Media relations and media strategy have been hot topics throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and UK lockdown. Initially some clients wanted to batten down the hatches, stop communicating externally and ride out the storm – unclear about how to navigate not just what to say and how to say it but also how to gain cut-through in a completely changed healthcare media environment.
A pandemic is (hopefully…) a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence and, quite rightly, it took centre stage with almost-blanket coverage across the media for months. But it also became clear that NOT communicating wasn’t what people wanted or needed. In fact, it was quickly apparent that people wanted to hear more from trusted sources, particularly in the healthcare and science sectors.
They wanted clear, concise, accurate information to help them understand not just the health risks of a global pandemic virus, but the personal changes suddenly thrust on them.
In May, mid-way through lockdown, The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update: Trust and the COVID-19 Pandemic revealed that trust in news sources was at an all-time high. Traditional media (+7 points) and owned media (+8) saw the biggest gains. And the need for credible and unbiased journalism was clear with fake news concerns high: 67 per cent of respondents said they were worried about false and inaccurate information being spread about the virus.
With this came strong public demand for expert voices, with people wanting to hear from the most trusted sources of information on the pandemic: doctors (80 per cent), scientists (79 per cent) and national health officials (71 per cent).
So, although there was initial reluctance, this rapidly switched as clients realised they could have a voice, that their voice was needed, and that clear communication was as important as ever.
Because we have such a wealth of media experience across The Difference Collective, we were able to help them develop a new tone suitable for the changed times and ensure stories were being looked at through a new COVID-19 lens. We had continued our media relations and media strategy work behind the scenes, ensuring that when clients felt the time was right for them to begin communicating again, they were ready.
For example, we worked with a pharma client which had highly complex and ever-changing media relations strategy and content needs directly linked to COVID-19. Our team was able to guide, advise, create and support from a place of real experience and seniority to tread a very careful path in uncharted territory.
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the media landscape. The majority of journalists are no longer in the newsroom, making them harder to get hold of than ever before. The bar to hit to get a story over the line and gain coverage for clients has been raised dramatically. It is knowledge and experience which is now vital to a successful media strategy – at The Difference Collective we have a wealth of proven, time-served talent that’s more than equal to the challenge.
About the Author
Jo Willey has been a journalist for almost 20 years, working across a range of national newspapers from the Daily Mail to The Sun. She is now a highly sought after communications specialist offering media strategy and content development expertise as well as media training both for in-house teams and spokespeople and is an expert facilitator for advisory boards and meetings. She also still works as a freelance journalist writing for titles including the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times and The Sun.