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5 lessons learnt working with lifestyle media during isolation

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have had to adjust not only to a new work-life balance but adapt the way in which we communicate with each other – all from our home. From a Public Relations perspective, we now more than ever have had to adjust our approach to work, timings, strategy and communication skills when working with the media.

While the media cycle continues to be predominantly fuelled by COVID-19 news stories, there is still an appetite for content that is quirky, fun and light-hearted particularly within the consumer lifestyle sector. Outlets are now looking for stories with a sincere and personal element that lightens the mood and provides a perception of normalcy, to give readers a break from the stresses of their current lives. We’ve spoken with New Idea Editor, Toni Hynes on what she is on the lookout for when speaking with PR consultants and her thoughts on the best ways to work with media during isolation. 

Here are five lessons we have learnt on how to maintain a strong relationship with our media connections and continue to drive coverage results for clients over the past two month of self-isolation.

Lesson 1: Timing is everything

Accurate timing is critical when reaching out to media these days. Most publications still adhere to the same lead times; however, all media outlets are now becoming more reactive. Long and mid lead media focuses have stayed mostly the same, but it is the short lead or online media that have seen a major shift. As with most businesses, the day-to-day operations of the media landscape has also changed. Their deadlines are the same (or shorter) and their resources less which means that they have even less time to look at a pitch that is not perfectly aligned with their next story. Taking the time to reach out to media to find out if their lead times have changed is essential, it also gives you an insight to how the journalist works as some may prefer to work within their own specific timings on top of the publication’s overall deadlines.

Toni Hynes, a New Idea Editor said, “I sometimes think because I am working on a weekly magazine some agencies assume that we don’t work to tighter deadlines, but in lifestyle, we still work four weeks in advance. We are always working ahead and planning months out, especially when it comes to events like Mother’s Day and Christmas.”

Lesson 2: Go above and beyond with product send-outs

Even though most of the media are working from home during this time, journalists are still open to receiving media kits, as long as they are relevant to their new work-life situation. Going above and beyond with product send-outs by making them personal, relatable and reusable is something that media will want to talk about and will remember. Incorporating personalised items that they can use daily, want to incorporate into their routine, or make life-from-home a little more are ideal. 

New Idea Editor, Toni Hynes adds, “I always like to test products before writing about them when it is possible. I think it is important to give as honest a review as possible. I would only say that sometimes all the lavish packaging (although beautiful) is sometimes a little wasteful…I think a lot of companies are being more mindful with send-outs, though and trying to be as sustainable as possible.”

Lesson 3: Most are looking for relatable content

Pitching to media over the last few weeks has shown that most journalists are looking for stories that relate to the current situation and that will help their readers adjust to life at home, whether that’s through practical advice or fun inspirational ways to spend your days in self-isolation. Content that I have found is appealing to media includes DIY hacks for at-home recipes whether it be for food or skincare, advice on how to stay fit and healthy or tips on keeping busy while working from home.

Australians are craving heart-warming, supportive stories and ways to help one another get through these uncertain times as much as possible so our stories need to ensure that they include a personal, empathetic angles in order to sit at the forefront of the media’s content list.

“I think that most people are looking for a bit of an escape from all the bad/negative news at the moment. I think I am lucky to be writing about lifestyle, as although it seems trivial, it can be a nice escape for people and I think most of us deserve a little bit of extra TLC, pampering and indulgence at-home at the moment. Any relevant stories on self-care and learning how to do treatments at home for beauty are great at the moment,” says Toni Hynes from New Idea.

Lesson 4: Ensure your pitch is straight to the point

It is crucial that media pitches are personalised and tailored to specific publications, as well as being sensitive to the current environment. Simple and straight-to-the-point pitches grab the attention of our journalist contacts and will ensure you get a response. Publications are constantly launching new sections to their online outlets that specifically target social distancing or isolation stories. Tailoring your pitches to these new sections will appeal to the media and show that you pay attention to the changes that the publications are making throughout this time.

Lesson 5: Sometimes no reply is a reply

It’s a constant battle for PRs to get media attention, cut through the clutter in their inbox and secure a confirmed ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a pitch angle. Add in changing media teams, a new working-from-home structure, and a bucketful of crisis news stories, and we are seeing more and more journalists that don’t have the time to reply to all of their emails – especially the emails with a poorly crafted pitch. Try and refrain from the constant follow-ups and take their silence as a reply. If you are following up, stick to three follow ups maximum this also will depend on your relationship with the journalist and if you have previously worked with them. 

Keeping these lessons in mind when outreaching or working with media will assist you to adjust your communication style and land the media coverage that your client needs to cut through the COVID-clutter. If you would like assistance in or further information on how to best approach media, please get in touch!