Every aspect of our lives is different in the current COVID-19 environment, including the way we work. One thing that hasn’t changed is our drive to deliver results for clients in spite of the challenges. This means that V2 has had to quickly identify and adapt to the changes in the media landscape, the speed of the news cycle, and the necessity of packaging relevant client news and identifying the most efficient way of getting that news in front of the audience who will be most interested in it.
One of the most challenging developments has been among our media contacts themselves. For example, The Washington Post alone has more than 300 journalists covering different aspects of the Coronavirus story. Some of our best contacts are reporters who are included on that team, but many are journalists who are new to us because, pre-COVID-19, they used to cover beats like lifestyle, science and even food. Even more challenging is trying to identify who is covering what at any given moment as reporters are being pulled in multiple directions by their editors – it’s a true “all hands on deck” situation. To do our best job, we have to quickly get to know these reporters, understand what aspect of the news story they are covering and figure out how to get them the information they need through their preferred channel of communication.
Right now, we are working with clients to help them tell stories that are relevant to COVID-19 but, for the most part, our stories are focused on areas like relevant experts commentary, supply chain innovations, or ways that technology is assisting healthcare professionals to stay safe while treating very sick patients. The challenge is that we are now working with journalists whose backgrounds and expertise aren’t necessarily business, or even healthcare or technology. The language we use in our pitches (no jargon!) and the way our clients tell their stories in an interview has to reflect the fact that we often are speaking with a journalist who is struggling to understand because, for example, he is a science writer writing a story that is focused on healthcare or technology and he doesn’t know that EHR means electronic health records (or why access to data in EHR really matters during a global pandemic).
An even bigger challenge is providing journalists with the information in the midst of one of the fastest news cycles any of us have ever experienced. A reporter who is covering nursing home deaths one day may be quickly pulled into an investigation of why the virus is hitting some countries or genders or ethnicities much harder than others. Our teams have found that Twitter is a great way to identify the topic areas where a journalist is in need of help or information resources. V2ers also have been spending more time reviewing a journalist’s Twitter feed as a way of quickly developing a better understanding of where the journalist may already have expertise or where we will need to spend more time in helping them get up to speed prior to an interview.
We are a tenacious, persistent group here at V2, but we’ve had to rely on these qualities even more while working in this media environment. Newsroom staffs are strapped and struggling to keep up with the news cycles and it takes them much longer to work through stories than it does during normal times. And, they are needing to be more selective with the information they use as they’re receiving an influx of pitches and sources than ever before. No matter how pertinent the data or how compelling a client’s perspective, it can now take several news cycles before our pitches and interviews see print or broadcast. We’ve had to be patient ourselves and manage client expectations accordingly as we wait for our stories to get published or our interviews to be broadcast.
It’s an exciting time to be working with media and we’re proud to represent clients who have so much to offer as we work together to fight our way through one of the biggest challenges many of us will ever experience. We learn more every day about how to do our jobs effectively and we’ve all grown professionally as we adapt during this pandemic. We’re proud to play a role in getting useful, relevant information to people who need it and help reporters do their critical job in an environment where the flow of information demands that we all work effectively, and quickly, together.