Adapting to the news agenda when there’s only one thing people are talking about

Coronavirus. The pandemic. C19. Covid-19. Health crisis.  I can assume that for most people working in the communications and marketing industries, we have all been trying to find a different way to phrase the biggest global crisis of our generation. In a profession where repetition is a no-go and finding new ways to say the same thing is crucial, how have we managed to adapt when one story dominates the news agenda day in, day out?

Like many other sectors, we’ve had to change our focus – and fast. Hours of planning, writing, organising events, liaising with communities, getting geared up to launch new campaigns, storyboarding, designing marketing materials…we’d all spent a lot of time waiting to share this with the public and now it looks like our desktop is the only place where some of this content will land.

Was this a waste of time? We’ve obviously had to press the pause button on some of these exciting opportunities, but the time spent has enabled us to give trusted advice on what clients and brands should be communicating in an environment that nobody could have predicted.

Despite the frustration that, for the time being, we can’t do the things we’d originally planned for clients, remaining enthusiastic and creative has helped us shift our focus to concentrate on what we can do.

Agility is a word that has been used consistently in the media when explaining how sectors have changed in response to coronavirus, and that rings true for so many of our clients. We’ve been able to share their amazing efforts during the pandemic including that of spirit distillers who have changed their production lines to create hand sanitiser, construction teams who have donated PPE kit to the frontline, football clubs who have supported their fans and the community and schools adapting traditional proms to go virtual.

PRs too have harnessed agility, working quickly and proactively to ensure we continue to make positive impacts for clients who have meaningful stories to tell and helping them become the go-to spokespeople for important matters – both in print, online and via broadcast opportunities.

Looking at the impact that this had on the wider media landscape, journalists and broadcasters have been faced with the biggest story of recent times, but ironically one that may be catastrophic for the industry.

We’re urged to buy a newspaper as it’s more important than ever (as long as we buy one during our allocated shopping time) or encouraged to switch to a digital subscription. It’s a worrying time for the media and that’s why we have to ensure the stories we share will resonate with their readership.

Absorbing news from across a multitude of channels and titles, as always, helps us to understand what journalists are looking for. When watching the daily briefings from both Scottish and UK governments, we are forecasting what’s going to be on the 6pm news that same evening and making tomorrow’s newspapers, so producing relevant content quickly has never been so important.

Adapting to the news agenda when there has been only one story making the front pages daily has, of course, had its challenges.  It’s been important to bear in mind exactly why we have had to change. It’s a scary and uncertain time, so the tone and messaging used within communications needs to be sensitive and positive if we want our clients’ reputations to stay strong.

However, despite the harrowing headlines, we have seen communities come together and start initiatives that will have a lasting impact when the coronavirus cloud eventually clears. Both internal and external communications have been paramount for all businesses throughout the pandemic, highlighting why this investment can make such a fundamental difference.

Hannah Fisher – Account Manager