The outbreak of the Coronavirus has consumed the media cycle in a way we haven’t seen since 9/11. Every outlet from trade publications to local papers to national networks are covering it wall to wall, and it’s forcing out most of the usual political and campaign coverage.
So what can campaigns do to still get their message out in the press? And how can they do it responsibly?
While getting coverage in this time for anyone is going to be incredibly tricky, here are some principles worth keeping in mind.
This may sound trite, but one of the best ways to get coverage is to be helpful in some way.
This can come in a myriad of ways. It could be by relaying information on local closures, best health practices, or other knowledge. The press and the public are scared. Helpful, positive communications is going to be the first litmus test for voters and journalists. For example, you could have a knowledgeable expert, doctor, or scientist participate in a campaign tele-town hall providing relevant (and accurate) information to voters.
No one is going to print your release on a new policy position on U.S. energy policy, but they might cover your position on the new relief/stimulus legislation. If you want to get into the story, look for hooks that are relevant.
Use your own channels.
One of the best ways to get coverage is to make it for yourself through your owned channels. This could be social media, your website, or even a tele-townhall or other means to talk to voters. Reporters will report on those making waves, so look for ways to get your message out directly to voters, and the press will follow.
There’s going to be immense pressure on campaigns, consultants, and staff to force themselves into every conversation. But that’s often not the right approach. The truth is that voters aren’t thinking about politics or elections right now. Inserting yourself needlessly into conversations you’re not relevant in, or related to won’t get you any votes. The world doesn’t revolve around politics, and for once, we should be patient in finding the right places to insert our voice.
We’re in unprecedented times, and there’s no playbook for dealing with this sort of global pandemic. But it will present some opportunities for candidates and groups to get their messages out in the near term.
Mark Harris is a co-founder and partner at Cold Spark Media.