COVID-19 has consumed the news cycle for some months, with the media covering the
impacts of the crisis on governments, the public and businesses from all angles.
Around the world, many countries and markets are now beginning to look ahead, planning,
and testing their exit strategies from lockdown.
Navigating these new unchartered waters, it has become clear that the pandemic has
fundamentally changed the way companies need to communicate with their stakeholders.
Consumers are overwhelmed with endless COVID-19 content and media coverage, which
means it is important for companies and organizations to consider how, when and under what
circumstances they should interact with the media during this time of global crisis.
Media Relations in the COVID-19
Overwhelming & Alarming
Coverage Over Time
Mar 1 Apr 1 May 1
As with any news cycle, COVID-19 moves through the news-driven, to insight-driven, to
lessons learned and advice-driven cycles.
There is a continuous reset of the news cycle through the various stages of the crisis as new
information and government advice emerges.
How skilfully businesses navigate these evolving news cycles with the media matters.
There is a careful balancing act when it comes to communicating proactively without being
perceived as exploiting a negative situation.
COVID-19 has changed the very core of how we interact, conduct business, and spend our
leisure time, which means that customer needs have changed on a fundamental level.
Public relations can be a very effective method to sustain business and drive demand for
products and services, providing it is done right.
The national and mainstream media remains mostly consumed with COVID-19, while trade
media outlets are much more focused on their industries and continue to report on non-virus
Currently businesses are creating and deploying organization-wide communications
strategies to update employees, customers and stakeholders on safety procedures, business
impact to date, as well as plans to move forward to limit ongoing or future damage.
Meanwhile, the media are writing regularly, reporting on examples from businesses with
facts, case studies and storytelling that demonstrate the impact.
Every organization needs to do a self-assessment and understand its current marketplace
and target audiences. As the world is addressing COVID-19 and over time achieves the
return to a new normal, so will the news media. It is important for companies to be prepared
for this shift to be gradual and that journalists will be looking for stories that report on the
transition. Where it is in a company’s interest to outline their individual situation, there can be
plenty of opportunity to do so.
Conduct a media audit, monitoring the headlines of your target publications to give a good
indication of the percentage of news that is crisis or non-crisis related. While the initial
information overload may have subsided, content trends are emerging regarding messaging
fatigue. Communications needs to address what matters most to customers, amplifying how
your company offers relief and refraining from taking advantage of the crisis.
The ratio of COVID-19 to non-COVID-19 news will gradually shift, and the readership and
social sharing of the top pandemic news stories will decline versus the current trend. Use
monitoring tools to track opportunities to engage with the media, which will vary by country,
region, and market sector.
1 Strategy Review
Without doubt, the news day remains filled with COVID-19 content.
Most journalists will not be interested or available to cover anything unrelated to the
Journalists from other beats have often been assigned to virus-related coverage.
Every journalist will be looking for ways to cover the pandemic from their perspective, such as
industry news, business restructuring, financial impact on markets and the economy.
2 Align with the COVID-19 News Cycle
No Relevancy No Results
7 Steps For Effective Media Relations Strategy
Proactively engaging with the media at this stage needs to be done in a strategic way and only
Companies considering proactive outreach must consider both the immediate and long-term
needs of their customers, as well as the media and public mood.
To add to our series of Corporate Communications Guides, helping companies and
organizations communicate effectively with all stakeholders through the COVID-19 crisis,
now sets out a seven step guide to creating a COVID-19 Media Relations
Strategy that will enhance brand reputation.
Companies need to be relevant with their communications and there are many ways to
engage with the media appropriately during this time.
Businesses with stories that are directly related to COVID-19 should focus on educating and
supporting the current situation.
Others may be able to offer insight and commentary on how they are responding to ensure
critical product supply and service continuity.
It is a time for brands to be seen to support the greater good with stories that inform and add
to the national and international response.
Non-COVID-19 related stories will begin to cut through again.
Companies that weather the storm, helping to drive growth, will be able to promote their
products and services again, particularly where they provide relief in the form of response
This is not the time to rely on the usual seasonal media relations calendar.
Brands need to tell their story in the right context and provide updates through earned and
owned channels, like social media platforms and corporate blogs on the website.
Society needs to pull together to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and businesses have an
important role to play in this effort. Think how your organization can genuinely contribute to
the community and society to actively help with the recovery from the crisis. Now is the time
for businesses to consider how they can use their products or services for the greater good.
If you are doing genuine good, it is fine to share this with the media and let the facts speak for
Companies need to tread with caution when making their announcements on the help they
are offering and exercise restraint in communicating without appearing self-congratulating.
Treat your news as public service announcements to earn credible and positive media
coverage where others do the talking. All brands need to evaluate whether they will come
across as profiteering from the COVID-19 crisis. Make sure your story is about the
stakeholders and communities you are helping and serve, not about showcasing your brand.
3 Demonstrate Corporate Citizenship
Businesses and governments need help to adapt to the new reality. You can establish
yourself as an industry leader who collaborates and shows others how to cope with the
challenges posed by COVID-19. Industry journalists are looking for stories to be able to
report on what is going on under the surface and show how their industry is dealing with the
effects of the crisis. Many are looking for CEOs who will share their leadership and expertise
during this uncertain time for everyone.
4 Thought Leadership
Reach out with educational insights, industry perspectives and informed market predictions.
