Telum webinar: Redefining media relationships in the new era

East Asia saw some of the first cases of COVID-19 and a prolonged period of social distancing. There has been a glimpse of hope with fewer cases recorded daily and some of the lockdown measures being eased in certain regions.

On 12th May, Telum Media organised its first webinar for the East Asia region where three veteran journalists and media professionals, namely Aries Poon, News Desk Manager and Hong Kong Bureau Chief at S&P Global Market Intelligence, Mat Booth, Director of Video at South China Morning Post and Jasmine Yap, Co-CEO Asia Pacific at Citigate Dewe Rogerson shared their experience of weathering the outbreak and insights on what opportunities lie ahead for the media and communications industry.
 
Communication amid uncertainty
Given the widespread governmental measurements and restrictions on social distancing and travel, the media industry has needed to find new ways of getting contacts and news sources. Aries said it is important now more than ever to build trust via different modes of communication, such as cold calls and virtual meetings. 

The entire SCMP office was shut down one week before Mat’s long-prepared big project with a high-profile interviewee, all because of a confirmed case in his office. His guiding principles for his team - be transparent in communication, like coming clean about your travel history.
 
Jasmine shared her digital media outreach experience. She has recently seen a return of clients asking for more online media and training sessions despite events being dropped due to the pandemic. In the investor relations space, she pointed out investors expect more information in bad times, but it is as important to be sensitive to what people want to read. 

A shift in news focus
As the coronavirus spreads, so does an "infodemic" of misinformation. Mat said although the current news cycle is still dominated by COVID-19, the news focus has turned to “recovery” and “expertise”. He also noticed greater popularity and surging readership interests in science-based and medicine-based articles, like vaccine-related stories. He added that there is a high appetite for good news and stories of people helping each other.
 
The demand for database articles and data dispatches have also risen, Aries said, as people look to credible and evidence-based information during times of crisis.
 
Be creative and adaptive
Jasmine said PR professionals have had to think of creative and adaptive ways of putting their messages across. Awareness campaigns have to be done differently, so is media outreach. “The use of digital is definitely important,” she said, adding that she has recorded more participation in her recent digital investor relation events.

Albeit the challenges and loss of human interactions, PR and media professionals have had to endure, as with every crisis big or small, they manage to pull through in their very own ways. Mat recalled interviewing a New York funeral home remotely from Hong Kong via Skype. His team schooled the owner to document his daily life himself. Therefore, anyone who reaches out to him with "a link or very good video" would be much more likely to be entertained, he said. 
 
“It is also a test of resilience,” Aries echoed. Journalists are trying to be adaptive in reaching out to people they do not know and have never met. “How to gain the trust” has become an important topic in developing new sources and contacts, he said.

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