Media relations is a cornerstone of most PR and marketing campaigns – one that is reliant on the ongoing and ever-changing news cycle. In a time of crisis, such as COVID-19, it is the news cycle, and not the professionals’ efforts, that often dictate media relations success.
So how does one garner the media’s attention for clients in a time of COVID-19?
1. By understanding how the news cycle operates in times of crisis and
2. By finding inroads to insert your client’s narrative in meaningful and authentic ways.
Enter: The Mirror, Picture and Window process of crisis news reporting.
Mirror phase: happens when crisis media relations holds ‘a mirror’ up to the situation. These stories are a direct report of the situation as it is happening. In terms of COVID-19, Mirror stories have included:
• Increasing COVID-19 positive cases
• Climbing death tolls
• Strides made toward finding a cure/vaccine
• New epicenters for the virus
• New areas that have been ordered to shelter in place
Picture phase: is when the focus is on a broader 'picture' of the situation at hand: how people are reacting, the business impact, the human impact. It is, for most, the first time POV and analysis can enter the crisis news cycle. COVID-19 Picture stories have included:
• The growing need for medical supplies and who is donating
• Businesses being negatively affected by the virus
• Businesses thriving during COVID-19
• Experts detailing the importance of self-isolating/tips for better isolation
• Gyms offering free online classes
• Businesses that are offering special deals during this period of time
Window phase: happens when the news cycle looks toward the future and how life will change. This phase looks for experts to make predictions about the changes that society will need to make, how we will make them, and what this crisis has taught us. COVID-19 Window stories include:
• The findings of studies that have been conducted about human behavior during periods of self-isolation
• Scientific positives/negatives that have come from COVID-19
• The Expert predictions of economy recovery
Of course, understanding the news cycle is only the first part of successful crisis media relations. The second key to success is an appropriate and measured inroad into the narrative.
Crisis, and specifically COVID-19, is not a time to sell, but instead to serve a brand’s community and audiences. COVID-19 has created a new reality for everyone, and brands need to adjust their message accordingly, based on an updated set of values and available channels.
Speak up if you represent a source with honest, compelling and relevant information that is pertinent to the current news cycle– and to those who are reporting on it.