Pitching stories during the Coronavirus pandemic

Tuesday, April 7, 2020
We’ve spent the week talking to a range of journalists across national, regional, and lifestyle platforms, and wanted to share some of their best tips.

It’s been a strange few weeks for everyone during the coronavirus outbreak, resulting in a three-week lockdown in the UK for everyone other than from key workers like medical staff, delivery drivers and emergency services personnel.  

Many businesses began preparing for this prior to the announcement, arranging for staff to work from home, only having skeleton staff in the workplace, but what does this mean for the PR industry? Events are cancelled, most new products are not essentials, and many journalists are no longer operating from a newsroom.

We’ve spent the week talking to a range of journalists across national, regional, and lifestyle platforms, and wanted to share some of their best tips:

  1. Many journalists expressed the need for uplifting stories featuring the everyday heroes - whether it’s related to the coronavirus or not - people want to read more positive news amongst the very worrying Covid-19 updates. As most people are now working from home it will be a challenge to get hold of your contacts on the phone. Make connections on LinkedIn and Twitter to see what journalists are talking about; when you’ve found someone appropriate to pitch to make it clear that it is a non-coronavirus related story.
  2. Think really clearly and carefully about whether your PR activity is still relevant; work together to scrutinise your plans to decide if it’s still worth attempting to cut through the seriousness of the news cycle. If the answer is yes, go for it! If the answer is no, keep your plans to one side and begin working on how you can recreate this at a later, more appropriate, date.
  3. Speak to the publication you're pitching to before you start to pitch. Each outlet has different priorities, some have said PRs actually have a better chance now to secure coverage, whilst others said general news stories will be difficult to place. Rather than a hard sell, start with a general conversation to receive feedback and use this as a way of pitching. A friendly, understanding approach will also help to build relationships in the long run.
  4. Similarly, some publications have journalists dedicated solely to coronavirus, so pitching them a survey story or new product is pretty pointless. It will be difficult to keep up to, but doing the leg work beforehand to work out who is covering what will be extremely beneficial in streamlining the process.

These are just a few short tips that we’ve found to be really helpful in understanding the current landscape. The general sentiment from everyone was to push for fun, light-hearted, but appropriate stories and make sure you’re pitching to the right person!

We hope this helps in some way and that everyone is staying safe during this time.

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