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Cutting through Covid

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As I write this column, Hamilton and parts of Waikato have been plunged back into Level 3

When this happened, how many of you found yourselves Googling ‘locations of interest,’ checking for updates on the NZ Herald and Stuff websites way too often and scanning your social media pages for how friends were faring?

I admit to being glued to online news channels way too much, especially when alert levels escalate.  I’ve fallen into the trap of clicking on stories with sensational headlines only to find there is no new news in the report.

And I know the vast number of New Zealanders do the same. 

It is because of our frenzied clicking behaviour that the Covid pandemic has created a new challenge for companies looking to get their news picked up by mainstream media channels. 

If you and I click on Covid news repeatedly, then guess what sort of news stories the media will continue generating?  And the more we click, the more journalists in the newsrooms are taken off their normal news rounds and assigned to writing Covid-related stories.

At the end of the day, this means there is less capacity for newsrooms to pick up your organisation’s non-Covid news.

But media remains an authoritative channel companies must use to reach their audiences.  So, what do you do?  Here are a few tips to try when you run up against this challenge:

Make it count

Tried and true news angles continue to have no problem getting picked up.  Stories that are about global or New Zealand ‘firsts,’ are about solutions to major problems or involve subjects that have strong public appeal then they will be picked. But in the current media environment, if your news story isn’t incredibly ground-breaking then you’re probably wasting your time trying to get top news channels to pick it up. 

If you need to get into the mainstream online media, then you’ve got to find an ultra-interesting angle.  If you can’t, then consider a niche publication like Waikato Business News or an industry paper.  Niche publications often have better readership and reach your target audience more directly.

Alternatively, develop an organic or paid social media posting plan to take control of your own distribution.

Get your timing right

Timing really is everything these days when you want to get the best reach on a media story.  Watch the news cycles around Covid happenings and do your best to find a gap or a lull when you can get the attention of journalists.

Use your relationships

In times like this, use your journalist relationships.  Give them an email or call and offer to work with one exclusively on a story in exchange for a good run in your preferred publication.  But be prepared to work together with the journalist on timing and to give them access to people to interview if they want to add their own flare.

Be patient

Our team has certainly learned patience over the past few months.  In some instances, we have pitched story ideas to journalists and then waited three to four weeks for the story to appear. 

When this happens, just go with it.  Trust the story will come and resist the temptation to nag the busy journo you’re working with.

Play the game

Dare I say it?  If the media wants a Covid story, try to find a Covid angle in your news story.  Give them want they want – which is really what their readers want – if you’ve got it.

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About Author

Heather Claycomb

Heather Claycomb is director of HMC, a Hamilton-based, award-winning public relations agency.

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