How to Build Relationships with Journalists during the Covid-19 Crisis
Organizations can help journalists transferred to cover new fields during the Covid-19 pandemic and receive positive media coverage
Positive media coverage during a crisis is often a result of a fruitful relationship between journalists and their sources, even more so than during ordinary times.
During the Covid-19 crisis, many journalists are trying to cope with the rapidly changing reality. As the primary source of information to the public, mass media is expanding to cover the new reality, while trying to make meaning out of the unknown. To cope with the ‘new reality,’ the news systems are transferring journalists to cover new scientific fields, as Covid-19 implications are spreading to wider cultural, financial, and social areas. These journalists need to deliver fast, trustworthy, and meaningful coverage of topics they are not entirely familiar with, and they need to learn the fields as they go.
At the same time, many organizations are developing useful services and products to help ease the challenges of Covid-19. Be it scientific findings, vaccine developments, financial help, or mental support; many organizations are trying to help communities and individuals. They are trying to reach out and spread information about their activities, managing their way through the crowded social media world.
The unique combination of an unknown, evolving new situation, journalists’ challenge to learn new scientific and social topics, and organizations’ efforts to promote their products and services vis a vis the pandemic, creates an extraordinary opportunity for organizations to strengthen their relationships with journalists and build a path to better and more effective coverage.
Building a mutual relationship helps both sides: journalists receive accurate and useful information, and organizations enjoy coverage that could present them favorably. A successful relationship between organizations and journalists is based on trust and precise information. It allows both sides to be of service to their audiences, whether they are the readers or customers.
During the pandemic, organizations can nurture a successful relationship with journalists by helping them learn the new fields they are covering, analyze information, and build context.
To make sure this is happening, a successful pitch should include a few simple extra steps:
· Supply the full report:
Don’t settle for the press release only. Share the entire story or information on your product, service, research, or innovation with the journalists covering your field. By sharing the complete report, organizations signal that they are transparent and allow the journalist a more in-depth understanding of the field.
· Lose the Jargon:
Translate the professional jargon to everyday language. Share your message in a style that makes sense and allows the public to celebrate it too, by doing that you are saving the journalists the trouble of translating your findings or services.
· Answer the “dumb” questions in advance:
Help journalists and audiences understand the basics. Explain your field as clearly as possible, answering the little issues you might take for granted. Always assume you are the expert in your area, and others may not understand the context and implications of the pandemic in your field.
· Provoke stimulating thought:
Help the journalist to develop an original angle to the story and inspire them to take the story forward and drive the meaning of your organization’s actions to the next level. Try to avoid sealing the story with your favorable angle and support their curiosity. It is their story, after all.
· Quantify your data:
Make your data as raw and reliable as possible. This will allow journalists to use the data to tell many stories and make meanings that will expand the context. At the same time, always make sure to explain the purpose of the data and its limitations.
· Forget all metaphors:
Encourage the journalist’s independent professional angle. Don’t try to dictate the story beforehand. Figure out the substantial parts of your account and allow the journalist to tell them according to their plan, professional guidelines, and interests. At the same time, avoid fear-mongering or overly optimistic messages that may be popular but could be misleading and create misconceptions that will damage both the journalist’s report and your organization’s public image.
· Be a team player:
Acknowledge your competitors and acknowledge the journalist’s professional necessity of covering their story. By helping the journalist to understand the plethora of new information in the field, you can encourage trust and signal you are in this relationship for the long run.
· Be polite:
Don’t forget to thank the journalist and acknowledge their work. They are working hard to learn a new field, amid a global crisis.
· Understand the goal:
Lastly, any good relationship with journalists is based on the understanding that the goal is not just publishing a story, but rather a long-term conversation. Make your organization the go-to expert journalists feel comfortable asking for clarification and explanation. Do not look at them as the channel for creating another media clip to post on social media, but as a professional colleague, ready to tell a bigger story you might have a part in. Adopting this open-minded, receptive approach will make your relationship last much longer than the pandemic, and will leverage your brand to a different story.