Don’t Put A Hold On Media Relations: Pitch Smarter

Don't Use Bad News Cycles As Click Bait in Your Media Relations

On 9/11, when I worked for a different PR firm, I closed the offices I ran, with the speedy permission of my boss. I then went to my office to be there just in case a client or an employee needed my or our company’s attention. 

I told the team to stay home on Wednesday too and that we’d call the ball about Thursday by Wednesday afternoon. The leadership team canceled all meetings and appointments. We called a “Quick Quiet” on all media relations outreach for any client on any topic (none of our clients were either directly impacted by the terrorist attacks or could contribute anything positive to the situation at that time). 

Much to my dismay, I learned that other PR  “professionals” working for or representing companies who could not add anything positive to the situation had not gone quiet. In fact, lots of PR people were busy with their media relations campaigns. Not for services or people who could add to the terrible stories of the day, but they were pitching products as wide-ranging as food to enterprise databases. It was just another day. Indeed one person told me something along the lines of “now is the time to pitch – people aren’t going to want to just talk about terrorist attacks this week.” I convinced him otherwise. 

Now is not that time. 

Don’t Stop Your Media Relations Campaigns

I’ve had a few conversations in the last week with people wondering if they should put their marketing programs on hold given the fast-changing news cycles regarding the Presidential Election, Harvey Weinstein verdict, and the Coronavirus. 

My answer? 

Yes, these are heavy and consumer stories. But, no, now is not the time to go silent. 

Now is the time to be even more strategic and helpful in your marketing. Because, while the presidential election process is urgent, and the Harvey Weinstein verdict does reignite the #TimesUp and #MeToo news cycle, and the Coronavirus is dangerous, all of these are typical news stories in that that are not extraordinary, “just” important. And important news cycles happen every day. If we went quiet every time we were in the midst of an important news cycle, we’d never actually do that work necessary to build a business. 

Be Smarter By Being Helpful

At the same time, it’s important that we not feed the hack narrative that some people carry about public relations and marketing people by jumping on the bandwagon by using these important news cycles as bait.  News-jacking is a legitimate and useful strategy only when what you have to offer is relevant to the news of the day. 

Need a refresher? Read more here and here. 

The best marketers and communicators understand how to carve a market space or story during distracting times. Make sure you’re focused on forging your path instead of being distracted by even important news. 


P.S. Please make sure you have the actual information about the Coronavirus by tracking what the CDC reports. You can follow them here and here