Have We Reached the COVID-19 Media Tipping Point?

April 23, 2020

By Ryan Richert, Executive Director, Global Media and Jonny Bentwood, Global Head of Data and Analytics

The volume of coverage surrounding coronavirus over the past several weeks has been all-encompassing. At the beginning of March, media stated quite clearly to PR pros that if the story is not about the pandemic then they don’t want to know. However, will this situation remain the same for the foreseeable future?

The data doesn’t believe it.

The above charts show the number of global news stories over the past month and the number of stories on social media that gain massive traction. Both trends point to the same conclusion – the appetite for these stories has massively declined.

Anecdotally we see similar evidence. In the third week of January in China, the typical story in Asia was “what would people do when they could leave their home.” Meanwhile in the UK, similar stories started appearing this week.

Looking to the east we can predict what will happen in the west.

Just as the desire for non-coronavirus stories occurred as the lockdown period went into its final phase before graded removal of measures in Asia, we are seeing the same trend appear in Western Europe and the US.

We are not saying to brands that now is the time to start pitching “go and buy me,” but rather now is the time to start the planning process for the next stage as coverage is changing.

This is the planning pivot point.

So, what does this mean for media relations in April? Here are a few thoughts from Golin’s earned media experts:

  • Limit and carefully research your media targets. Outside of a few industries like technology, most product news is not breaking through to a widespread audience in most countries where coronavirus cases are peaking right now. There are exceptions, so spend plenty of time researching reporters’ past stories, current coverage and social media posts to make sure they are still covering their beat. Reach out to a handful of reporters, not hundreds.
  • Tell a good news story centered on people, not products. While the number of news stories about COVID-19 is decreasing, the appetite for good news is skyrocketing. Several media outlets are covering heartwarming stories. Make sure your story is authentic.
  • Plan for the future. Now is the time to start thinking about what stories to tell as society gradually reopens. Our colleagues in Asia tell us that the themes of business innovation, health/wellness and permanent changes to our new normal are attracting journalists’ attention in that region.

By using data to inform earned media storytelling, you can ensure you’re reaching reporters with a relevant story today and a well-planned story in the days to come.

* If you have questions or are seeking counsel, please reach out to Ryan at rrichert@golin.com and Jonny at jbentwood@golin.com