4 Things to Consider When Pitching During the Pandemic
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought most of the world to a complete standstill, many industries, including the media, are still trying to struggle on as best they can. But does that mean you can you still pitch stories to journalists? And furthermore, should you?
First of all, yes you can. And, absolutely, you should. In amongst the constant tsunami of pandemic-related news, there’s still a sizeable market for regular news, in particular positive stories, plus celeb gossip, and entertainment. Media outlets are well aware that their audiences are in need of a distraction. So they’re looking to find a good balance between disheartening but essential pandemic updates, and more light-hearted, feel-good stories.
But what do you need to think about when pitching?
Is it still the right thing to pitch?
What might have looked like a cracking story in the pipeline two months ago, isn’t going to go down well in the public domain today, especially if it can be misconstrued as insensitive, or seems utterly inane and superficial compared to what’s going on in the world right now. Be as perceptive as you can to avoid causing ANY offence. The last thing you want right now is a social media backlash.
What’s more, don’t neglect to think about the world’s uncertain financial climate either. Are you launching a product or service that’s going to cost people a considerable amount of money? It would probably be better to hold off. Or better yet, you could even offer it for free (assuming that’s possible and financially viable e.g. an app). There are a lot of people at home with extra time on their hands right now, so that could really work for you in terms of publicity.
Changing the way you pitch
Right now, media outlets are in disarray. Many journalists are working from home, while media offices are staffed with only a skeleton team. So in order to avoid adding more pressure to an already stressed-out team, emails are preferable over phone calls when pitching your story,
Otherwise, most of the same golden rules still apply when pitching: namely not badgering staff with follow-up emails, or follow-up calls. Sending marketing samples isn’t a good idea while we’re in lockdown (especially while people are working from home), and requesting photographers isn’t a smart move either. In-house digital images and videos work best here, and if you don’t have those, it might be worth delaying your pitch until the world is in a better place.
Lead times and staying on the ball
Daily publications are going to print much earlier than usual, while online stories are being uploaded faster too, all to keep ahead of the curve. Broadcast is also affected. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make your pitch as soon as possible in the day, to ensure your story gets a look-in.
With all the uncertainty around, keep abreast of any new developments during the pandemic that could possibly affect your story. And be courteous enough to let the journo you’re dealing with know. For example, tighter future lock-down restrictions may interfere with a product launch if the stores that were going to stock it are then closed down. A journalist isn’t going to want to feature something that has lost its relevancy.
Curbing your expectations
You might have been anticipating this campaign for quite some time. But now’s the time to adjust your expectations before you make any attempts to get media coverage. The world isn’t what it was a few weeks ago – even a few days ago – and the PR action plan you had in place, probably doesn’t apply anymore.
Speak to the professionals
Take advice from your PR team or PR professional. If they think something could go spectacularly t*ts up, take heed and reassess your PR activity.
While this pandemic is a uniquely terrible thing with a lot of uncertainly, all we can do is adapt and make the most out of the situation. Any PR pro worth their salt is highly experienced at doing this. It’s what they do best.