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Opinion: Get your coronavirus message into the news

By Dave Yonkman

The local news industry is not immune from the coronavirus.

As if market forces weren’t already shrinking newsrooms, reporters and producers are now working remotely. Their communication happens virtually over text, email and videoconference. They need relevant and accurate information more than ever as government closes private enterprise, and in turn their marketing departments.

Reliability and truthfulness are critical as the Fourth Estate fights back against unreliable websites and sources.

So how do we get our information through to media outlets without overburdening them?

First, ensure that your data is not tainted by personal emotion and is firmly rooted in fact. Rumors and innuendo are always irresponsible and don’t help anyone. Passing on a story from a relative who posted an article from a questionable outlet on a social platform is not the same as referencing Johns Hopkins or the CDC.

A lie circles the planet before the truth can even get out of bed. This adage becomes especially true in the age of Twitter, WhatsApp and LinkedIn. Double and triple check your sources before sharing your story.

Third, get the “who, what, why, where and when” in the first paragraph. The longer it takes someone to read a message, the more likely they are to not finish it. That’s basic human nature.

When delivering food to those in need, for example, tell your local paper or radio station the name of your organization, what you are doing, why you are doing it, where you will deliver the aid and on what day and time.

Don’t wait until your event is happening or an hour away. Media outlets simply don’t have the resources to cover those stories at the drop of a hat. Understand that a reporter assigned to your feature story may be pulled at the last second to cover a breaking life and death development.

If you are announcing something special, include a web and print-friendly logo or a photo to which you have legal rights. Images are required for web stories these days. Send a .jpg file that is high-resolution and 4x6 inches at a minimum. Ensure that it doesn’t become fuzzy or distorted at that size. Many online tutorials can help you to get it right.

Fourth, follow the appropriate channels to deliver your message to media professionals. Most, if not all, offer a publicly available contact form, email address or phone number. The rules remain the same regarding breaking news and feature stories. If your announcement is urgent, call to follow up that day. If it’s a month out, wait a little longer.

Finally, multiple social and digital platforms enable you to communicate your information, but don’t rely solely upon them to deliver it. You may have the best dedicated social media presence, but it will get lost when news breaks.

People look to media organizations to curate information for them. Help them to amplify your announcement. Remember that journalism careers live and die based upon performance. People are more likely to trust them as a disinterested, third-party authority than they are a tweet.

We will get through the coronavirus together despite the challenges, which include fine-tuning how you get your information to your reliable local outlet.

In the meantime, let’s help and pray for those whose health and lives are affected by it. We’ll get through it much faster if we all try to make one another’s lives easier.

Dave Yonkman is president of the health care public relations firm DYS Media and is the former Washington correspondent for Newsmax Media.

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