How to adapt to the COVID-19 news cycle
You don’t have to work in media or communications to know that 2020 has introduced one of the most hectic news cycles in modern history. A global pandemic, historic presidential election, and nationwide protests on racial injustice have made producing timely content a challenge — to say the least.
Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to tackle this beast of a news cycle — and generate quality content and coverage for your organization, as a result.
1. Make sure to get your numbers right. Most written materials — whether it’s an op-ed, pitch, press release, or speech — include some sort of statistic or data point. But when key national figures constantly change, it can be tough to make sure the data you’ve cited is up-to-date. Get in the habit of fact-checking and updating your work regularly — even more than normal! Couching your statements with appropriate timelines is similarly crucial. Adding text like “as of late May” or “according to data from early August” to a statement about COVID-19 cases, for example, can help ensure all your work is accurate — no matter when it’s read.
2. Be mindful of reporters’ deadlines. Many reporters write and publish multiple stories every single day — so scheduling interviews days in advance simply doesn’t work. If you’re offering expert sources to members of the media who work on short timelines, make sure that those people are available that same day. The same rule applies if you are that source. Be ready to hop on the phone and share your perspective at the drop of the hat — and it never hurts to draw up a set of talking points in advance. Those steps can make or break your chances of getting coverage in a top news outlet.
3. It’s okay to separate yourself from the pack — if you do it right. It may feel like every news article out there is about the pandemic. But COVID-19 has unfortunately been our reality for months, and newsrooms are still responsible for regularly publishing material on other topics. When pitching the media on more niche issues, do extensive research on reporters’ beats to confirm that their coverage would encompass your specific topic. And when pitching op-eds, don’t be afraid to mention that your piece could offer some helpful and interesting diversity to an outlet’s opinion section.
Adapting to our current news cycle is difficult, but it isn’t impossible. And if you approach it correctly, the results could be fantastic.