Why the Media Just Isn’t That Into You

Rustic Texture. Retro washed Old Brick Wall Surface. Vintage Structure. Grungy Shabby Uneven Painted Plaster. Whiten Facade Background. Design Element. Abstract Light White Web Banner.

Good press. Everybody in this post COVID-19 world wants it, from the president of the United States to CEOs, as well as nonprofit and government agency leaders. Even when the media coverage is bad, the exposure is good. You matter. You’re relevant. You’re trending. 

So, why are so many brands struggling to find PR love now? There’s some revealing clues in Cision’s 2020 Global State of the Media Report. Over 3,250 journalists from 15 countries were polled in Q1 including a smaller subset who weighed in with opinions specific to the pandemic.

PR Traps in the Coronavirus News Cycle

As you might expect, newsrooms are seeing substantial increases in contributed releases and multi-media content. Good for newswires. Bad for media relations pros. If you think you’re experiencing coronavirus fatigue, imagine what it’s like to be responsible for filtering what’s coming through the newsroom server?

Their only defense is the DELETE button – and they’re hitting it at warp speed. Messaging is too self-serving (focused more on what the company is doing rather than the outcomes produced), tone deaf (a new product roll-out that doesn’t involve job creation is b-list material right now), or shows no grasp of what the outlet typically covering.  

Another consequence of the coronavirus crush is that media response times are significantly delayed. That assumes you even get a reply. Maybe you think a phone call follow-up will help you break through. Unless you have a well-established relationship, you’ll be better served sending an email – and only one. If a reply hasn’t arrived a few days later, you have your answer. Respect it and re-load with another idea.

Timing Your Media Pitch and News Release to Get Media Coverage

Cision’s survey breaks down the days of the week that media prefer to receive pitches versus the quantity submitted. Results show that Monday and Tuesday turn out to be fire hose days when too much content is chasing too few eyeballs. Wednesday is more balanced in terms of the supply-demand curve. And here’s an eye opener: Thursday and Friday are much better. Those were the only two days in which editor desire to receive material was greater than the amount sent. 

Here’s a tip related to timing: Don’t tease editors with an idea and a vague promise to send information and assets later. They don’t have time to track multi-phase submissions. Send a complete package with your initial pitch. If they want something different, they’ll let you know.

It doesn’t take a genetic research specialist to know that a COVID-19 story angle substantially increases your likelihood of getting media coverage and engagement in this current environment. But, it’s not a silver bullet. In fact, one survey respondent said, “….as the web editor, I’d love to see more timely/local stories that are NOT about the virus. Even just one a day would be refreshing.”

That notwithstanding, the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon. Brands who will be most visible in its wake will be the ones who figure out ways to deliver aid and comfort – authentically. Perhaps its feeding, clothing, or sheltering people in need. Or maybe, as one of my client colleagues mentioned the other day, it’s a neighborhood sing-along for people strolling past his house at a certain time of the day. A small, but heartfelt gesture to lighten the mood.

There are endless opportunities to share positivity in this dark cloud of uncertainty. Public relations can be the bright light that shows the way.

Michael Shepherd

Michael serves as Managing Partner of The Shepherd Group, a brand and communications firm with offices in Seattle and Newport Beach. A former journalist, he specializes in building narratives through discovery, design, and development of branded editorial and visual content.


  1. Lisa Davis on May 7, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    This is supportive and real talk all at once. Your strategic guide to our current world as is truly refreshing and heart felt! Thank you for the gift Michael.

    • Michael Shepherd on May 20, 2020 at 5:49 pm

      Thank you, Lisa!