Research by BrandImpact Consulting has shown how the COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020 affected the relationship between public relations and media platforms.
The two-month study analysed 624 editions of 12 publications in March and April 2020. Newspapers used in the research include BusinessDay, Daily Independent, Daily Sun, Daily Trust, Leadership, New Telegraph, Nigerian Tribune, The Guardian, The Nation, The Punch, ThisDay and Vanguard.
Typically, public relations and media houses have a symbiotic relationship. While the media serve as a platform for public relations to reach its audiences, PR provides media platforms with content to build readership and drive engagement. The relationship was visibly affected in April by the COVID-19-induced holiday.
There was a noticeable drop in the volume of public relations content pushed to the media as a result of the decrease in corporate activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decline in the level of corporate engagements with stakeholders adversely affected the volume of newspapers in terms of the number of pages.
According to the research which was conducted on a 95% confidence level and a 2% margin of error, the cumulative average number of newspapers’ pages decreased by 33.3% in April.
Speaking on the findings, Lead Analyst, BrandImpact Consulting, Austin Ayaosi, noted that even though in-house PR teams and agencies were working remotely, a significant part of what they did in April was deploying content in the media to inform stakeholders of what their brands and clients were doing to support in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
“Corporate engagement in April was majorly around corporate social responsibility which led to an increase in CSR-oriented content in the media. In the Banking sector, for instance, CSR-led content accounted for 55.8% of banks’ content in print media as against 12.9% CSR content in March”., he said.
However, the study showed that some tier-2 newspapers may not rely on PR-driven content to sustain their volume of pages as much as some tier-1 publications. It also revealed the scramble by PR professionals to connect with educated, enlightened, and well-informed high net worth audiences through tier-1 publications.
Mr. Ayaosi also noted that some media houses may actually need a bailout as large portions of their publications were dedicated to COVID-19 news coverage. “Volume of corporate and other ads declined. The corporate engagement was limited, ‘society big wings’ were on holiday, burial ceremonies and social gatherings were restricted; all of which negatively impacted the revenues of media houses. The impact was so severe that some publications could not even publish a single edition in April during the lockdown”.
BrandImpact Consulting is a media and public relations measurement and research consultancy that provides brands with data-driven insights to help public relations and communication managers design smarter strategies to achieve better results.