The rules of PR have been turned upside down: Pitching to journalists in the middle of a pandemic

While it’s business as usual for the Skout team, like every business we have been experiencing a number of changes due to the Coronavirus. The rules of PR have changed. Rather than conducting our meetings and talking to the media from our little office in Macclesfield, we are now working in the safety of our homes (undoubtedly great news for our furry friends). This unprecedented landscape has brought a few more challenges than usual for PR, especially when it comes to pitching to journalists. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel…

It may come as no surprise that I am writing this blog from the comfort of my living room – my desk is located next to my sofa and my co-worker has four paws and loves an ear scratch (I don’t think my colleague Alex Brown would appreciate this in the same way). It’s definitely an out of the ordinary situation. However, there are many people currently in the same position. Recently, I attended the webinar ‘City in lockdown: How business media is dealing with the Coronavirus crises’ which painted a picture of how B2B publications are operating during this time.

Here’s what I learnt:

Challenges facing the media

As the virus spread to Europe, some publications started to plan for their staff working at home, experimenting with how they would produce their newspapers and magazines and how they would ensure all vital deadlines would still be met on time. After the UK entered lockdown, publications put their ‘disaster plans’ in action.

Yet, journalists are still facing many difficulties. For example, budget cuts due to lack of advertising has resulted in staff being furloughed, leaving publications with a reduced workforce, and the trade gossip which journalists usually rely on to write stories is nearly non-existent as there is currently no ‘shop floor’.

Pitching during the pandemic

When it comes to pitching, there is an unspoken rulebook between journalists and PR professionals – even though there is some debate around these rules depending on which side of the fence you sit on. Yet, the current situation has turned this rulebook upside down. According to Simon English, chief city reporter for the Evening Standard, PR activity has considerably dropped off, which is ironic as at the moment it would actually be welcomed. “Even content that would previously have had no chance of being published would be considered”.

So, if you work in PR and are uncertain about how to pitch to journalists during lockdown, here’s what you need to know:

  • The Coronavirus has changed the tone of voice for articles. For example, there is not much room for flippancy. Tips – read the story several times, get other people to check it on your behalf, be careful of language.
  • There is a focus on who’s doing well and why, rather than the ‘losers’ in this scenario. Journalists are looking for upbeat news and any sign of normal life.
  • Email is the best way of getting hold of journalists – they are constantly checking for stories. Don’t worry if you send the story to them twice or to multiple people.
  • When pitching, start from the beginning. Don’t assume journalists know what your client does.
  • Personal relationships will pay off. Journalist are leaning on key contacts for stories.
  • There is still room for stories that aren’t Covid-19 related!

It’s clear that the media landscape may be changed for some time and whether you’re a journalist or PR professional, it’s important that we all continue to share our experience, stories and advice – we’re all in this together.

Stay safe!

Browse more blog posts

Posted on
byClaire James
Chris Linsell left university with a degree in Economics and Finance but knew that this was not where his true interests lay. In 2004 he joined an independent creative advertising agency called Mustoes and has not looked back since. Q: Tell me a little bit about your background before joining Pirtek as Marketing Director Chris. A: As a graduate I...
Posted on
byLaaraib Khan
Why was PR your chosen career? I have always loved writing and all things creative. I remember in year 4 gathering a few people together and starting the school newspaper! Having dabbled in social media, digital marketing and music journalism, I fell into PR and have loved every second of it! If you hadn’t chosen a career in PR, what would...
Posted on
bySkout team
Why was PR your chosen career? It wasn’t! I have always been slightly obsessed with the media though. Since reading the news in the mocked-up news studio at Bradford’s National Media Museum as a child, the addiction has stuck. I worked in TV and broadcast media in Beijing for four years (which was an eye-opener) before coming back to the...
Posted on
byJames Weaver
On Sunday 31st July, England’s Lionesses ended 56 years of hurt by overcoming the goliath task of beating Germany 2-1 in the European Championship final to finally bring football home. It was fantastic to watch the team storm the post-match press conference to celebrate their well-deserved victory.  This got me thinking, how does one of the greatest sporting achievements for...
Posted on
byRebecca Brown
Whether you’re in B2B or B2C, promoting your brand and engaging with your audience through social media is marketing 101. It’s fast, free, and effective! Not only can you post updates about your company and employees to showcase the successes and personality of your brand but it’s an excellent way of sharing valuable content with key audiences. It’s no surprise that...
Posted on
byJames Weaver
London is often considered the epicentre for many of the UK’s varying sectors from entertainment to finance. But, when it comes to the tech sector, the North West stronghold of Manchester is arguably a hotbed for talent, startups and established tech firms. In 2019, £181 million of investment was pumped into the city’s tech sector, establishing Manchester as one of...
Posted on
byRebecca Brown
We chat with Lizzie Berwick, director and co-owner at media buying agency, MacCormack Media, about her varied role, all things media buying, and what makes a brilliant business relationship.
Posted on
byClaire James
By Claire James, head of client services and built environment specialist, Skout The construction industry is about to go through its most transformative phase for decades with the introduction of the Building Safety Act. These changes are driven by the still unfolding story of Grenfell, the public outcry, and the substandard building materials and practices used on this structure that...
Posted on
byRebecca Brown
More than half of B2B marketing budgets are devoted to building and maintaining relationships with new customers, but only a quarter of B2B marketers say their relationships are akin to a happy marriage.
Posted on
byRob
When you’ve worked in a B2B PR agency for over 25 years, it’s easy to forget that the ‘turbulence’ we experience daily isn’t the norm for many. This is because every agency day is different, you never fully know what to expect, and deadlines can be ludicrously short.  Growing agencies like us deal with a lot of uncertainty. The biggest...