State Policy Network
The do’s and don’ts of pitching media during the coronavirus

By Meredith Turney, Senior Director of Leadership Development and Strategic Communications

Media pitching is both an art and a science. It takes good instincts and an understanding of the news cycle to know when and how to pitch certain story ideas. In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, many public policy organizations are pitching their policy ideas or perspectives. However, it’s important to understand that especially during times of crisis, media are limited in the types of guests and topics they cover. They have a singular focus on the main story and will pass on any stories that aren’t directly related to the headlines.

State Policy Network has several media experts on staff and on retainer to help state think tanks with their media pitching. We have helped many groups successfully pitch their op-eds, guests, and ideas to a variety of national and local outlets over the years. Here are our do’s and don’ts for pitching media during this crisis.

Don’t Pitch:

  1. Complicated or long-term policy ideas. There will be a time and place for these—but it’s not right now. Currently, media are focused on the unfolding crisis’ impact. That means medical professionals and elected officials making decisions are the guests on most programs.

  2. Articles or op-eds that criticize government harshly or are sarcastic. It will hurt your brand to come out swinging right now, and media aren’t receptive to these types of messages.

  3. Anything overly partisan. This is a time to unify, not divide. Put an emphasis on solutions, not blame. People are scared. Don’t frighten them even more by telling them what isn’t being done, what can’t be done, or how their government is failing them.

Do Pitch:

  1. Solutions that directly address the crisis. This means ideas about healthcare, school, or travel—any area immediately affected. The coronavirus crisis has created a sudden opportunity for the implementation of the policy solutions you’ve worked on for years. Now is your chance to introduce these ideas and explain how they can help.

  2. Examples of the power of community and how your policy ideas are helping solve the crisis. This is the time to reiterate that the free-market ideas we’ve touted are helping us get through the crisis and will continue to serve us well. It’s unfortunate that it took an emergency to make leaders and the people receptive to these ideas. But now that they are, let’s communicate how these ideas work both in crisis and beyond.

  3. Ideas or resources that will help expedite medical treatments or cures. Also, share policy ideas on how to resolve problems that arise because of the pandemic. People are singularly focused on how to stay safe and healthy right now. So focus your content on what really matters and is relevant to them at that particular moment. Also, remember to source your content with a fine-tooth comb.

  4. Ideas or resources that will help people with immediate concerns. What solutions do you have that will help people make decisions about finances, mortgages, car payments, or school? What ideas do you have on how people can get access to food, essentials, and information? This crisis stretches beyond the immediate healthcare issues. How can you help people who are worried about taking care of everyday matters?

Remember above all else to choose empathy. People are hurting right now—physically, emotionally, and financially. How can you show that you and your organization truly care about the impact of this crisis and can help lead people through it?

Please feel free to reach out to SPN’s media professional, Kate Brown, for help with media pitching. She will assess each pitch and share her feedback on whether it has a good chance at placement. SPN will also keep you apprised of opportunities for commentary and insights as the crisis media coverage evolves.

Thank you for all you’re doing to spread the word about solid policy ideas that will help our country survive and thrive through this unprecedented time.