Virtual pressers, less cold calling is how the PR community is handling media ties in the time of Corona

The bread and butter of the PR business, media engagement has never been under greater pressure as COVID-19 dominates the news cycle. PRmoment India speaks to a range of PR professionals to find out how they are devising solutions to the coverage challenge.

The coverage challenge 

According to Vishakha Giri Goswami, PR Consultant, "This is not the right time to practice cold calling. That won’t work during such times. I research the stories that journalists are working on and think about how my client can participate in their story and then I create a pitch note around that."

Goswami also suggests, "More brainstorming sessions with the clients to give them the insight of shifting of the media industry."

Pravin Shiriyannavar, COO, Integrated brand-comm, says, "The other big challenge is media houses pulling down some of the supplements and pages that allowed the industry to connect with its target audience. This leaves us with little space to communicate positive stories directly with niche audiences."

Chaittali Dave - manager (Mumbai), Nucleus PR points out that, "The challenge is that because of this pandemic journalists from different beats are being pulled in and reassigned to cover different sectors. Keeping up with the changing beats and new story angle is an everyday catch up process."

Sandhya Sutodia, Co-founder, Turiya Communications LLP says, "The main problem today in the media and especially in the newspaper segment is that one can find fewer opportunities. The whole section is filled with the news of coronavirus or COVID 19. Take, for instance, the Bengali-leading daily from Kolkata, Anandabazar Patrika, the number of pages has been reduced to ten from sixteen pages. Most of the sections in the newspapers are covered with Central or State Government announcements or infographics on the pandemic. In the business section of the newspaper, there is only information about fiscal deficits and measures. Apart from important announcement with regards to COVID 19 or quarterly earnings and funding news, there is very little scope for coverage."

Ojashwi Singh, account manager, Adfactors Bangalore says, "Pitching at this time is not about what we want to promote, but more than, how we aim to do that with the right packaging.

Setu Shah, CEO, PROSE Integrated says, "The challenge is for conceptual stories, long-format feature stories where a detailed discussion or site visits to physical infrastructure is required. For e.g we serve a client in the education sector doing path-breaking work of teacher training in the hinterland. Another client, a commodity exchange, has a large diamond vault that journalists often want to visit. Media visits and press meets which facilitate an in-depth understanding and interaction is not possible in such times.Dial-in numbers for conference calls aided by PPT of photos and videos of projects to explain a concept have started yielding results."

 Hyper-local coverage 

Harpreet Singh Marwah, senior manager, Ketchum Sampark Pvt Ltd, says, "Seeing the current scenario and kind of the news being published most of our finance client are making the announcement around the COVID-19 angle. Other clients are targeting small cities for their announcement."

Marwah explains, "Client and agency have to be calm during this time and be very well versed with the current situation. In the meantime, they should target tier 2-3 cities for media coverage."

Use the right media tools, think story 

Tanuj Sharma, zonal business manager at Teamwork Communication Group says, "Since the media is also on similar restrictions as you are, making your content is as easy as possible for a reporter to plug and play. Use Video bytes, interview clips, broadcast content stories and virtual engagements."

Nancy Negi, senior management associate, Pepper Interactive Communications, says, "These are not times to sell a product. This is the time to truly introduce the audience to who the company is. Those stories suddenly have a lot of scope and in the long-term, they help in a better brand establishment as well. Also, media mapping should be done more smartly - based on the issue. There are many kinds of media today and we should expand our horizons to include as many forms as possible. In the current crisis, everyone has to co-operate, be it a client, a PR professional or the journalist. We all shall come on the same page to save our industry from the ongoing downfall as much as possible."

Urmee Sathe, PR professional explains, "It is a boon that every media house/publication or a client/company or any organization has been on social media platforms. As we are stationed at one place, Digital PR will come to the rescue. It successfully improves SEO rankings, grows website traffic, raises online mentions and also generates leads."

Sathe adds, "Your client can go LIVE from your page or you can collaborate with some other publication/Influencer which also agrees to go LIVE with you. LIVE sessions are beneficial as your client tends to interact with the audience directly and can conduct a question and answer session with the publication on the decided topic."

Diksha Gupta, associate manager - PR client servicing at Value360 Communications says, "The strategy that I have adopted is to be creative yet cautious in terms of the messaging.Let’s take an example of one of my travel clients. While the media is writing about the dip in sales, layoffs and business loss in this sector, my approach was to keep my brand in news ( in a positive way) talking about the initiatives taken to support the industry & the travellers, exploring relevant pieces & webinars for the client to talk about the current impact. It was well-received by the media."

Managing the client 

How are PR professionals meeting their coverage targets in the current scenario?

Shiriyannavar says, "We are lucky to have mature clients who have been extremely sensitive to the situation around us and are not expecting media coverage during COVID-19. However, we are in constant touch with our clients to understand their business continuity plans and create communication strategies that allow them to engage with their audience in a sensitive manner."

Siddharth Samson, senior PR executive - brand-comm says, "We honestly brief our clients on the prevailing challenges and also keep them updated with various trend-based stories. Strategies implemented for different clients are very different. Sometimes they are open to commenting on any or every major industry story and on the other hand we pick and choose our stories which are relevant as well as effective for the brand with subtle messaging. Some brands wish to have a low profile until they have something unique to share with their readers."

Dave says, "The client teams are very much aware of the situation and also understand the scenario with the media. We are also constantly updating them on the media scenario on a regular basis. We have also proactively educated them on the mood of the media and have encouraged them to participate in the story angles being explored by the media."

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