Pitching During a Pandemic

by Posted @ Apr 17 2020

An overview of media relations and how COVID-19 is affecting my approach to digital PR strategy. 

Picture this: freelancers are looking for places to shop their essays around, but staff writers’ queues have been backed up with stories surrounding COVID-19 for the last few weeks. Along with that, their publishers are looking for content related to people and businesses impacted by the pandemic. 

Content-based internet publishers want to drive traffic to their site in order to increase page views and revenue. They need fresh content on a rolling basis in order to grow their readership. Writers and journalists have different goals than a publisher; the staff writer on your outreach list either has a story-quota for the day, or they’re looking for content to flesh out a story for a deadline. 

How is this different from before? COVID-19 and similar topics are not only trending, but they’re also filling our news feeds from all sides. It has changed the way we’re consuming media, and, in turn, changed the way we’re pitching content. The question we need to ask ourselves before hitting ‘send’ is how can our resources, content, or pitch meet the needs of the publisher, editor, or writer we’re emailing? 

The media is always undergoing change, but right now, it’s changing faster than ever before. Here are a few things I’ve done to adapt my approach to digital PR strategy, to suit the new normal, that you can do as well!

Practice Increased Empathy for Your Writers. 

Digital PR professionals don’t control the majority of what happens once they send their pitch. Regardless of how much effort they put into perfecting the tone of their pitch, there is no way to know how it will be received. 

Remember, the person on the receiving end of your pitch is a human being, just like you. They are experiencing the new normal too, and they are probably just as apprehensive about publishing as you are pitching. Practice empathy for the recipient’s experience by maintaining sensitivity to the current situation, and try to acknowledge the pandemic only when it’s necessary. 

For instance, if you have a lighthearted topic that is a fit for the writer you’re reaching out to, don’t unnecessarily try to include a tie-in to the pandemic in order to achieve coverage. Or better yet, consider if that lighthearted content is actually not a fit at all right now. By maintaining a considerate and empathetic tone to your pitches, you show respect for the situation and for the person you’re pitching to. 

Choose Your Content Carefully. 

Of course, you need to navigate what works for your project as well as the client the project belongs to, but now is the time to be picky with what you’re pitching. If you have a tie-in to COVID-19 that is sensitive but well thought out, it could be worth pitching. Remember that click-bait, something with innate shareability, is important to publishers because it will bring users to their site and a global pandemic makes for strong headlines. 

But, be cautious about tying all of your content into COVID-19. Like I mentioned earlier, your content may not be a fit for the current news cycle. However, that doesn’t mean your content or the campaign you are promoting is going to fail. While the coronavirus may bring users to a site, evergreen content keeps them there. Digital marketing is known for its adaptability and flexibility. So, choose your content carefully, but be prepared to make changes in order to fit the current climate you’re pitching in. 

Provide Value to Your Contacts if You’re Asking for Any Insights in Return.

The campaigns I have been working on have helped me gather feedback from writers I have existing relationships with. Here’s how.

After our team made the decision to hold off on pitching for a few days to check-in on the media climate, I used that downtime to reach out to writers, editors, and producers I’ve worked with before, or that I have an established relationship with. I had questions about what editors were looking for in their story assignments, so I wanted to find a way to figure out what to pitch. 

Remember, you can’t ask for anything like a link or coverage without having something to offer in return. Here’s how I reached out to ask for a favor (pitching insight) while also providing value to them.

  • I sincerely asked if they were doing alright and if there was anything I could do to support them during this unprecedented time. 
  • We discussed what topics were considered evergreen, and which topics were worth relating to COVID-19. 
  • With a lot of help from the content team at Go Fish Digital (thanks, guys!) I offered resources or datasets that may be useful to them. 

In return, they provided insight about what to pitch, who to pitch to, and how to reframe the lens I look at content through.

Keep hitting send

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, especially because trade or industry publishers need different content than a national news publication which means there is no reason to give up on a campaign simply because you aren’t getting coverage yet. 

Keep hitting send – eventually, if your pitch is compelling and well-written, someone will pick up your story. If you’re worried that a lack of coverage has to do with your pitch, here are five ways you can pivot. 

Moving forward

It’s difficult to see past the pandemic and consider what the future looks like. Digital PR, link building, SEO, and content marketing are part of a long-term strategy that tends to compound itself, getting better with time. 

That’s why it’s important to update your approach to digital PR right now so your clients can reap the benefits, even if the future of projects is currently uncertain. That’s the thing about content… you can always edit it. 

Regardless of where you are at in your content strategy – and whether you’re the owner of the content itself or the professional tasked with its promotion – you can always pivot your work to be more relevant or on par with what’s going on in the world around you. 

No one knows what the new normal will look like after this period of the pandemic passes. Until it does, it’s important to be up-to-date on trends in online media, practice empathy, stay home, and keep hitting send. 

How have you updated your approach to content marketing and link building during this time? Or What does your new normal look like? Let me know in the comments down below!

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