal relationships, corporate culture, the workplace, education, travel and numerous other aspects of life were upended by the pandemic.
All of those topics were also ripe to be discussed and explored in the news. In other words, regardless of your message and your expertise, there was a place for you in the COVID conversation if you approached things the right way.
That holds true today. This time the pandemic hasn’t completely hijacked the news, but it does still touch nearly everything in one way or another. That’s why it’s good to review any lessons learned from more than a year of dealing with it.
Stay In The Game
One lesson we definitely learned is that you don’t want to put your publicity efforts on hiatus until the pandemic is over, as some people were tempted to do. Who knows when this will all end.
Instead, stay in the game by constantly massaging your message so it fits with what’s happening. This really is no different from what we always told clients in non-pandemic climates. You improve your odds of media success anytime you can link your expertise and message to what print journalists are already writing about, and what radio and TV talk show hosts are already talking about.
With our guidance, this is what our clients were able to do.
One client who wrote a book on how the pandemic affected schools was able to speak to the difficulties parents and children encountered, and ways education might be improved as a result of lessons learned from COVID.
Another whose expertise was remote work suddenly found that lots of people needed advice about her subject. A client who specializes in helping businesses raise capital spoke about funding options for those businesses rebounding from COVID.
So, if you are trying to promote your personal or business brand, explore where you might fit into the current conversation about the pandemic. The media always needs experts to comment on events and you can be that go-to person and share your knowledge.
If you are a business owner or a consultant who advises businesses, that could involve discussing business decisions about whether to require employees to be vaccinated or whether to request that customers wear masks.
If you are a medical professional, you might be able to comment on news stories directly related to the virus or the vaccines. Or possibly you could discuss the impact the pandemic is having across health fields, such as evolving protocols for office visits or procedures that get postponed.
Doing Good While Promoting Your Brand
Something I wrote a year ago also bears repeating now as a lesson learned. You have an opportunity to become part of the conversation about the pandemic and its impact, but making use of this opportunity doesn’t mean you should be opportunistic. You don’t want to approach it in an exploitative way because that would quickly backfire.
But, if you have something valuable to share with the media’s readers, viewers and listeners, they will want to hear from you. A bonus is that you will be doing good in the world as well as promoting your brand.
Yes, we all learned lessons in the last year – and likely there are plenty more awaiting us. And that’s the good news because each of those lessons will assist you in your goal of building a long list of media successes.