The changing face of media relations

7 June 2021 | 4 min read | News
Steph Brown

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There’s no industry or business that has been left untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as the country begins a path of recovery, each and every sector is having to adapt and flex to the ‘new normal’ created by the crisis.

PR is no different. In fact, the changes have been hugely noticeable in our day-to-day working lives, mostly so when it comes to media relations with our journalistic counterparts.

More than 2,000 newspaper jobs were hit as a result of the pandemic, resulting in hundreds of job losses. Newsroom budgets were squeezed like never before and, seemingly overnight, media relations became a completely different landscape.

It became the job of PR pros to not only ensure we upkept strong relationships with our contacts, but that we flexed our usual practices to fit with their needs during such a time of crisis.

So, how has the past 14 months changed the face of media relations?

A new approach to news

While journalists still greatly rely on traditional methods of newsgathering, such as online news outlets and magazines, the need for quick information and instantaneous connection with potential commentators meant that social media became more valuable than ever. Twitter was reported to be journalists’ second go-to place for news sources, vastly outrunning traditional print media and broadcast.

Even as we prepare for the return to ‘normal’, in the 2021 MuckRack State of Journalism report, Twitter still comes in second with only a very minor drop in importance compared to 2020.

Over the past year-and-a-bit, we’ve been encouraging clients to have a much stronger presence on social media, particularly Twitter, in order to boost their visibility and increase their chances of being noticed and/or picked up by journalists.

Regular use alongside frequent engagement with relevant contacts, as well as using specialist hashtags, such as #journorequest, or topical trending hashtags when sharing news or comments have all been crucial elements in profile building during the pandemic.

Data, and make it pretty

Reliable, and the most attractive, pitches are the ones that not only offer fantastic commentary or opinion, but ones that can also provide clear evidence for those insights.

Market research adds more dimension, but to go beyond this a little creativity is necessary. Raw data or text-based percentages can, let’s face it, be a little boring. Data visualisation is the way forward, and journalists have repeatedly expressed their interest in receiving meaningful and accurate data in this way.

Not only do visual assets like infographics, heatmaps and animations tell a compelling story in very few words, it can also really separate you from your competitors. Journalists, on average, receive 500 pitches a day. Something visually digestible is going to save them a lot of time and make it much more likely that your story is featured.

Keeping it personal

Gone are the days of mass pitching and one-size-fits-all databases. Relationships with journalists are, and should always be, a PRs bread and butter, and taking the time to individually email your contacts will stand you head and shoulders above your competitors.

A name, a personal anecdote, maybe even a suggestion for coffee and a catch-up now that things are opening up once again – that human connection can make all the difference.

It’s clear that the world of PR, Journalism and media relations has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps for the better. Those PRs who take stock of the needs of their contacts and implement meaningful change will form new prosperous relationships and strengthen existing pairings – while clients reap the benefits.