media update’s Aisling McCarthy takes a look at why forcing your releases to somehow relate to Coronavirus can be a recipe for bad PR.

Part of your job as a PR professional is knowing how to connect your clients’ brands to what is going on in the world and understanding how to make an average story newsworthy. However, with the global pandemic, there is a fine line between being relevant and simply inserting a brand into COVID-19 content.

As a journalist, it’s really easy to pick up on PRs that are simply using the pandemic as a publicity vehicle. Almost every subject line starts with ‘COVID-19’, and every brand seems to have something to say — some helpful, some … not so much.

Remember — relevance is key.

Utilise and build your relationships with journalists

Every industry is under immense pressure at the moment — and journalists are certainly feeling it. Sending inane stories and press releases that are poor attempts at getting publicity by linking a brand to the novel Coronavirus can, and will, annoy under-pressure journalists. Remember, most of them are working from home, under adverse conditions, and are concentrating on as much hard news as possible.

There are plenty legitimate COVID-19 stories out there without carefully engineered, self-serving ones. Now is not the time to pitch fluff stories hoping that one might find a home. As a general rule, PR professionals should always avoid pitching fluff — but now, that rule is more important than ever before.

Fluff disguised as news isn’t news — and journalists know it.

So, how can you secure media coverage for your clients without pitching something that isn’t really about the Coronavirus? Well, you can start by utilising your relationships with journalists; ask them about the type of content they’re looking for or bounce some ideas off them. But, as always, make sure that what you’re pitching is relevant to their publication, audience and genre.

If you’re sending out PRs where your client is simply sharing their opinion on the Coronavirus, you’re in the danger zone. Putting out content like this simply makes it look like you’re trying to capitalise on the pandemic and secure media coverage by simply talking about a newsworthy topic.

Only pitch legitimate Coronavirus stories

Obviously, there are legitimate reasons to put out content relating to COVID-19. For example, if your client is donating masks, hand sanitiser or money to local communities to fight the spread of the disease — you’re in the clear to talk about. But, if you are only mentioning COVID-19 for the sake of it, then rather don’t.

At the best of times, journalists hate getting irrelevant commentary from ‘Brand X’ on the latest newsworthy story. So, at a time when everyone is talking about the Coronavirus, try not to fall into this trap.

When talking to your clients, don’t promise that you can get them media coverage simply by sharing their commentary on COVID-19. Journalists will remember if you pitch no-news, self-serving content during the pandemic — and not in a positive way.

Do you think that PR professionals should avoid capitalising on the current crisis in their content? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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Since just about everyone is out of the office, check out The ultimate PR guide to working from home.