The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people are doing business across the board. Public relations and media relations have been impacted in major ways, too: For example, many journalists now work from home. Arguably, this should make all of us more accessible and easier to reach, but we’ve found the opposite is true: Office phones are now auto forwarded to voicemail, making phone pitching even more frustrating than it was in the past. And don’t get us started on unopened emails!
PR pros are trying all kinds of “hacks” to disrupt this new normal and get eyes on their pitches. Here are three tips to help you adapt and overcome while pitching during the pandemic:
1. Try Twitter.
Pitch emails going unopened, or unanswered? Follow-up calls going to voicemail? Try Twitter. You can openly Tweet pitches or links to news releases at a reporter, or share your pitch via DM if it’s an exclusive or under embargo.
In either event, make sure your Twitter account is business-friendly before you use it to communicate on behalf of your client or your company. Add your brand or agency name to your bio, and make sure your profile is public. Naturally, you should clean up any questionable content posted to your feed, and carefully consider what personal views or information you share once you start using Twitter for media relations. Some people even choose to add a disclaimer to their bio, like, “Tweets are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.”
Another alternative? Create a business-only Twitter account. Cultivate followers, follow industry thought leaders and influencer brands, and share timely news relevant to your client’s space before you send out a pitch. You don’t want to look like a bot or spam account.
Some reporters have their Twitter handle listed in their media database profiles. Others do not. If you want to connect with a specific journalist and have a little bit of time, you can always do some research to try to find their handle on your own. Our rule of thumb is, if they have named or tagged their employer or have shared their job title in their bio, and if they have a pattern of sharing or commenting about industry news on their public Twitter account, pitching them is fair game. Of course, it’s only good manners to respect a “no PR inquiries” or similar note in a bio.
2. Personalize that pitch!
Many journalists are wearing new hats as a result of the pandemic. Reporters who in the past might have covered a business or general health beat may now be all coronavirus news, all the time. Take the time to research who is writing about what now – what was true three months ago may be different today.
You’ll probably need to do this research the old-fashioned way – COVID-19 is not a filter in all news-gathering platforms (yet), and it’s not an official beat at most media outlets (yet). Spend some time scanning headlines and bylines in your target markets to find the best fit. Even better? Show reporters you’ve done your research: Reference or link to an article they wrote that made you think they’d be a good fit for your pitch.
3. Give them the chance to ask for what they need.
At the end of your pitch, leave the door open for more discussion. Position your pitch source and their expertise in a way that invites follow up. Even if a reporter doesn’t want to write about your angle of the day, you can pique their interest in your subject matter expert as a resource for other stories they might have in the works. It might not help tell this story, but it’s a great way to raise general awareness of your brand and to establish the thought leadership of your source or spokesperson.
What pitch tactics have been successful for you recently? Share your suggestions in the comments! Or, if you’re struggling to find the time to prioritize PR and want some help, reach out to see how Willow can support your efforts!