Part 2: The stories that *don’t* work in today’s media environment

June 30, 2020 | Posted by: Outside Labs

In Part 1 of this series, Jin Woo, director of media relations at 280blue, talked about the kinds of stories that succeed in this media landscape. Here in Part 2, I’m discussing the story ideas that just won’t fly in today’s dynamic environment.

As it is, the current market is one of the toughest that modern businesses have faced. With a global pandemic, national protests and the prospect of a downturn happening all at once there is a right and wrong way to approach media relations.

1. Stories that capitalize on the tumult

Trying to capitalize on the current upheaval is definitely not the way to go, and PR teams should carefully consider the angles they are putting forward.
We have heard from several tech editors that their focus continues to be on COVID-19. If your client has information that relates directly to the pandemic (solving, helping) or you have data to share about how your client’s business is weathering the storm, pitch away. That said, you may not have angles that relate directly to the pandemic. If so, see points #2 and #3 for what to avoid.

In general, the changing pace of the current news cycle is much faster than the usual — make sure you’ve updated accordingly.

2. Stories that lack empathy

It’s important to not put forward angles that are off the mark and make you look as if you’re trying to take advantage of, or are oblivious to, the current upheaval — in a word, angles that lack empathy. Because of the current lightning pace of the news cycle, it can be tempting to make quick decisions and respond reactively. As always, read the room. This is the time to remember to approach every situation with compassion and understanding and self-edit and practice restraint before you hit send.

3. Stories that trade only on your success

Meanwhile, it can be tempting to pitch media on angles that highlight your good fortune — because, after all, what could be more newsworthy? But as Taylor Lorenz, New York Times Culture of Tech reporter, reminds us in her recent newsletter, “Unless your story ties into some larger cultural trend, or holds some type of important wider significance, I am not interested in covering it. And frankly, it’s not newsworthy…I’m much more likely to work with you if you reach out offering to help me, rather than ask for free promotion.”

In other words, businesses need to dig a little deeper to find angles that resonate with audiences. How is your company helping employees or the greater community? Now is the time to highlight how you are making a difference and benefiting the greater good. Share with reporters stories that show a wider significance.

Times like these demand broader perspective.