Pitching seasonal media stories is a staple of consumer public relations. The coverage calendar ebbs and flows with many of the same topics year after year, and our job is to find a new angle to help our clients shine. Back-to-school season has been one of the most consistent and far-reaching seasonal stories to tie to – until this year.

Covid-19 upended back-to-school planning, with schools and universities around the world evaluating and reevaluating plans throughout the summer. The news coverage around how schools will handle education in the pandemic – and how students are faring – remains the focus of media, leaving little room for other storytelling opportunities.

How do you cut through the clutter in a time of such tumultuous news?

Tailor stories to the reality of Covid-19.

With some students engaged in full-time remote learning, others going to class, and some doing a mix of both, there is no one-size-fits all approach to storytelling this year. Pitches should reflect that this is not a normal school year for parents, teachers or students. Does your client’s expertise offer something new about going back-to-school in our unique situation? Do you have products that help with remote learning? Healthcare tips that take mask wearing into consideration? The more specific to today’s environment your pitch is, the better chance it will resonate with reporters.

Gather newsworthy stats.

The benefit of being in an unprecedented time is that there is so much unknown about health and lifestyle behaviors in a remote learning pandemic environment. Conduct a survey to gather information that will drive stories and establish your client’s expertise. For example, we conducted a survey of parents for our client, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to determine the impact remote learning had on children and teen’s sleep habits.

Go beyond editorial media.

In addition to being overrun with urgent news of the day, media have been impacted by furloughs, layoffs and closures. This back-to-school season is one of the hardest ever for placing an editorial news story, so we must look at other opportunities for our clients. Consider influencers who can help tell your stories, bylined or sponsored articles with mat distribution, and owned content through blogs and social channels to get your messages to audience in other ways.

Shannon Quinn
Shannon Quinn
Executive Vice President, L.C. Williams & Associates
Shannon Quinn is an executive vice president with L.C. Williams & Associates (LCWA) in Chicago. LCWA is a full-service marketing communications agency. It is one of the top agencies in Chicago and a top US agency specializing in home and housewares, food and beverages, and healthcare, according to O’Dwyers.

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