By Todd Murphy | March 30th, 2020
First, a post about the media and public relations may seem trivial in relation to how the coronavirus has impacted our healthcare, economy, and the way we live. But as a media monitoring and measurement service, we still have an obligation to help our clients track their earned media exposure and measure their public relations’ efforts. In fact, while some of our clients have seen a downturn in their own earned media, the healthcare, government, and emergency management clients we have are relying on us more than ever. Our clients that are addressing the pandemic on behalf of the public are keeping our team, mostly working from home, busy at this time.
Is it strange, or surreal, or even good to think that a pandemic can increase the value of our news monitoring and measurement services. I would say, it doesn’t matter. The shift in media habits has impacted our business, like all businesses, for better or for worse. This shift in media habits and coverage simply “is what it is” and we have an obligation to deliver the best efforts to our subscribers.
So, how has public relations changed since the Covid 19 pandemic? Hopefully, PR professionals are modifying their approach based on the emerging trends below. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on what our media monitoring service has seen since March 1, 2020.
First, there’s was a great article published on March 26 with a quote in the headline of, “The appetite for news seems greater than ever”. The New York Times reports the appetite for news is greater than ever and has seen strong increases in viewers. You may not have noticed, but you along with nearly everyone else in the United States is watching, reading, and viewing more news so you can stay informed of the latest news on the novel coronavirus. Publishers are also seeing a spike in both print and digital subscriptions, which exposes more of the public to professional journalism and public relations’ messages.
Second, “In a time of crisis, people turn to local news.” According to Comscore, they have measured a 45% increase in local broadcast news ratings, with the share growing by almost 10%. These measures mean more people are watching their local news, which is helpful for local PR and organizations that hope to make a larger impression on the public.
Lastly, U.S. Digital subscriptions to newspapers rose 63%, as reported by Digiday, during the middle of March when compared to the same period last year.
I should probably note that on the creation side of public relations, many or most PR practitioners are now working from home. Like our PR software, most media monitoring organizations have their tools completely cloud based, so PR professionals don’t need to work at their office computer. They can login from anywhere to receive their results, share specific stories, or analyze their impact.
So what does this emerging information do to help inform the public relations industry? I feel there are two big takeaways from the news renaissance we are seeing.
- More people are paying attention to news generated by professional journalists than before. This is great for PR because the stories pitched, or events proposed, have to have an informative angle to them in order to make the cut for the news. If a message is too “pitchy”, or too mundane, it won’t make the cut. But with the public’s return to true news outlets, the PR industry has a great opportunity to capture a larger and growing audience. Will this renaissance continue after the war on Covid 19 is over, maybe. But for now PR must capture the audience while they can. Clearly stories about pandemic healthcare, activities from home, or how a business is adapting at this time is what the news wants.
- Timing has changed for news consumption, largely based on our new lifestyle. This is a very interesting observation relayed to me from a TV station manager this morning. The local affiliates in their station group have seen the number of viewers drop during their early morning shows, typically from 4:30am-7am CT. However, they have growing numbers in the evening and late newscasts. From a behavioral standpoint this is logical. Think about it. If you are working from home and start at 8am, you no longer have to get up two hours early to shower, dress, eat and drive to work. A 6am wake-up makes that local news block from 6am-7am great background programming. But if you’re waking up at 7:30am to put on your slippers and grab a cup of coffee, before logging on from your home office, you’ve already missed that local morning newscast. For this reason, this station group is adding more news over the lunch hour to capture those workers who are eating lunch at home.
How is Universal Information Services adapting to the changes for both our clients and the news media? We are providing greater media measurement for organizations that want to review their crisis management response. We’ve released a new version of our AI enhanced Alpha Clips platform, that allows more news to be consumed more quickly, and have added social media listening to the desktop and mobile app. Speaking of mobile app usage, you may have seen the statistics on how much more time you are spending on your mobile device.
According to an interesting article from Mashable, using a quasi-scientific polling method via Twitter, they found that most respondents admitted their “screen time had increased by between 50 and 100 percent” during their Covid 19, work from home period. For this reason we’ve also added new functionality to our Alpha Clips mobile app (Android or Apple). For our clients, tracking, sorting, sharing, and monitoring their news is no longer done between 8am and 5pm from their desk. The majority of our clients are accessing their earned media exposure across more hours and from different locations like the couch, kitchen table, bedroom, or the backporch. Just as PR professionals are adapting to the new normal, our media monitoring and measurement teams are retooling to better serve those clients.
Watching the media trends, adapting our behavior, and creating innovative tools will ensure the work of PR continues. And just as sure as the sun setting and rising, this time at home will change… but we will all have learned much.