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Working with media during COVID-19

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How to help our media and survive working from home during COVID-19.


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WRITTEN BY

Roxanne_Millar

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Working with media during COVID-19

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In the age of COVID-19, newspapers are dominated by virus updates, #stayathome infotainment is viral and Instagram is flooded by quarantine memes. More so, radio and TV programs contain incessant coronavirus chatter and our continually refreshed screens take us down pandemic holes, all too easy to get lost in. We have become a nation entirely consumed by news of COVID-19 and for us folk in the PR industry this makes cutting through the noise and landing a story all the more challenging.

The question is: how do we navigate this new norm? What is considered best practice in the age of COVID-19? How do we, as PR professionals, remain agile in this fast-paced and ever-changing pandemic nation that we now live in?   

Bastion Effect’s Senior Account Manager Katya Ginsberg cuts through the noise with a number of tips for navigating the world of #PR and #PandemicRelations

Navigating the new norm

The new norm is bound to be a shock to our PR system; a system that is innately social, fast-paced and F2F for the most part. Gone are the days where we connect with a journo for a coffee and talk shop, grab a cold one with a client to brainstorm the next big move and meet by the water-cooler to soft sound a pitch to a colleague. Instead, we are adapting to new a new model, one that is remote, digital but still more connected than ever. While direct human connectivity may be lacking, we have pivoted our communications approach to ensure that business as usual is maintained, both internally and externally. Think virtual coffees over Zoom, banter via Slack and weekly WIPS on Microsoft Teams to keep the comms well and truly alive!

On day 17 of self-isolation I checked in with two of Bastion Effect’s Consumer PR’s to get their two cents’ on navigating the new norm.

“I have found that sticking to a routine and having a dedicated workspace with plenty of natural light and minimal distractions keeps me focused. I’ve been getting a bit of cabin fever, but it helps to get outside and go for a walk each day to combat that,” says Phoebe, Senior Account Executive and resident social butterfly.

Chris, Bastion Effect’s Account Executive and all-round nice guy, is impressed with how the team has adapted to this new way of working.

“Although my commute to work has shortened, the work we do for our clients has hardly changed. This is a credit to the technology we have at hand and the resilience and attitude of the team” he says. 

We all concurred that, as PR professionals, sociability is second nature to us so it’s more important than ever to check in with each other, keep up the jovial banter and meme-sharing, and ask: are you doing okay today?

Best practice in the age of COVID-19

The shift from F2F to a digitised workforce has not only changed the way that we communicate with our colleagues but has also forced us to adapt our communications approach with the media. Navigating a media landscape that is cluttered by day-to-day news is one thing but navigating a sector that is completely consumed by COVID-19 is a whole different ball game.           

Over the past four weeks we have discerned a number of trends and tips for best practice in the age of COVID-19, as a result of our interactions with a number of journalists.

  1. Phone vs. email pitching – While some journos have made it known that they prefer phone calls over emails, COVID-19 has changed the way that many communicate. Ask what method of comms they prefer, adapt your pitching technique to suit and deliver information accordingly.  
  2. From journo to jack of all trades – From home-schooling their brood to coming up with the perfect by-line, juggling this new and unchartered landscape of WFH with kids is challenging so be patient with journos and make their lives easier. Present stories in a timely and concise manner with all relevant assets in one place; they will thank you for it later.
  3. Cross-vertical journalism – With journalists now working across a multitude of divergent verticals to manage the ever-changing Coronavirus crisis and subsequent government updates, key contacts within normal sectors is shifting daily so don’t just rely on Telum for journo intel.
  4. Prey, not spray – With information overload at an all-time high, it’s important that we continue to abide by our PR mantra and ensure we are creating tailored pitches for journos, not ‘spraying’ information that gets lost in the ever-cluttered virtual system.
  5. Eyes peeled, ears to the ground – With COVID-19 controlling all news platforms at present, our approach to media relations has had to pivot accordingly. News-jacking and providing reactive commentary is more important than ever for us so consume all corners of the news, ‘news-jack’ conversations where appropriate and add value where we can.
  6. Be agile – COVID-19 is an uncharted territory for all of us so be adaptable and resilient. What works one day isn’t going to work the next. Execute trial and error and if strategies aren’t converting to results, change it up. Be agile and support your clients through this uncertain time.
  7. Be kind – We are living in anxious times so be kind to each other as we learn to navigate this brave new world.
  8. Get yo’self a Cheryl: Lastly, if frustrations with family, partners or housemates is rising, get yourself a Cheryl.

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