At the end of March, Gannett has announced they will furlough workers at more than 100 newspapers between April and the end of June. Every journalist making more than $38,000 a year will have to take one week unpaid sometime during the three months. This includes USA Today, The Arizona Republic, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and many other city newspapers.
At the same time, journalists are on Twitter talking about how exasperated they are because of the massive number of emails they’re receiving from PR professionals that they just don’t have time to read—relevant or not.
Now you add on top of that they will not be able to answer emails while on unpaid leave—or on an extended furlough—and suddenly earned media goes out the window.
What is one to do when an executive or client wants publicity or ink or press and you don’t have anyone to pitch?
Check Before You Pitch
We’ve been here before. During the Great Recession, many of the journalists I’d spent my career building relationships with were furloughed…and then never got back to work as newspapers and magazines went out of business. And, while earned media never really returned to where it was pre-2008 (hence the creation of the PESO model), we did figure it out.
And we’ll figure it out again. But here’s the thing: right now, you have to be incredibly careful about pitching anything to anyone. Yes, there are lots of journalists who need to cover something, other than COVID. And that’s great! Stay on top of those relationships, but be really careful about pitching those who are furloughed.
Those who are furloughed have been told they can’t read or respond to emails during that time. A journalist at the Tennessean Democrat said she was told she will be on furlough for seven days and she’s not allowed to open her work email. She said, “I haven’t done that in, well…ever.”
You can bet if you send something while they’re furloughed, it will never see the light of day. We’re also hearing rumors that it isn’t just Gannett newspapers, but the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, The Boston Herald, Sports Illustrated, and more. Forbes has a daily updated tracker where you can check before you send that news release or email pitch. And do check! Not only will your pitch not be seen—it’ll likely belong to a mass delete when journalists get back to work.
I know this is challenging when you’re being tasked to get earned media attention right now.
Get Over the Earned Media Slump
Spend some time gathering ideas that will help you in this earned media slump. That’s what we’ll do in today’s Spin Sucks podcast episode.