Media relations during a Pandemic

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Well, 2020. What a year! So many of us have had to learn to adapt this year, whether that has been navigating your way around Zoom, finding ways to keep the children entertained at home or, in many cases, learning how to work in the same house as your significant other! It was no different in the Oracle office. One of our major challenges was finding new ways to navigate our way through the ever-changing media landscape, whilst still building and maintaining relationships with our key journalists.

Many newspapers, both local and national, either completely shut down or significantly reduced their property sections during the first lockdown. Fewer pages meant we had to be more creative with our pitching. Checking in with journalists became paramount as we worked out how we could support them and ultimately continue to secure coverage for our clients. Adjusting and creating a more transparent, two-way line of communication like this has been invaluable to us as a business, and has hugely strengthened our relationships with the press. To find out how we managed during these unprecedented times, here are five insights into our success:

  1. Keeping it real. With different news stories surrounding the pandemic breaking every day, we had to take into account the mood of the country in a way we had never had to do before. It was so important to acknowledge the huge impact of this on property writers, who like all journalists and most other professionals, were faced with a very real and sudden challenge.  We had to be sure that our feature pitches were relevant and carried the right tone, considering new angles like working from home and outdoor space, along with ideas that highlighted key workers and the importance of community. Whilst we were very proactive with our own ideas, we also made sure to enquire about their needs, to ensure we were spot on with our communication.
  2. Unique ideas were key. We all knew what was going on in the world at the time and, unsurprisingly, there came a point when property journalists didn’t just want to hear about the C word! Readers started to tire of the subject and the property pages presented a space that could offer escapism. Journalists began to seek new, relevant, uplifting content which didn’t focus on topics associated with the virus, and we were there to provide them with it.
  3. Going virtual. We might not have been able to meet journalists in person, but that didn’t stop site tours and press meetings; we just had to adapt. With everyone stuck at home and with property supplements sadly shrinking, journalists had more time to fill. We organised a number of virtual press visits with journalists to our client’s developments during both lockdowns, sending them personalised ‘coffee and cake’ boxes to enjoy together over Zoom. This was actually more personal than a usual pre-lockdown site tour, as everyone at home and it felt like we were just having a chat!
  4. Outside the box thinking. An unprecedented year bought new, fresh ideas to achieve the most for our clients. We created unique activity to engage with the press, such as a virtual cheese and wine tasting viewing and viewing event which we held recently with influencer Jade Vanriel over Zoom. Journalists have really appreciated these virtual events as they save so much time, only taking up an hour of their day.
  5. Getting on the phone. Moving away from email and actually talking on the good old-fashioned telephone has been really important. Many journalists have felt isolated and lonely themselves, and have welcomed chats over the phone much more than usual, which has been quite refreshing. The lack of conversation opportunities elsewhere has reminded us how nice it is to connect over the phone, and how restrictive emails can be.

So, although we are now coming out of what has been a very different year, it’s important to remember everything we have learnt and take that with us as we move forward. This year has bought out the best on both sides of the journalist relationship as we have had to work together so closely to create relevant reader content.  We’ve all risen to the challenge tremendously, which has massively strengthened our relationships and achieved great results for our clients.