If your company can provide information on new customer or consumer behaviours, or you
have proprietary data that will help identify trends or movements in your market, these are all
valued news stories. People want to learn about best practices to prepare their own
Profile interviews are usually an effective thought leadership tool, but CEOs should consider
such opportunities carefully right now in an environment that is highly volatile. COVID-19 is
still a fast moving situation. Journalists are on tighter deadlines than ever, so make sure if
offering yourself as a spokesperson that you are available, on message and a source of
You may have important corporate news to announce, such as mergers, acquisitions, product
launches, business restructuring or austerity measures. These kind of announcements
cannot wait, and you will have no choice but to communicate. The COVID-19 crisis should
be referenced in your messaging to inform stakeholders how the news will affect them and
how your business will be better equipped to face the future.
Companies need to be cautious in issuing or promoting corporate news that will be viewed as
out of touch, risks criticism, or creates a lasting negative brand impression. There may be the
temptation to promote the business or product in a way that seems relevant to the COVID-19
crisis, however brands must avoid the appearance of trying to capitalize on such a serious
If your brand’s product or service touches on new needs that have arisen and has become
more urgent because of COVID-19, then you should reach out to the media. When
communicating the benefits of your new product or service, let the journalist make the
connection to how you are helping to solve the COVID-19 crisis. Generating positive media
coverage will attract the business and financial media who are looking for companies that are
weathering the storm as they are looking to help investors identify smart investment
opportunities beyond COVID-19.
There may be times when it is in your best interest to hold on certain corporate news
announcements for the sake of achieving the right media coverage once things have settled
5 Corporate Announcements
Just as other organizations, media and news outlets have had to adapt to remote working.
Sending samples to a journalist, or arranging face-to-face meetings is currently not an
option. Luckily, technology exists to force us to be creative and reach out to the media with
virtual press conferences, CEO podcast interviews, webinars and video streaming.
Post COVID-19, the ‘spray and pray’ approach to media relations is definitely out of the
window. The best media relations approach is to focus on relationships with your key
journalists and playing the long game. Check in with them and learn about what they are
experiencing right now. This will lead to a conversation to give you insights into how they are
covering COVID-19, ways you may be able to help and whether they are working remotely.
If you do not have a relationship with a new journalist you have identified, position yourself as
a go-to resource. Share well-researched information, what the brand is doing to provide aid,
relief or support and provide context for why it matters. Follow journalists on social media,
many of them will share the stories they are working on and put out queries for sources they
There is nothing wrong with asking journalists, especially those you may work with on a
regular basis, whether they are open to stories now. Share your plans to help your
employees, customers, community, or your own business through this challenging time.
Media want to help their audiences and readers overcome COVID-19 by reporting on best
practices from other companies. Stick with media relations basics and be patient.
6 Online Media Relations Exercise
It is important not to boast about how your business took off during the crisis, otherwise your
brand will be perceived as profiting from misfortune.
Even if you are offering in-demand products or services, the wrong choice of message could
be construed as inappropriate in the current climate.
Businesses should share news that creates optimism in the market, but this must be done
Instead of reporting on your increase in orders, with no regard to the impacts on the wider
community, offer advice to businesses struggling to overcome challenges brought on by the
Not only will you communicate from a position of strength, but also that you understand
success is measured by how you add value to the wider industry.
There are still media outlets that are forging ahead with business as usual. They need
non-crisis-related news to fill pages and airtime. Tread with caution and be mindful of the toll
of the COVID-19 crisis at large.
COVID-19 is firstly a humanitarian issue and brands need to be sensitive with content that
acknowledges the challenging times and reflects current consumer sentiment.
First and foremost, brands must reinforce their commitment to the health and safety of their
employees and customers.
Keep your outreach to the media empathetic and positive, highlighting areas of social good or
social impact. Always back up your campaign with data and expertise and do not be
discouraged if you do not hear back immediately. Just as all of us, journalists have been
affected by the COVID-19 crisis with changing priorities and strategies. Be consistent in
sharing reliable information as your ethical responsibility.
Companies aspiring to survive the crisis need to continue communicating for their own good
and in the interest of their customers and employees. Any media relations needs to be
carried out strategically and regularly adjusted in line with the latest COVID-19 news cycle.
Going forward, customers still want to know how you get your product or service into the
market, how much capacity you have, any changes to your business structure and other
adjustments you may be making.
7 Sharing Successes
Remember that journalists are stretched and newsrooms are thinly staffed, so the more
comprehensive and relevant your information is, the more likely you will achieve effective
Always consider whether it is insensitive to pitch to the media with certain stories where they
are not about COVID-19.
Even businesses that have experienced explosive growth need to adapt their PR campaigns
to the current times, which requires a new communications approach that is in tune with the
public mood and demonstrates compassion.
At this stage, the media is particularly receptive to stories that show how companies and
people are coping with the crisis.
As brands explore ways to participate in the news cycle, they should examine more than ever
whether a story premise is self-serving.
’s experienced PR team currently works with both national and international
clients to review and manage their COVID-19 Media Relations campaigns.
is an independent communications consultancy based in Saudi Arabia.
Our understanding of the local market converged with our global reach and knowledge
enables us to bridge our clients with their audiences effectively.
We are aligned by the objective of filling the gap in communication that exists in the local
Therefore, our specialty lies in building bridges that sustain relationships and create brand
reputation and value through innovative approaches.
Our array of services includes, but is not limited to:
• Corporate Communications Strategy
• Media Relations
• Public Relations
• Crisis Management
• Corporate Social Responsibility
• Internal Communications
• Reputation Management
• Public Affairs
• Social Media
• Marketing & Brand Solutions
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