Insights

Adapting to the changing state of media relations during the pandemic

Posted by
Jorielle Nunag
Insights

Adapting to the changing state of media relations during the pandemic

Écrit par
Jorielle Nunag

There’s no denying that today’s media landscape is in a rapid state of change. In the past year alone, we’ve seen unexpected closures of daily publications and changes to reporter beats, coupled with an even greater push into the social and digital space – making nationwide coverage even more accessible at the click of a button.

Here are just a few examples of how the traditional media landscape has changed in 2020:

  • Virtual events replaced physical events. With virtual events becoming the norm, reporters are expecting a seamless execution. A recent survey from MuckRack uncovered that 67 per cent of tech journalists said that a clunky interface/bad connection might make them less likely to cover a virtual event, while 61 per cent said a lack of exclusive news was a key factor. As a PR professional, you need to adapt events from the physical to virtual space and you’ll need to consider how to mitigate the challenges (ie. bad connection, digital burnout, exclusive offerings) that come with it.
  • The email newsletter came to prominence. Newsletters have really found their time to shine in the past year with platforms like Substack doubling its user base through the pandemic. Newsletters are making it simple for subscribers to receive quick and relevant news in shorter spurts. As a PR professional, keep an ear to the ground on the newsletters making waves in your industry.  
  • Hitting the phones is becoming less of a priority. In the past, making that genuine connection started with making phone calls. While a lot can be said and explained over a simple phone call, office lines versus personal lines have made it trickier to get connected to reporters. That said, there are still plenty of journalists who appreciate a follow up call. You, as a communicator, will need to get a better gauge on whether this is the preferred communication for reporters.
  • ‘Virtual coffees’ are replacing work lunches. With so much of the day-to-day exchanged over email or text, it’s easy to forget that there’s nothing quite like getting to know someone over a coffee or meal. While the new normal has prevented the opportunity for in-person meets, getting creative and meeting virtually is just as rewarding and impactful.

While the industry faces adversity and the ease of obtaining information on different platforms quickens, one fact will always ring true: if you’re looking to connect with a journalist, there’s no substitute for an authentic relationship. You just need to understand what that looks like now.

However, not everything changed during the pandemic. Some best practices are more important now than ever before, including:

  • The importance of being an invaluable resource. Just as much as you want a journalist to cover your story, journalists are looking to uncover a story. Reach out and ensure the person on the receiving end is aware that your intent is to help them.
  • Being strategic and not pitching irrelevant content. Be concise, to the point and target your approach. Take the time and do your research to figure out whether the topic you’re pitching applies to that specific journalist or if you’re pulling at straws to make it work.
  • Remaining authentic in your correspondence. Refrain from continually approaching a journalist with your own agenda or the intent of landing a story. Check-in the way you would any one of your friends or colleagues. Read their stories and have something to offer. Reporters are people too.

Don’t let the shifts deter you. While the playing field is slightly different, as a communicator, you just need to adapt and get creative. The changes in traditional media should not be an indication of its decline, but rather, a call to action on the need to be even more strategic in your approach.  

There’s no denying that today’s media landscape is in a rapid state of change. In the past year alone, we’ve seen unexpected closures of daily publications and changes to reporter beats, coupled with an even greater push into the social and digital space – making nationwide coverage even more accessible at the click of a button.

Here are just a few examples of how the traditional media landscape has changed in 2020:

  • Virtual events replaced physical events. With virtual events becoming the norm, reporters are expecting a seamless execution. A recent survey from MuckRack uncovered that 67 per cent of tech journalists said that a clunky interface/bad connection might make them less likely to cover a virtual event, while 61 per cent said a lack of exclusive news was a key factor. As a PR professional, you need to adapt events from the physical to virtual space and you’ll need to consider how to mitigate the challenges (ie. bad connection, digital burnout, exclusive offerings) that come with it.
  • The email newsletter came to prominence. Newsletters have really found their time to shine in the past year with platforms like Substack doubling its user base through the pandemic. Newsletters are making it simple for subscribers to receive quick and relevant news in shorter spurts. As a PR professional, keep an ear to the ground on the newsletters making waves in your industry.  
  • Hitting the phones is becoming less of a priority. In the past, making that genuine connection started with making phone calls. While a lot can be said and explained over a simple phone call, office lines versus personal lines have made it trickier to get connected to reporters. That said, there are still plenty of journalists who appreciate a follow up call. You, as a communicator, will need to get a better gauge on whether this is the preferred communication for reporters.
  • ‘Virtual coffees’ are replacing work lunches. With so much of the day-to-day exchanged over email or text, it’s easy to forget that there’s nothing quite like getting to know someone over a coffee or meal. While the new normal has prevented the opportunity for in-person meets, getting creative and meeting virtually is just as rewarding and impactful.

While the industry faces adversity and the ease of obtaining information on different platforms quickens, one fact will always ring true: if you’re looking to connect with a journalist, there’s no substitute for an authentic relationship. You just need to understand what that looks like now.

However, not everything changed during the pandemic. Some best practices are more important now than ever before, including:

  • The importance of being an invaluable resource. Just as much as you want a journalist to cover your story, journalists are looking to uncover a story. Reach out and ensure the person on the receiving end is aware that your intent is to help them.
  • Being strategic and not pitching irrelevant content. Be concise, to the point and target your approach. Take the time and do your research to figure out whether the topic you’re pitching applies to that specific journalist or if you’re pulling at straws to make it work.
  • Remaining authentic in your correspondence. Refrain from continually approaching a journalist with your own agenda or the intent of landing a story. Check-in the way you would any one of your friends or colleagues. Read their stories and have something to offer. Reporters are people too.

Don’t let the shifts deter you. While the playing field is slightly different, as a communicator, you just need to adapt and get creative. The changes in traditional media should not be an indication of its decline, but rather, a call to action on the need to be even more strategic in your approach.  

Jorielle Nunag
Account Executive
An integral member of FHR’s Reputation and Technology practice, Jorielle’s strength is strategic media relations, having established meaningful relationships with various business and technology reporters throughout North America. Jorielle supports clients with issues management and creates impactful external communications programs that enhance brand reputation.