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4 Tips for Navigating Media Relations During Historical Moments

February 4, 2021
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As we start 2021 with news of vaccines, rioters, and a presidential inauguration, we’re resharpening our skills on the art of media relations for moments that will go down in history. Some may have grown numb to the intense, quick-changing news cycles, but a  PR professional is still keen on approaching the mass media carefully and respectfully. Whether you’re just getting your feet wet with media coverage and conversations, are unsure of how to move forward, or need a quick refresher, we have four essential tips to help you navigate digital public relations during historical moments. 

Have a Pulse on Current News Cycles

Public relations professionals must be aware of what’s in the news, especially during highly-publicized events. We can get wrapped up in our to-do lists or pitching priorities but it’s never a good look to pitch someone without the wherewithal of what else is going on in the world. It’s always a good idea to keep a news tab open to refresh throughout the day, but an even better idea to have a dedicated team member responsible for flagging unique PR trends and breaking news a few times during the workday news cycle. 

Communicate and Set Expectations with Clients

Our clients look to us as trusted experts and lean on our recommendations for media relations. That trust is heightened during larger moments in time and the news. It’s up to us to debrief our POCs on what the media landscape will be like, and set expectations on media coverage and how active our outreach will be. If there’s a timely product launch on the calendar for that week, do a gut check on how timely it truly is. More than likely, the brand news isn’t as urgent as the client might feel and can wait until the dust settles so it doesn’t leave the wrong impression or gets lost in the shuffle. Offer your expertise to marketing areas outside of traditional PR such as paid and organic social media. If there’s an influencer campaign slated for that week or social posts scheduled to go live, take a second look at timing and readjust if need be.

Know Your Audience

Of course, we are familiar with vetting the right contacts for specific pitches, from their specific beats to usual story angles. This year has taught us it’s essential to take this a step further by knowing more about your contacts, such as where they live. If your go-to beauty editor lives in the area where breaking news is happening, it’s safe to say he or she might be consumed in their local news rather than the latest drop from your client. If the contact includes social handles in their bio, take a look to see if they’ve sent any recent tweets on how they’re approaching writing and accepting pitches at the moment. 

Be Authentic

Remember that the people on the receiving end of your email are human, too, and stay away from those generic introductions of “hope you’re well” when we’ve all experienced a range of emotions this year. Put your personal touch through a common interest, how a recent story of theirs made you feel, or simply check in on them without a direct pitch behind it. Similar to knowing your audience, take a look at their social media channels if public and try to find common ground to expand on. We are all trying to do our jobs, but at the end of the day, treating writers as the people they are rather than writing robots can help build a relationship. 

If the last 11 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have taught us anything, it’s to be resilient and aware of others through ups and downs. Being in the know of national and worldly news can prevent publicists and brands from coming across as tone-deaf. Knowing more about the writers you pitch and adding a personal touch is a trusted PR strategy when it comes to tackling media relations in historical moments. Remember that it’s okay not to pitch some days and use it to your advantage to update media lists, get a headstart on reporting, or take your own mental break. What PR tactics have worked for you in the last year?


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