Water Hub Blog

Media outreach: ‘business as usual’ has been obliterated

Anyone else tired of hearing about the “new normal”?

Yes, the pandemic has shifted a lot. But there’s nothing normal about what’s going on in the world … or how things are going to look when we come out of this.

Still, many things aren’t likely to go back to the way things were before. Newspapers being one of them.

As I wrote in our recent report The Virus of Uncertainty: The COVID-19 crisis’ impacts on water news:

“Business as usual” has been obliterated.

Everyone is scrambling to adapt … and to be heard in an increasingly noisy digital world; a world in which many people (policymakers, constituents, advocates … everyone) are feeling the distinct overwhelm from the “new normal” of video meeting fatigue, disrupted schedules, concerns about
social unrest and public health, and the blurred boundaries between work and home life.

The combination of declining journalism capacity and growing competition (from the pandemic, protests, and increasingly contentious politics) have made it harder than ever to place water stories in the press. We’re seeing a sustained drop in the overall number of water supply and safety stories (check out the media analysis section of the report for more). By contrast, the COVID crisis has increased awareness and news coverage of long-standing water access and affordability issues, and reporters are paying more attention to the intersection of race and water.

So, how can we adapt water communications to work in an era of shrinking newsrooms, furloughs, travel constraints, and heightened competition for media attention? 

Watch the full briefing (video below) for the highlights of the report and a discussion with partners about how we’re pivoting our outreach. 

Bottom line: media outreach has shifted and we all must adapt.

Timeliness is more important than ever. So be sure your op-eds and pitches are relevant today … not a week ago.

And think beyond newspapers — pitching more broadcast news and thinking outside the op-ed box (pivoting to more DIY storytelling like blogging, social media, and direct outreach) — is essential. 

If you’d like to strategize about how to adapt your water communications and/or integrate more digital strategies, please reach out to Nicole or Kimiko.