April 10, 2020


Right now, if there is one industry where it is far from being business as usual it is the media. Despite dwindling ad revenue resulting in shrinking staff and resources, journalists are producing nearly four times the amount of content they normally would. For journalists, right now, every day is filled with breaking news. On a regular day in a newsroom, deadlines are tight and police and fire scanners are loud. Information and tips are coming at journalists from multiple directions: emails, calls, texts, websites, social media posts, etc. In short, on a good day, it’s already a frenetic, high-energy environment.

But now add our current crisis to the mix: the first major health crisis in the age of social media.

Also consider this game-changer: instead of sending crews straight to breaking news, journalists and photographers are putting their stories together from home. If there’s an earthquake or hurricane, you see crews running toward catastrophe. Today, for the most part, they’re nowhere near it. Journalists are dealing with the unusual task of not meeting let alone being able to be face-to-face with the subjects of their interviews. When shooting interviews, especially in television, the long-standing rule has been to send a photographer and to avoid Skype or Zoom interviews due to the muffled sound and low-quality resolution. But now, that’s the main way journalists are conducting their interviews.

When it comes to pitching journalists, for the foreseeable future, as one media outlet phrased it: “Everything is COVID-19. Even entertainment news.” No matter what is being pitched to them, journalists want to know how it relates to coronavirus.

Additional tips for PR teams to consider when pitching media in today’s climate:

  • Keep the pitch short and to the point and emphasize how your pitch relates to the current situation. If it doesn’t, also discuss why. Again, COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind and the only story media are covering right now.
  • Be a resource for media. Now, more than ever, they are not interested in self-promotional pitches, they need a steady flow of resources, experts and first-hand accounts for their stories.
  • Offer experts who can be quoted, preferably academic experts on a specific subject and/or chief executive officers or company spokespeople who can share official, as well as anecdotal information, regarding how this is impacting their businesses and staff (either furloughed or remaining).
  • Make sure your spokesperson’s signal is strong and they can be clearly heard and seen.
  • Already have a location in mind for the interview, e.g. a home office vs. being outside. Also, ideally have the person being interviewed facing natural light. (If the light is in the background, the subject will not be able to be seen.)
  • Finally, offer the journalist photos and b-roll to fill in their story.

~ Marina Nicola