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May 5, 2020

Media Relations in times of pandemic



When a major crisis hits humanity, it's difficult to have the best idea of how to approach the issues. media. Although companies have information and announcements to disseminate that may be beneficial to the public, there is a fine line between what is useful and valuable information and what may just be exploitation. It's important to understand when, how and with what information the public is approached. media as well as employees, customers and other stakeholders, to ensure a productive approach and a receptive audience.

Understanding the crisis

Whatever the crisis, understanding its impact, both immediate and in the long term, will help to navigate the panorama of the media. Then we have to respond to following questions:

Is it a human or economic tragedy, or both?

The human impact is always much more sensitive than the economic impact. In the current crisis, people are reacting in different ways, either because the situation is devastating for them and their loved ones or because they are extremely anxious about the potential seriousness of the circumstances.

Is it an acute crisis or a permanent event?

In an extreme event, it's best to wait for it to pass and for the news cycle to move on. But if it's an ongoing event, the original plans may have to go ahead in order to ensure business continuity.

Is the crisis local, regional or global? Does it impact all sectors, markets and segments of society or is it limited?

No one is immune to the effects, which makes it unique and impacts on all aspects of life and market segments, some more than others. Depending on the sector of activity and the audience, the media may be more open to dealing with stories unrelated to the crisis.

Anticipating media receptivity

Before releasing and disseminating information, it is important to measure the temperature of the media to understand how receptive the message is. This helps the company's management to understand what can and cannot be achieved from a communication point of view during the crisis.

The actions to be carried out are:

Do a small audit. Just looking at the headlines of some of your target CBOs gives you an idea of what percentage of the news is or isn't related to the crisis. Try to assess which topics and stories those who are not writing about the crisis are more open to.

Ask. There's nothing wrong with asking journalists, especially those you work with regularly, if they're available for stories unrelated to the crisis.

Assessing company information and its value

In normal times, it's important to be able to look objectively at the company's message and assess its "news value" before turning to the media. But often management, or stakeholders, dictate the need to Press Release or approach to media even when communication advises against it. During a crisis there needs to be a greater focus on relevant, valuable and timely information.

Share the company plan.  The aim is to help employees, customers, the community and the business itself in these challenging times. The media can, and want to, help overcome the crisis by reporting on the good practices of other companies.

During a pandemic, there will continue to be companies and retailers who are carrying on with business as usual. They are planning the launch of the next products or the following weeks' editions. The media need non-crisis news to fill their pages or airtime. Just watch the crisis unfold and keep it in perspective.

For all businesses, this is a particularly challenging time and one in which public relations can be one of the few lifelines to maintaining business and achieving demand for products and services. You have to consider the needs, both long-term and short-term, of organizations, of media and the public as we head out. In any crisis there is great fear and uncertainty, but also an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, humanism and leadership. This applies both to working with the media such as within the organization itself, with clients and the community.



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