Have you stopped looking to gain positive media coverage because of the coronavirus pandemic?
If you have, then you are not alone.
A new survey has revealed that a large number of journalists are feeling neglected and are receiving far fewer pitches and story ideas.
One in four reporters believe that it has all gone quiet on the PR front and nearly half believe companies have become cautious about media activity, with only 34 per cent of reporters believing they are receiving the same number of story pitches as they did before the pandemic.
Additionally, more than half of the UK journalists surveyed have been struggling to get hold of spokespeople and communication teams.
The survey, produced by Energy PR, certainly makes for fascinating reading.
The media landscape has changed since #COVID19. Our research shows that 53% of journalists are receiving fewer pitches from companies and their agencies. Our advice is to get busy and pitch ideas #journorequest https://t.co/ZvZxmIndpF pic.twitter.com/q0JkJRDIIC— Energy PR (@EnergyPR) June 15, 2020
And it supports the view we have been sharing in this media training blog that there is a huge demand for good news stories.
If you need further evidence, just take a look at the posts with #journorequest on Twitter, where you will find pleas to speak to people about a huge range of stories, the majority of which are good news stories and virus free.
So, how can you take advantage of this shortage of stories, capture the attention of journalists and gain some crucial coverage?
Improve your news gathering
You are going to need a story to tell.
Many of the ‘good news stories’ covered during the lockdown have been based on spontaneous events that could have easily been missed, like colleagues going over and above the call of duty and examples of human kindness.
These stories rely on comms teams being notified by media-aware colleagues on the ground.
This is why it is crucial people across an organisation have an understanding of what makes something newsworthy and are on the lookout for positive stories
To help with this, we have just launched a new interactive, online course – Identifying Positive Media Stories – which will help businesses improve their news gathering across the whole organisation. It takes just 20 minutes to complete and prices start from £2,000 for 50 delegates.
Have spokespeople available
Positive stories need people who can tell them.
Broadcast journalists are in particular are going to quickly lose interest if there is no-one available that they can speak to about the story and will move on to other options.
The media have always wanted to be able to speak to people almost instantly about a story. Sometimes logistics have previously made this difficult.
But in the current climate where the vast majority of interviews are now being carried out on video conferencing software, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, that involves simply sending a link, there is little excuse for not having someone prepared and available for interview almost immediately.
The principles of online interviews are the same as face-to-face ones, but there are some particular things spokespeople should and shouldn’t do in these formats to come across well and ensure they land their message successfully.
And with these types of interviews likely to be a key part of the media landscape even when lockdown restrictions further ease, online media training courses offer organisations and their spokespeople both an immediate and long-term investment.
Human case studies
People are fascinated by stories about other people – not policies and procedures.
So, you’ll need human case studies and examples to ensure your stories capture the interest of journalists and end up being told on the TV, radio and in newspapers.
Many potentially brilliant stories have bitten the dust on the first phone call because there’s no case study.
Our Identifying Positive Media Stories course will also help you to find these all-important case studies.
Offer something unusual
We’ve talked about the importance of offering something unusual before and it is a key part of the TRUTH test we use on our media training courses to show what makes something ‘newsworthy’.
And it is worth repeating here because the survey shows that 20 per cent of journalists believe the people are not saying or doing anything different at the moment.
Your story has far more chance of generating coverage if it offers something people would not expect or a different way of looking at things.
To use an old journalism saying, dog bites man is not a story, but man bites dog is news.
Don’t pitch your story to journalists with figures you cannot subsequently explain.
There have been occasions when a newsroom has been ready to roll with a story only to find there’s an anomaly with the statistics and the whole thing collapses.
Ditch the embargoes
Imagine capturing the interest of a journalist and then telling them that they can’t run the story yet.
Embargoes are a source of huge annoyance to journalists and don’t fit comfortably with the current world of 24/7 media.
By the time the journalist is allowed to cover your story, they may well have moved on to something else and your announcement could have slipped to the bottom of the pile. Sometimes, an embargo is critical, but ask yourself – do you really need to enforce one?
Spot the opportunities
There are journalists out there actively asking for people to come forward and speak to them about stories they are covering.
We’ve already mentioned the #journorequest on Twitter and there are also media enquiry services like Gorkana and Help A Reporter Out which provide email updates from journalists who are looking for experts to interview.
But spotting the opportunities can also be more subtle than this. Look at what is going on in the news and consider if you can add to the story and help move it forward – you’ll be surprised how successful this can be.
Follow these steps and you may be able to help these reporters out and gain valuable publicity for your organisation.
Find out more about our new online course Identifying Positive Media Stories which will help improve your news gathering. And don’t miss out on the £500 discount we are offering on orders made in June.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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