Media relations in the time of COVID-19


The current media landscape looks much different than it did just a few weeks ago. Our collective attention seems to be consumed with coronavirus-related content, but that doesn’t have to mean your brand’s visibility is entirely diminished. 

That said, emotional intelligence is absolutely required to navigate the media landscape right now. 

According to a study of more than a dozen general news websites by comScore, a media measurement company, the number of minutes spent by readers at news sites increased 46 percent from the same period ending a few days ago last year, and overall visits rose 57 percent. (source)

No doubt, journalists are answering the call to provide deep and wide coverage of the pandemic, and how people are affected. It is also true that new perspectives and helpful content will create a welcome sigh of relief. 

If your brand is not in the healthcare sector or another essential service sector, do these three things to navigate the media relations landscape in the age of COVID-19: 

Build relationships 

Now is the time to strengthen relationships that were budding before. 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers


Now’s your time to be a helper to hard working journalists. Journalists are facing tough conditions right now, just like the rest of us: Working remotely, facing illness, and skeletal teams with massive amounts of news to report on. Some editors in Detroit, and around the country, are even working without pay. Their dedication to the essential service that is professionally reported news is serving all of us.

So, build relationships by helping. If it is possible for you, consider spending on advertising now. Doing so will both show solidarity with media outlets, and the ad space can be used to put positive messages into the world.
Note: Ads right now should be used for connecting us all, and not for promoting your business.

Offer your expertise and embrace a #givefirst mentality

From your specific area of expertise, answer questions or offer perspectives you don’t think are common. Now’s a good time to set up (free) Google Alerts for keywords in your industry. Doing so will give you a steady stream of media content to immerse yourself into, and you’ll quickly begin to understand what types of stories do and do not get covered. 

Give generously in your media interactions. These folks are working SO hard. They are absolutely essential, and the pressure on them now is immense. Your outreach, with valuable content, can ease their load and help strengthen the relationship between you. 

If you’ve got pre-established media campaigns in the hopper, don’t forget that now’s a good time to pivot. How can your campaign, decided upon last quarter, perhaps, be pivoted to be more timely and helpful, to not only the journalist you’re hoping to work with, but the community at large? 

Stay available, have open dialogue 

Especially after sending out a pitch, stay available for any follow-up questions or needs. This is a fluid time for us all, and your willingness to stay in the weeds with the journalist working your story, and to work together to get it across the finish line, will build trust and rapport that can typically take ages to achieve.

Which media to target

While this question is best answered in lawyer-speak (“it depends”), you’ll want to consider a few things before choosing which journalist to pitch your story to: 

  • Your existing relationships. What are those journalists covering now, and do you have a perspective that could add value to the types of stories they are putting out right now?
  • Who’s covering what? And where does your story fit in? (hint, this may be different right now than it typically would be, especially if you’ve pivoted)
  • Currently, industries still covering non-COVID-19 news include technology, sports, style, cannabis, and climate and environment. If your brand fits neatly into one or both of those, the chances of your media relations efforts going well without first pivoting, are highest. 

In closing 

We are living in unprecedented times, but basic measures can, and should be taken to approach media relations in the time of COVID-19. Approach your efforts with a sharp eye to emotional intelligence, use this time to build relationships, give first and generously, and remain available.