Five key components to a successful media campaign in the current COVID news cycle
Pitching a medical story to the media in the current COVID news cycle is a daunting task with conversations around outbreaks, vaccines, hotel quarantine and COVID variants dominating column inches and broadcast slots.
This has been true for some time now of course, but for the rest of 2021 we are at a nadir; a slow vaccine rollout coupled with yet another outbreak and lockdown in Melbourne has been like a large dump of kerosene being thrown on the COVID news fire.
So how do you ensure your story gets the attention it deserves when all eyes are focused on the flames in front of them?
Here are five components your story should aim to include before you should consider bringing your story to the media.
While you might not need all five every time, each one you can hit increases your chances of success.
Is your story COVID related?
If the answer to that question is yes, you’re off to a good start, if not consider how you can make your story relevant to it.
In a pandemic where attention and funding are diverted away from other health issues, unintended consequences will appear. Try to dig into these hidden COVID impacts and highlight them in your story.
For example, diabetes was arguably Australia’s greatest health challenge before the pandemic, but it has been largely absent from public health and media discourse since.
Highlighting the impact of this and outlining solutions can help give your story currency.
Mastering the art of timing is crucial to successful proactive media relations campaigns.
While it can be your enemy, breaking news can also be your ally if your story, issue or spokesperson is relevant.
Journalists are often looking for fast reaction from experts who can offer deeper analysis of the issues at hand. Make their life easy by sending them fast-turnaround comment or pitching a relevant story at the right time and your job will also be made simpler.
Another important consideration in the context of timing, is picking the quiet moments of the news cycle to pitch a story with no relevance to the big stories of the day.
It is no use trying to pitch such stories to medical reporters from mainstream news outlets during an outbreak. If you must, look to newswires, junior reporters, local news outlets and broadcast. But there is virtue in being patient and waiting for the right time; the swell will eventually ease off, and when it does it’s time to grab your board and catch your wave.
Now is not the time for pitching a soft news story without any real news hook.
Pitching a soft story in the current news cycle is like taking a spoon to a sword fight, but if you’re backed into a corner and under direction to push forward regardless, strong language can be your choice of weapon.
Emotive language, backed by strong patient case studies, appeals to a journalist’s nose for a human-interest story. If you’re courageous enough to use this combination it can have a powerful effect on your chances of success.
This comes with a caveat; only be political if it aligns with your business or advocacy goal. There is no use stirring the pot at every opportunity, as it will harm your chances of developing constructive relations with government long-term.
However, with a Federal election due in the next 12 months, the media will value stories that highlight health issues neglected by government policy and funding.
We can expect this trend to grow in prominence as rumours of a federal election begin to circulate with greater frequency.
Choice of messenger
As this pandemic has consistently demonstrated, the media and the public crave comment from experts and local ones at that. They also want to hear from patients with emotive stories.
Each time you select a messenger(s) for your story you should be asking yourself:
Are they a genuine expert in their field?
Are they local?
Do they have an impressive title?
What are their achievements?
What is their life story?
For the health industry, attracting media attention is a difficult undertaking at present, it makes your strategic and tactical approaches all the more important in ensuring you don’t blow a precious opportunity when it presents itself.
If you’re thinking about pitching a story to the media, download our earned media checklist first here