With marketing and media budgets usually (unwisely) among the first to be slashed when companies find themselves in trouble, industry professionals and the media are finding themselves in similarly vulnerable positions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our work.

A significant number of media houses and marketing and communications firms are facing financial pressure, along with salary cuts, job losses and staff reductions.

In April, the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) expressed concern about the increasing number of media houses facing drastic falls in earnings as a result of diminishing advertising revenue during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown. Among those hardest hit have been media heavyweights like Caxton, Moneyweb, Associated Magazines, the Mail & Guardian and African News Agency (ANA).

Since the role of the PR professional arose out of the existence of the media, as PR professionals we have a critical role to play in supporting our media peers over this period.

But how can we do so? Here are seven ways we can express solidarity.

  1. Put your money where your mouth is. Where we can, we should support the media industry and journalism through subscriptions and donations. If there are news platforms that you use regularly and admire as a professional, perhaps now is the time to activate a regular subscription to their services as a way of supporting the hardworking men and women churning out news for your benefit. Or, if regular financial support is out of reach for now, consider a once-off donation which is now also possible and encouraged by various media outlets.

 

  1. Recognise that good quality news coverage cannot always be supplied free of charge and without restriction. Millennials (and then even the almost millennials like myself) have become working adults in an era in which we have broad access to a wealth of news and information online. This can cause us to expect that free news is an absolute right, rather than a privilege. Reward good journalism by working with, rather than against, media revenue tactics like paywalls and premium content restrictions.

 

  1. Go virtual with media engagement. COVID-19 has exposed the many tools at our disposal to make the practice of communication easier and more efficient. Let’s harness them and tap into all these new ways of working now available to reach the media and their readers, listeners and viewers.

 

  1. Reach out to your media peers on a personal level. As journalists continue to play a critical frontline role in keeping us up-to-date about COVID-19, they may be facing personal difficulties, worries and psychological trauma. Check in on your media friends and let them know you’re thinking of them. Also let them know when you’ve seen a stand-out piece of journalism from them.

 

  1. Share and amplify any accurate, factual, credible, insightful and responsible updates from your favourite media sources. It’s a pat on the back of your media peers. Refrain from spreading misinformation, disinformation and “fake news”.

 

  1. Don’t be completely tone deaf. Refrain from sending the same pitches to the media that you were sending pre-COVID-19. Not only could the pitches come across as frivolous or insensitive, but there’s also a danger that they’re not relevant to the types of stories people want to see right now about the virus and its impact on society and the economy. While we’re trained to leverage off the news cycle, this pandemic is hardly the time for PR newsjacking.

 

  1. When the tide turns and clients are willing and able to invest in advertising once more, lobby for securing a slice of that pie for reputable media outlets that support the client’s audience and objectives.

Amid COVID-19, media outlets are seeing increasing audience figures yet sharply falling revenue, despite their critical role in helping to inform and empower South Africans, stimulate public debate and promote accountability.

Journalists, like PR and marketing professionals, are facing uncertainties in this climate. We can all work together to make sure we come out at the other end stronger and even more united.

Jozi Donjeany-Meth
PR Director
Logico Creative Solutions