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Scoring broadcast coverage during COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted society in a myriad of ways and the media is not immune from this. Research in August 2019 by Ipsos MORI signalled that trust in the media was at a five-year low; the result of a series of troubling events including the phone-hacking scandal and resulting Levenson enquiry. But COVID-19 may be bringing change, at least when it comes to news and broadcast media. A recent report of 10,000 UK adults has indicated that while 43 per cent trust journalists to tell the truth about COVID-19, 64 per cent of those surveyed are getting their information from news media [1]. And data from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) shows that throughout Europe, consumers trust radio and TV most [2].

Aside from the credibility and trust that is building in these channels, their reach is undeniable. With hundreds of different programmes across radio and TV reaching large audiences, there is a raft of opportunities available. With the right research you can pinpoint your target audience and achieve some great quality coverage.

Although COVID-19 is currently dominating the media there are still opportunities available for brands and businesses either by providing new relevant COVID-19 content or within the more light-hearted ‘and finally’ slot. It’s critical to ensure that your pitch is perfectly placed to cut through, sensitive to the environment and of high news value. Here are our top tips for gaining traction with broadcast media in a COVID-19 world.

Include an expert

It’s no secret that broadcast media love an expert and right now they’re more sought after than ever. Think about the impact of COVID-19 from every angle, do you have an expert that can add their point of view in a new way? If you have access to educators, health professionals or even experts who can add an interesting opinion or human-interest perspective they may be of interest to broadcasters. Broadcasters will have favourite go-to experts they use, so brand experts need to have a real point of difference or a strong viewpoint to secure the space.

Time is of the essence

With broadcast media under immense pressure to deliver up-to-date, insightful news, stories are being turned around faster than ever. W hen the opportunity arises information and assets need to be provided quickly . Because of social distancing format requirements have softened. For example, smartphone footage and UGC is just as desirable as B roll footage. Broadcasters are also covering interviews through platforms such as Skype, Facetime and Zoom. For brands, this means content can be turned around quickly with less thought given to maintaining excellence in production values.

Soften the sell

Right now is not the time to overtly layer in sales messages. Focus should be given to audience need with stories that inform and support. Content must be helpful and educational in tone, communicating how you are supporting your customers, employees and society at large.

Craft your pitch

Before COVID-19 BBC Journalist, Jack Baine explained the importance of a top line in a broadcast pitch, stating that if this is not clear, then you have no chance. Clarity is more important than ever. When creating a call sheet for broadcast media, you need to pitch your spokesperson first. Whether that is a scientist, healthcare expert or educator, their expert knowledge is sought after so lead by explaining what they can offer and what information they have access to. The pitch should also include available interview times, format and reference sources. Remember journalists are very busy so it’s important to make their job as easy as possible.

And one final story

As communicators, we’re all aware of the ‘and one final story’ slot on broadcast news. This is a section ensuring viewers and listeners enjoy some light-hearted news at the end of the bulletin. Broadcast media outlets are looking for a balance of stories and need positive and heart-warming tales to combat the COVID-19 gloom. This could be anything from wonderful brands creating campaigns aimed at helping frontlines workers such as Uber, offering 300,000 free rides and meals to NHS staff to Ikea taking their do-it-yourself motto to a new level with publicly sharing their famous Swedish meatballs recipe for customers on lockdown. Consider what your brand or business could share that ticks the boxes for the ‘and finally’ and pitch away.

[1] Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on COVID-19 Demonstrates Essential Role of the Private Sector (2020)

[2] European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Trust In The Media (2017)


Tags: Covid-19media masterspr coverage