In the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the media was all COVID all the time. Reporters were racing to cover the latest death toll as the virus spread like wildfire across the US. It felt like every minute there was a new update from the government. Flash forward two months, and the temperature is changing.

Reporters are starting to open their windows and let in a bit of business as usual – with a COVID chaser. Recently, Cision hosted a “State of the Media” webinar to collect feedback from three reporters (Anthony Ha from TechCrunch, Sarah Paynter from Yahoo Finance and Julie Carl from the Toronto Star) on the state and interest of media stories today. All three journalists agreed that they welcome normal coverage but will still tie it to COVID news.

It is important to recognize that COVID has shaped everything in our current world and will for a long time. Right now, reporters want to know how COVID is affecting the economy and what businesses can prepare to go back to business as usual. For our clients, this shift in focus presents significant opportunities. Here are two ways businesses can benefit from the current state of the media:

1. Become a Valuable Resource

Even if you don’t have a new product or service that will help with treating or testing COVID-19 patients, you can still be part of the conversation. Reporters are looking for answers to key business questions, such as: How will organizations welcome back an in-person workforce? How can we continue to keep ourselves and our essential workers safe? Who is aiding in this effort and how? If you have a solution, say so! But keep in mind that there’s a very fine line between being helpful and trying to insert yourself into the conversation. Be mindful, do your research and position yourself as a valuable resource for the reporters covering business news.

2. Strengthen Relationships with the Media

As the journalists in the “State of the Media” webinar pointed out, there are new rules of engagement for contacting the media. Now is a great time for your PR team to reach out to media contacts to see how they’re doing, ask how much bandwidth they have and how often they want to work with a PR pro, and learn what stories they want to focus on now. Remember, journalists are human beings. Most of them are stressed, covering more beats than usual, and constantly worried about the financial status of their publication and where their job may lie. Keep that in mind if your PR team arranges a media interview during this crisis. Whenever possible, turn on your video during remote interviews so reporters can see your face and connect with you on a personal level.

The Future of Media

The reality is that the future of journalism remains to be seen. Many newsrooms are struggling, closing and laying off journalists. On the bright side, trust in the media is growing at a rapid pace. According to a 2017 Cision report, 91% of those surveyed felt an inherent distrust toward the press, due in large part to rhetoric from the country’s leadership about fake news. Today, that distrust is down to 59%. The good news is, overall, trust is growing, and this will help news outlets of all sizes gain traction and respect as we continue to weather this storm – together.

This blog is the first in a series of six blogs produced by the firm’s healthcare practice. Stay tuned for more insights from our agency’s healthcare PR experts.

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RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.