Like many industries, those in public relations have had to adjust their strategies and practices due to coronavirus (COVID-19). One major area of concern? Pitching. PR pros have had to take a step back and really determine what is and isn’t appropriate to promote during this time. And, maybe it’s not a promotion at all, maybe your client’s messaging and goals have had to change completely.
As PR experts, we’re used to having to adapt to the ever-changing media, but this pandemic has brought changes to our lives that none of us were expecting. We took to Twitter to get first-hand advice from journalists on how and what to pitch during the current global crisis.
Dr. Karlyn Borysenko, a contributor for Forbes & Uncover DC, says: “No, PR people who pitch me several dozen times a day, I will not be writing a piece on the CoronaVirus, how workplaces are handling the CoronaVirus, interviewing your expert about the CoronaVirus, or any topic related to this mass hysteria. Cool?”
What exactly does this mean, though? This signifies that you should make sure your pitch is meaningful. Pitch stories that people want to read, not just stories you think will make headlines.
If your pitch only includes ‘coronavirus’ for attention from the journalist, it will end up in their Trash folder. Some journalists may want to report stories that give people a break from coronavirus news, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Clare Duffy, a reporter for CNN Business, tweeted: “Dear lovely PR folks — this is a desperate plea to please cool it with the “here are tips for working from home” pitches.”
Now that many states have been staying at home and practicing social distancing orders for weeks, PR people should think about what stories have already been covered, what’s helpful now, and what will be beneficial in the future. This means no more tips about working from home since most of us are in full swing of doing this. Focus on what readers are looking for at this stage of the quarantine and design your pitch from there.
Mike Nikalauski, a videojournalist for 6ABC, told us: “Anything that is not typical or expected will make a story.”
Don’t pitch purely promotional stories, pitch stories that will touch people’s hearts, or help them cope. Nikalauski said, typical stories might make a clip on the news, but a reporter isn’t required. When so much is happening in the world, unique, meaningful stories are the only thing that’s going to warrant coverage. If you’ve already seen a bunch of articles similar to your topic, it’s probably best to ditch the pitch.
During this time, we need to remember what’s most important, and that’s that we are all human. We are all going through this pandemic together, and together we can create meaningful media that the public will want to read. Be mindful as you pitch your stories, check in with the journalists you know, and think before you press send.