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Navigating through a Covid-19 media landscape

Vicky Flannigan shares some important dos and don’ts for brand communications.

Whether you’ve made the conscious effort to steer clear of the news during lockdown or you’re bingeing on a nightly basis, it can feel pretty hard to escape news about the Covid-19 pandemic. If you’re a brand, it’s tempting to wonder whether this period, during which the general public are more switched on than ever to earned media, could be a great time to take advantage with your own announcements.

But take a look into the depths of Twitter and you’ll see an ever-increasing list of brands and agencies being shamed by journalists and consumers alike for their opportunistic behaviour during this crisis.

So how can you connect with the general public in genuine ways that won’t risk their censure? We’ve spoken to some of our best journalist contacts to round up the DOs and DON’Ts of earned media pitching during this time, without using the word ‘unprecedented’ once.

Don’t: appear to be profiteering from a pandemic. It sounds obvious to most ethical marketers, but a recent study from Kantar warned that 75% of respondents felt that companies shouldn’t exploit the health crisis to promote their brand.

Linking health products to Covid-19 relief without any recommendation from public bodies? Celebrating record sales of your sanitising products in your press releases? Using Covid-19 statistics to push your agenda? Steer clear of such tactics – the reputational damage could far outweigh the initial sales boost you’re looking to generate.  

Do: think about your employees as potential communications channels. Journalists are more interested than ever in how your organisation’s staff members are faring, and we’re seeing an increase in articles emerging from disgruntled colleagues in national newspapers.

Don’t: blind journalists with corporate jargon. If you’re providing a statement on how your business is reacting to the crisis, give the reader the respect of transparency and clarity.

Do: look at new ways to engage with media. We’ve seen successful webinar events, online fitness classes and self-care packs make our contacts happy during this time. Do your research to find out what content is working best around journalists’ schedules.

Don’t: avoid pitching altogether. While health, policy and social affairs journalists are generally working exclusively on Covid-related stories, there are still opportunities and journalists who have regular slots and features to fill.

So there you have it, five easy tips on how to avoid potential backlash for your brand during the Covid-19 pandemic. Are there more? Absolutely! The rules for engaging are changing daily and we’re committed to guiding our clients through this time unscathed, so drop us a line if you’re in need of a helping hand.

is Head of Earned Media in our Consumer Health & Beauty team. She is an expert in media & corporate comms.