Jarrard Inc. Daily Counsel

How has the media landscape changed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic?

We’ve never seen a news cycle quite like this before.

While it’s no secret that our media ecosystem has changed dramatically in the past few years, COVID-19 has accelerated the change exponentially in just the past few weeks. This is creating a unique challenge for hospital communicators working proactively to share important public information while also managing the flood of incoming media inquiries. Even as a bit of the initial media intensity seems to be dropping in some areas, the underlying issues and questions remain.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you navigate this new environment:

  • The news cycle is longer. COVID-19 is the story and will continue to be for weeks. The coverage may feel repetitive, but it’s top of mind for everyone. As it continues to dominate the headlines, we’re starting to see more variation in the angles that tell the story. Bottom line: The media deluge won’t be stopping anytime soon, and the types of questions will be more probing.
  • There’s room for more voices. Providers have an opportunity now to present other perspectives and elevate the voices of different clinicians in this moment. Look outside the ER and ICU for your stories. Examples: Obstetricians can provide reassurance for expectant mothers who will be delivering during the pandemic. And behavioral health providers can address anxiety.
  • Everyone is jumping in. Media reporting specialties – aka “beats” – have been declining for years. But with COVID-19, every reporter is now a healthcare reporter. Sports reporters are covering the pandemic from the perspective of professional leagues cancelling their seasons and athletes and coaches who are affected by the virus. General assignment reporters who are not up to speed on healthcare dynamics are being sent to the front lines for coverage.
  • Journalists are fighting for job security. The media industry has been struggling for years with declining revenue and consolidation, but the economic consequences of COVID-19 have taken an even bigger toll in the past few weeks. Journalists are wanting to secure their positions, and there’s even more pressure to get the right story at the right time.
  • Others are trying to make a name for themselves. Count on freelancers, bloggers and others working for non-traditional organizations to be contacting you. Take these individuals as seriously as you do traditional media. Be prepared for more assertiveness and a tendency to push to extremes.

Takeaway: These shifts mean that you’ll likely have more interactions with media whom you haven’t worked with before. They may not understand the complexities of the healthcare industry. At the same time, you may feel more aggression from journalists. Be patient, proactive and transparent. Taking the time to provide context can go a long way with how your story is told. And try to keep things in perspective. This is a hard time for all of us.

Mandi Kane