Media Pitching During a Pandemic
While the breadth of change brought on by COVID-19 is impossible to fully understand in this moment, it is clear the media ecosystem has been greatly impacted in a lasting way by this pandemic.
PR professionals specifically are having to adjust to challenges and a lack of normalcy when it comes to pitching to journalists on behalf of their clients. While a strong pitch typically consists of concise messaging, strong assets, and minimal follow-up, there are now greater measures required for a successful pitching strategy. Each year, our parent company Cision releases a State of the Media report to provide insight into the media landscape, yet this year they also included COVID-19-specific questions, giving media professionals a greater ability to understand their role at this time. Having a strong pitching strategy was a consistent theme throughout the responses, and journalists heavily emphasized succinct communication, local news angles, and relevant stories as part of the pitches they consider.
The items below are critical to include when crafting your next pitch:
Email: Email has long been the preferred mode of communication for journalists, yet email has now taken on a greater purpose, allowing journalists to filter quickly and decisively through their overflowing inboxes. Journalists need PR pros to maximize subject lines and the first sentence of each pitch, while also including supplements like non-expired multimedia asset links, information from authoritative voices/experts, supplemental literature, remote capability details for interviews, pre-recorded video interviews, and a press release(s). This allows for minimal follow-up and the ability to research further if needed.
Local News Angles: This pandemic has required the media to tailor their messaging to local communities and news more than ever before, as each state carries out regulations and stay-at-home directives differently. Researching the publication, journalist, and audience is critical at the outset, saving time and emails on both sides. Whether analyzing a publication's readership, a journalist's engaged social media following, or a news outlet's viewer base, knowing an audience only helps ensure your story's relevance.
Beyond a better ability to target a specific audience, local news is increasingly important to consider, as a March 23, 2020 Savanta poll illuminated that local news is the most trusted source for pandemic-related updates, second only to doctors and healthcare professionals.
This shift in the media landscape is expected to last well beyond COVID-19. During their recent quarterly call, E.W. Scripps' President and CEO Adam Symson shared, “We believe we have moved into a new era of the journalism industry, one in which news – especially local news – is again a must-have for most Americans. This era begins at a time when local broadcast newsrooms are uniquely positioned to cover our communities and meet audience demands. Ratings and audience impressions at our local stations have been up on average between 10% and 50%.”
With the impact of COVID-19 expected to continue for at least the near future, this shift to the local news angle will have a lasting impact on pitching strategies. It's now more necessary than ever to localize your news to reach a relevant and engaged demographic.
What is Your Client's Contribution? For PR pros, it is a difficult balancing act, knowing when to pitch a client's story and when to pass. If your client can provide an authoritative, informed voice in the media and is sharing new information, it is reasonable to pitch outlets with your story. If not, does your client have a human-interest angle to share? Maybe they kickstarted a charitable campaign, are working closely with struggling local businesses, or have exceptional leadership who have successfully guided their company during these times. Those are the valuable COVID-19-related stories journalists are looking for to add depth, hope, and encouragement to the current narrative.
Empathy: In considering each of these qualities, empathy and understanding must remain at the forefront of each pitch, interaction, and client strategy session. Journalists, like PR professionals, are overwhelmed by their current 24/7 workload and are juggling multiple streams of communication. Knowing how to lead empathy-centered conversations with clients, execute effective pitches, and share relevant information will radically increase the strength of your pitching strategy, now and as we move forward into a “new normal.”
ABOUT THE EXPERT: Charlee Rae Bender
Charlee Rae Bender is a Product Marketing Assistant for MultiVu. She is currently finishing her undergraduate degrees in Communications and Sports Management at Pepperdine University. Upon graduation, she plans to move to New York and pursue a degree in sports law.
MultiVu is the strategic team at Cision dedicated to the creation and targeted distribution of creative content. Our award-winning diverse pool of industry-leading talent are extremely passionate about partnering with our clients, bringing best-in-class stories and concepts to life, and getting those stories to the audiences who want to experience them most. To start crafting your story, visit us online at www.multivu.com.