By Alexa Hershy
COVID-19 continues to impact the current and future trajectory of the consumer media landscape. It has exposed the vulnerabilities in print media and highlighted the advantages of digital, which has been able to quickly react to current events and pivot to write the timeliest stories for their readers – and of course, effectively reach the masses.
For PR practitioners, this pandemic has changed the way we develop smart media relations programmes. We need to acutely understand the new reality in which journalists live and work in, and how to pitch them in a way that is sensitive, but newsworthy enough to breakthrough.
Because the landscape is changing so quickly, it can feel difficult to keep up. There is nothing quite like hearing from the source, so I sat down with Sophia Panych, content director at PopSugar UK, to learn more about what it is like to be an editor right now and what PR practitioners should know in order to be successful in the current environment.
Here is a summary of my learnings:
The highly irregular news cycle poses unique challenges for editors
Every year, publicists and editors plan programmes and coverage for key holidays and moments in time – from summer travel to back-to-school to Christmas. Editors use year-over-year site data to prepare their stories to ensure they are writing the pieces that best appeal to their readers.
In the current environment, nothing can be planned for and site data is no longer as useful. Every event and holiday is now filtered through the lens of COVID-19 and other timely happenings. For example, PopSugar is currently re-examining their holiday coverage plans, asking themselves questions like, “Does it make sense to publish a luxury holiday gift guide when so many of our readers are struggling financially?” and tweaking plans accordingly.
In addition, with a never-ending flow of breaking news, editors’ priorities can change in a heartbeat. More than ever editors need to be incredibly agile and in tune with current events to draft stories that resonate. From a PR perspective, it means we need to be just as agile, as well as sensitive and flexible, with our planning and outreach.
Feel good and informative stories are breaking through
According to PopSugar UK data and site traffic, pieces showcasing feel good events, products, experiences and stories are doing really well, as consumers are looking for a welcomed distraction to the otherwise daunting news of the day. They’ve also noted that informative articles, specifically in regard to COVID-19 and other current events, are generating higher engagement.
Knowing this, how do we as PR professionals frame our clients’ news and thought leadership to deliver on either of these fronts?
Editors are putting everything through a diversity lens
The BLM movement has propelled this critical topic to the forefront and is demanding companies and industries of all kinds to commit to initiatives that create long lasting change. For media, they are revaluating the brands and celebrities they cover, the experts they feature and the topics they spotlight to support diversity. It is the aspiration that publications become a much more representative space for all different voices across the UK.
For the work we’re doing in PR, it is important that we think this way too – showing how our brands appeal to and represent a wide range of individuals and groups and putting forward spokespeople and experts that offer diverse perspectives.
Keep Zoom briefings to 30 minutes
While there is definitely fatigue, Zoom presentations are still the best way for editors to receive news and connect with spokespeople. Given their hectic schedules (they are busier now than ever), the sweet spot tends to be 30 minutes. Be respectful of media’s time and plan organised and newsworthy meetings and events.
To learn more, listen to the full conversation with Sophia on The Stream, an Allison+Partners podcast.