By: Kirsten Peterson, Media Specialist
With Coronavirus dominating the news cycle, media across the gamut like the rest of us, are focusing now on what matters. The COVID-19 pandemic fits the definition of an unforeseen, extenuating circumstances, and it’s more important than ever to be a human in all communication.
As we discuss with the journalists themselves and tune in to each of the breaking news updates, we’re seeing the media landscape change before our eyes. We’re adapting to a new set of rules when engaging the media for our clients. As we’re navigating the new normal, we’ve developed these best practices for pitching during this time:
Ask yourself: Is this helpful? Does my pitch offer impactful information? Am I offering a highly-credible resource? Given the circumstances, is this worthy of attention by the audience I’m after right now? Make sure the big idea behind the pitch is newsworthy. If it can wait and would likely yield better results later, wait.
Be extra diligent when researching who you’re pitching. Google the editor (even if you already know them) and make sure they’re currently covering news relevant to the pitch topic. Look at their Twitter, Instagram and recent articles or segments. Start a brief conversation with them and send a first email asking them if they’re even interested in information on the topic before you send the full pitch.
Be thoughtful about tone. Everyone can benefit from a second set of eyes. Send your pitches to a team member for a gut check. Filter for unintended connotations and, per usual, typos. Pay close attention to your subject line, likely it’s the difference between a reporter reading your email or not. Keep the pitch itself brief and don’t bury the lead. The news is a little scary right now, so the right tone coming from a brand (and from you as a marketing professional) is important.
Remember that everyone is busy. Like the rest of us, writers, editors, reporters and producers are busy. And they’re stretched more now than ever fielding the hundreds of pitches they’re receiving. They’re also facing the challenges of working from home, or being put in complicated situations to report from the field. Be respectful of their time and space. Ask editors first about what they’re working on and how you can be a good resource on behalf of your clients before sending anything. Communicate like a human being. Be empathetic, and use this time to be a good resource when they need you.
Most importantly: Stay smart. Think critically and constructively at all points in the process. The news is changing constantly, and having the latest at all times can keep you from being perceived as tone-deaf. What was relevant a few hours ago may already be obsolete. It’s never too late to pivot and change course for a better outcome. Unless your idea is truly newsworthy in this moment, hold for now.