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Five Media Pitching Practices Learned During COVID-19

As travel publicists, our approach to media pitching has inevitably changed and continues to change in the wake of this pandemic. Publications like Lonely Planet have ended much of their production, laying off writers in their Australian and UK offices. How, then, as publicists, do we navigate this new landscape without a compass?

Fortunately, the lessons we’re all learning are not entirely new. They are probably the first chapter of every PR 101 textbook, but they have become even more important in the current climate and have forced us to go back to the basics while being open to seeing our practices from different angles.

Revisiting these tips and putting them in the context of the new world we live in will be essential for moving forward. Publicists need to work carefully with a battered travel press that, like the industry it serves, will struggle to return to a sense of normalcy. With good travel PR at their side, however, we’ll get there soon enough.

1. Be creative

It seems like this should be obvious, but working on lots of projects and meeting deadlines can sometimes leave publicists falling back on old routines and tricks that might not cut it anymore. With routines upended, this crisis has forced us to be more creative than ever to get attention for our clients. while media pitching.

When everyone is pitching human interest stories or virtual travel opportunities, how can a publicist make a destination stand out to a journalist? How can we find a newsworthy story when everyone is at home?

Look to social media – and not just the obvious networks – to dig deeper into a destination. Facebook and Twitter are great, but check the latest on Instagram, glance at Reddit, and spend some time going down the rabbit hole of social media to find out what’s going on when we can’t actually be there in the first place.

2. Be sensitive

Never in our lifetime have we had something so severely impact the everyday lives of every single person across the globe. We’re all feeling it, publicists and journalists alike.

In normal times – if you can remember – we rarely knew what the person on the other end of an email was going through, or if personal issues would somehow make our pitches seem insensitive. COVID-19, however, has forced us to acknowledge the human side to business more than ever.

Of course, being sensitive doesn’t just mean writing the phrase “unprecedented time” at the top of any follow ups when media pitching. It means taking the time to think about the relevance of the pitch and whether or not it will be perceived as tone deaf or opportunistic. A lot of media has already been called out for promoting events or products without seeming to be aware that billions of people are sacrificing their normal liberties to stay at home. The last thing a publicist wants to do is compromise relationships with the media, especially now as travel journalists are becoming an endangered, or at least dormant, species.

3. Be resourceful

We all are working from home, but publicists need to use the tools at their disposal. We have been calling upon our colleagues for second opinions and brainstorms in ways that we didn’t when they were sitting next to us at the office.

This resurgent resourcefulness in media pitching has helped us determine how to be more efficient, strategic and sensitive during the COVID-19 crisis. Too often we operate on autopilot, but taking the time to talk through and flesh out an idea with others can bring forth a more successful result. It also allows us to feel more connected while working from home, so it’s a great tip for professional and personal development.

4. Be flexible

With the news cycle changing every second, we have had to be extra flexible and pivot our pitching strategies with every new development. We’ve been looking in places and speaking with people far removed from the travel industry, adapting their stories to the tourism industry, discussing everything from wildlife preserves and hand sanitizer to mobile symphonies and gimmicky food deliveries.

Gumby himself would be impressed with the pitches some travel publicists have come up with in the past few weeks.

This sense of adaptation is important to continue beyond the pandemic when the usual stories and round-ups won’t cut it anymore. We should be constantly tweaking our messaging and approach to be as relevant and strategic as possible. The younger publicist within us might be saying, “Yeah, duh,” but we all lose some flexibility as time goes on, and it’s time to get some of it back.

5. Be Informed

It has always been important to keep up with current events and trends in journalism, but the pandemic made this absolutely vital in a way that publicists can’t fake. Imagine pitching for a client to a publication only to find out that, an hour before, the destination closed its borders. You could make an omelet with all the egg you’ll find on your face.

Staying informed not only means keeping up with global and national news, but keeping up with the local news that could potentially impact your client. These actions will show your client that you care and are proactively thinking about them and how you can bolster your campaign efforts. It may even be time to subscribe to that local news site that you’ve been thinking about for months. Supporting local businesses now It may be a small investment to help you do an even better job during the COVID-19 epidemic and beyond.

With travel PR more stressed than we’ve ever seen it, it’s time to do all we can to keep our clients happy, to help guide them through this crisis, and to make sure they prosper after.

Looking forward to working more proactively with the travel press as we begin to enter the recovery phase? DCI has more than 60 years of destination marketing experience to offer. Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn more how we can work together.

Written By

Julia Ryan

Julia Ryan is a senior publicist in DCI’s Tourism Practice. Equipped with a strong background in public relations in the music and entertainment industries, she taps into her unique experiences to bring fresh perspectives to tourism angles.

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