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COVID-19 and the Broadcast Media

As the world turned upside-down in 2020, your local morning show probably started to shift from interviews filled with glitz and glam to individuals of all industries Zooming in from their living rooms. The broadcast media, typically in the thick of the action with each story, had to take a step back and report from a 6-foot distance, or sometimes even further, as COVID-19 restrictions set in. However, just because in-studio and in-person interviews have gone virtual, the value your clients can provide to media can still be portrayed through thoughtful broadcast media relations strategies in the era of COVID-19.

Don’t forget, the media are people too

Members of the media are real people experiencing the negative implications of COVID-19 just like the rest of us, especially as it relates to their line of work. Sympathizing with them as people, adapting alongside them and finding ways to adjust in this new environment is key. Whether it’s checking in with your personal media contacts to see how they’re doing, reaching out to news outlets to understand how you can best be an asset, or researching how and what news is currently being reported, taking the time to absorb the present-day media environment is crucial to building a strong foundation for successful broadcast media relations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Understand the news cycle

The world may have shutdown, but the news cycle still reigns. As PR pros, it’s our responsibility to rise to the challenge and help our clients stand out in the COVID-19 media landscape. Broadcast reporters, more often than not, are open to new story angles, as long as they are timely and relevant to their audiences. Even during the height of COVID-19, feel-good stories that didn’t inherently have to do with the pandemic found their way into the news cycle and allowed for a nice change of pace against the grim realities of COVID-19 coverage. While your clients don’t need to report COVID-19 case numbers to earn broadcast media coverage, always gauge how the story angle could be portrayed against the current news cycle to avoid coming off tone deaf. Your reputation in the newsroom relies on your understanding of the news cycle and the value your stories can bring to your contacts.

What we SHOW is just as important as what we SAY

When it comes to developing broadcast pitches during the pandemic, your checklist of logistical elements must adapt, like everything else. Whether it be offering interviews via Zoom or masked spokespersons in a socially-distanced setting, what you offer must be feasible for the media – and always provide a strong visual element.

Get creative with ways you can bring your story to life visually, within the constraints of COVID-19 safe practices. For example, the NST EōS Fitness PR team didn’t let pandemic restrictions stop them from telling a strong visual story throughout the holidays. The team rallied in December to showcase EōS Fitness trainers demonstrating exercises that could be done from home with common items most of us have lying around, including canned food and wrapping paper rolls. The team brought the story to life through high energy, live Zoom interviews where EōS trainers demonstrated exercises with colorful holiday props. Don’t skimp on the visuals, make them your lead pin.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

If you haven’t already, it’s time to revamp your media training protocol to include COVID-19 sensitive considerations. In addition to ensuring your spokesperson understands their key messages, guiding your clients through COVID-19 safe logistical practices must also be a top priority. For in-person broadcast media opportunities, you must ensure social distancing is in place, masks are being used (and worn properly) and CDC guidelines are being followed. Zoom is being used now more than ever for broadcast interviews and with that comes the responsibility of ensuring your client has an appropriate background, good lighting, clear sound and a stable Wi-Fi connection. In addition, spokespersons should be reminded to turn off phone and computer alerts and communicate with their households to avoid any unintended interruptions. Many of these components should be tested prior to the interview, and it’s best to do so with your client well in advance, instead of assuming the interview will go smoothly without testing systems, lighting and angles.

There’s no one-size-fits-all

We all continue to learn day by day how to navigate this pandemic, including newsrooms. What may work for one news outlet, might not meet the needs of another. Remaining agile is important. Take the time to ask broadcast media if the interview set-up and content best meets their needs and listen to understand how you can make it even better. Make sure your understanding of each outlet and reporter is thorough to deliver the best results for all parties involved. Remember, you’re building long term relationships – for yourself and your client – that are far more important than just the opportunity at hand. Invest in building relationships throughout this pandemic, and they’ll be there when it finally ends.

If you’re looking for a public relations team to secure you broadcast media coverage, contact us today.

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