This article, written by Carmichael Lynch Relate Associate Director of Media Relations Régine Labossière, originally appeared in PR Week.
Landing an earned media placement was always challenging, but now it’s even more so as the global pandemic, economic downturn and calls for change have shaken up the media relations landscape once again. PR practitioners need to be even more quick-thinking and flexible to ensure client messaging is appropriate for the current media and consumer mindset. We also need to operate in a way that addresses how journalists are working and living now. To be effective today, our media relations team sees three main areas in which we’re adapting.
Embrace the new coffee date
The era of social distancing has transported editor networking into the virtual space. What used to be in-person coffees are now Zoom or old-fashioned phone chats with editors. While we miss the real face-to-face interaction, going virtual is enabling more of us to make connections in a way we maybe couldn’t before. Virtual relationship-building is more than email, phone or video calls; it’s the understanding that we’re all living a strange, new existence, still need each other in order to work effectively, and are finding ways to truly be helpful to journalists while finding new ways to tell brand stories.
Get out of the media hub mindset
While many editors have stayed in the New York City area, others have spread out across the country for long-term remote working. The idea of New York being the media hub doesn’t really exist for the time being. Now, a deskside briefing or a media event can be held from literally anywhere, making it more convenient for spokespeople. But we still need to be mindful of media’s time. As one magazine editor told me, we need to have a really good reason to ask them to do their hair and get dressed for a video deskside or event. While the landscape has flattened, we need to remember to keep the meeting tight, present an idea or concept that can’t be shared over email or phone, invite the right editors to the event, and – if the deskside is for a product launch – ask for permission to send product in advance so the editor can test it during the meeting.
Expect the unexpected
If the last few months are any indication, being extremely flexible when pitching is the “now normal.” The new precedent is the unprecedented. The best laid plans for a media strategy have often become just an idea rather than reality. It’s always been important to be immersed in the news prior to a launch or announcement to make sure there’s not a conflicting story out there. But now it’s critical to be prepared to pivot a launch or announcement on any given week. Deep media relationships are even more significant than ever. The best coverage will come out of solid editor relationships rather than a single pitch.
We fondly remember the days of meeting a reporter over coffee in New York or a trade show, talking about what we have in common and discussing a few ideas. We were building relationships then. And we can continue to do that today despite changes to the media landscape. Ultimately, our relationships are mutually beneficial, and we just need to flex to the times to find these richer opportunities.