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The role of the media during Covid-19 and why it’s more important than ever before

These are chaotic, life-changing times and millions of us are relying heavily on a daily, maybe even hourly, dose of trusted news and information to provide clarity and guidance; turning to regional and national media, as opposed to social media, for crucial updates.

There’s no doubt it’s a rapidly changing situation. It’s hard to keep up with developments and I for one, find it can be confusing with mixed messages and sensationalist headlines. So, it may come as no surprise to hear that at this uncertain and worrying time, consumers are turning to trusted, traditional media brands and live TV.

According to a new behaviours study by Havas Media Group*, the BBC has become the most trusted news source for information and updates, with 64% of people citing it as a factually correct source of information about Covid-19. This was followed by Sky News (29%) and The Guardian (15%). Over half of respondents (53%) said they are using BBC News more than before, almost double that of any other channel.

On a regional level, the results are even more impressive. Figures from the BBC show on a single evening at the height of the crisis, 6.2 million people watched their local regional news at 6.30pm. Compared to last year, the average audience across England has increased by 47%. That’s quite something.

So what does this mean for businesses and their public relations at this time? You might be expecting the next bit but we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Communication is key. Many businesses are cautious of the media, wary even, but it shouldn’t be something to be afraid of. At a time like this it’s important to remember they need you, as much as you might need them.

Trust me, I’ve been on the other side of things on this one and nothing makes a journalist’s life easier than clear, efficient and concise communications. Especially when you’re up against competing deadlines and a situation that is changing literally by the minute. So now is the time to build those relationships, which can be both mutually beneficial and rewarding.

This is an unprecedented time. A time that calls for businesses to ensure they are relevant to their audience, while remaining sensitive to the evolving situation around us. Above all, it’s important that you take charge of the messages you want to get across, to ensure they are reaching the right audience.

It’s important to remember that the relationship with media is a two-way street – more so now perhaps, than ever before. In recent weeks it’s been a challenging time for many, especially churches. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth, with its 66 parishes across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, was told to suspend all public services and, days later, to close all churches.

As their communications advisors, we’ve helped them to communicate to a large and varied audience, including their loyal congregations that they are conducting a daily Mass and Evening Prayer on YouTube. With a large number of the Diocese’s audience, probably not online or technically equipped to view YouTube Live, we needed to turn to mainstream media.

Clear and concise communications, shared with television and radio, in particular, has helped to ensure they reach the maximum number of people. Simple yet sensitive explanations for the difficult decisions they have had to make, combined with the creative ways in which they intend to operate – the live streaming of services being just one hugely successful idea. Subsequent media coverage online and on radio and TV, has not only promoted their work but has also provided a valuable route for getting those important messages and information out swiftly and positively.

This past few weeks, and most probably the months ahead, show us the media has a much greater role to play than simply providing a channel for stories and good news to be communicated, at a time of our choosing. Fostering those positive relationships with the media and realising it’s a relationship that needs developing over time, is crucial in the long term – whether the news is good or bad.

Either way, at least we can ensure we are prepared.

*Source: Havas Media Group study