Every publication is prioritising stories related to Covid-19. With staff writers mainly working on corona stories, any news about the space industry tend to exclusively focus on the big names such as SpaceX, NASA and Virgin Galactic/Orbit. Making it near impossible for start-ups to have their news and developments mentioned. Having spoken with journalists and editors, it is vital however to keep sharing announcements about non-Covid-19 stories.
Because the changed situation has an ethical element, greater care has to be given to content and tone of voice though. Press releases that previously would have been perfectly normal and fine could now be conceived as insensitive and even callous. It is therefore prudent to evaluate the risks with each announcement, quote and statement.
C&F has put together seven tips to communicate with journalists during the Covid-19 crisis.
1. Continue to share non-Covid-19 related news. Businesses shouldn't stop sharing relevant news. Depending on the importance of the news beyond the main market/sector publications it might be worth holding off. At the same time, if it involves a household name there still is a good chance of being picked up. News is especially valued if it’s practical announcements about how businesses can help organisations and people.
2. Be extra sensible and cautious in what you publicly say and announce. Businesses are advised to keep their news factual and not be too boastful and self-centred. This could be ill received and be regarded as detached and dispassionate.
3. Look to the future. It’s not just about what’s happening right now but what can the business do to help going forward? There are also opportunities to talk about how implications that can already be felt are likely to continue and grow. However, predictions especially at an early stage are to be treated with caution. The earlier and further ahead the prediction, the greater the chance to being proven wrong within weeks.
4. Be responsive to journalist requests. Responding to journalist requests is always advisable of course but being extra receptive during stressful times will go a long way. There is great value in providing reactive commentary to journalists, especially during a crisis. It also gives you an indication of what journalists are most interested in. What they are asking could be as important as putting out a news announcement.
5. Be clear in your messages. It sounds obvious, but a legitimate story may be dismissed if the reader feels alienated by the tone of voice. Communicating in a straightforward and understandable way, using simple words and sentences, supports your efforts. And striking a sincere and human tone, instead of cold-hearted corporate language, is more important than ever.
6. Silence is golden. If you’ve got nothing to say about coronavirus, then don’t force it; rather than adding to the deluge of information.
7. Closely monitor reactions and comments. Similar to other crises, a stressful situation like a pandemic creates tensions and extra sensitivity. As a result people are more likely to be alerted and respond in a negative way. Keeping an observant eye on comments and being careful if and when a response to comments is adequate. To be fair this last point is less about journalists and more about their readers of their articles and followers on social media.