Wash your hands

COVID-19 Requires PR Professionals to Find a New Way to Work with Reporters

Scott Detrow, Political Correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) was among many reporters this week who reported that a colleague in the White House Press Corps had tested positive for COVID-19, the result of which would be an effort to reduce the number of onsite reporters at daily White House Press briefings

The results were palpable in the lead-up to subsequent briefings. 

For those of us in the PR industry handling communications tasks related to grocery lines, delivery services, drive-thru testing or anything else that creates a needed and newsworthy connection between people and services, it’s our job to help advise on how to keep all parties safe. 

As The Hoyt Organization has supported many of those tasks this week – the first week since California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a statewide “shelter in place” order – a number of considerations have risen to the surface.  Major news organizations that are accustomed to placing news crews in harm’s way — in the paths or hurricanes, wars and genocides — are now taking steps to conduct reporting via Skype, Zoom or any other method that allows for sound bites to be collected at a range of six feet or more. 

This is a new reality.

In the cases our agency has handled so far that required interviews for COVID-19 testing sites, our rules have included:

  • Scheduling media interviews to ensure no more than one crew is not onsite at any one time;
  • Requiring visual media to avoid photography and video that that could positively identify patients (faces, voices, cars, license plates, etc.) without their express consent; and
  • Asking onsite crews to conduct interviews with boom mics, disinfected wireless stick mics, or other audio-gathering capabilities that keep interview subjects at a safe distance from reporter news-gathering equipment.

This is far from a complete list. But it’s what the media, public and clients expect at this time. These top-layer ideas ensure safety and privacy. 

As an agency, we are committed to ensuring any client activity follows at least these procedures.