This blog was written during the 2020 COVID Pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic is dominating the headlines and news cycle around the world, with journalists covering the story 24/7. Every tweet, every update, every push notification – it is difficult to ignore. And with brands pulling or pausing their advertisement campaigns, it would be tone-deaf to continue pitching our clients to publications as if the world wasn’t in absolute chaos at the moment.
As marketers, it is crucial for us to adapt our messaging, and to listen and respond with empathy to those affected. So, what type of stories should your business pitch to journalists during a crisis?
Solutions For the Medical Community
Healthcare workers across the country (and the world) faced unprecedented shortages of supplies needed to safely combat the coronavirus. Thankfully, many companies stepped up to provide these much-needed supplies. Ford, General Motors, NASA, and even Fitbit have announced plans to build ventilators for COVID-19 patients, as HanesBrands produces millions of face masks and medical gowns, while breweries around the world ease the hand sanitizer shortage.
People everywhere are currently focused on staying healthy, so pitching stories that are relevant to their needs will help your brand remain top-of-mind. Some celebrities and brands, however, are capitalizing on the current pandemic as an opportunity to peddle wellness products such as “immune support” supplements or Tom Brady’s non-FDA approved vitamins, and guys, we think that’s kind of icky. If you don’t have anything to add to the conversation, just don’t.
Innovative Ideas For The Affected Communities
Unfortunately, this crisis goes beyond healthcare issues. In March, we began seeing many tech companies opening up their platforms for those affected by the pandemic, such as providing free and low-cost tools for video conferencing, file sharing, organization, and more. Many of these tools benefited workforces, such as educators, non-profit organizations, small business owners, and even researchers working on finding solutions to the virus who’ve never had to work remotely on a full-time basis and allowed them to hit the ground running. And as you can imagine, those announcements gained a lot of traction in the press.
Innovative companies and organizations that are finding creative ways to assist the challenges the community is facing are newsworthy. Does your company have an underlying story? What contributions is your company making during this crisis to benefit the community and others? Ensure that your company’s announcement is relevant to the news cycle and pitch accordingly. Do not link your company or product to the pandemic as an attempt to get a headline because that will lead to negative publicity.
Between the constant barrage of coronavirus news alerts, updating us on cases, closures, and general uncertainties, positive news is now more important than ever as a way to cope with stress. Last month, Al Jazeera reported on the surge of people seeking good news, mentioning that site specializing in upbeat news saw a surge in recent weeks, and Google searches for “good news” jumped fivefold since the beginning of the year. In fact, even good guy/America’s sweetheart actor John Krasinski joined in on the efforts by creating a weekly YouTube show, “Some Good News,” focusing on uplifting stories. In eight weeks, his channel amassed over 2.4 million subscribers, with the episode featuring the cast of “The Office” coming in at 11 million views.
It might not seem like it, but journalists are looking for feel-good stories to break up the doom-and-gloom coverage. Are you looking to highlight a volunteer who went above and beyond? The American Cancer Society, for example, recently landed a lighthearted story on a volunteer who prepared luminary bags for a virtual event, despite Lake Buena Vista’s Relay For Life being canceled. Across the country, volunteers with Produce Good, a San Diego-based non-profit, are saving thousands of pounds of produce from going to waste. Coverage like these examples helps restore people’s faith in humanity.
Cause marketing has surged during the past few weeks, and even we’ve seen the cast of “Parks & Recreation” reunite for a new episode which raised $2.8 million for coronavirus relief, as well as the cast of “Community” come together for a table read to raise funds – and yes, even the elusive Donald Glover made an appearance. In times of uncertainty, it is heartwarming to see brands and organizations come together to make a difference.
Ready, Set, Pitch!
Before you begin outreach, it is important to understand that as newsrooms continue to shrink, journalists are spread thin over different beats, covering more news stories than ever before. All of a sudden, every journalist has become a coronavirus reporter, as the pandemic has affected every aspect of life and business. When you reach out to your newsroom contact, have grace with them. Acknowledge how overworked they are, understand that they might not get back to you in a timely manner, and share a short but informative pitch with them. Whenever possible, share all necessary assets with them, such as images, videos, quotes, and research, to make their job as easy as possible.
As the coverage surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, this is now the time to position your brand or organization as an asset with unique stories and perspectives. Pitching during the coronavirus doesn’t need to stop, but it does need to adapt to the circumstances.