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Will 2021 See the Return of the Evergreen Story Pitch?

Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels

Sometime during the endless hours of news coverage I consumed in the days following the presidential election, I caught a comment from a podcast producer who was providing political analysis. I don’t remember where I saw or heard him (though CNN was on in the background a lot that week) or what podcast was his, but he said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since—and something that could represent another shift in how media relations professionals do our work. 

Just before the producer signed off, he remarked on how a Biden presidency might allow him to finally revisit his file of evergreen stories he had hoped to be able to cover someday. The file had been building for about five years, he said, just around the time the Trump campaign exploded on the scene in a major way. And he anticipated that a more traditional administration might slow the news ever so slightly to allow for this type of coverage again. 

My favorite stories to pitch have always been features—which are also the first to go when there’s a lot of news. And, it’s true that I have both pitched fewer in recent years (because I knew reporters just didn’t have the time to focus on them) and had fewer successes when I did decide to try them. But they are powerful and can tell an institution’s story in ways unlike a straight news story can, and the possibility that some reporters might be more receptive to them in the near future is an important opportunity.

I don’t know if his prediction will prove true. It’s possible, especially while we’re still dealing with the pandemic, that the news will continue at its current pace. But if he’s right, we might expect the ways in which we do our jobs to change slightly as well. 

For starters, a slower news cycle might mean we, too, could slow down. It might mean that we don’t have to feel like we’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions every time a major new story breaks, which sometimes can happen multiple times per day. We could be more deliberate in seeking out feature stories that highlight our missions and strategic priorities. We could talk to more people and identify spokespeople that aren’t yet on our radar. We could spend more time gathering stories that evoke emotion and demonstrate our ethos in ways other types of communications can’t. These are the kinds of stories that caused me to fall in love with media relations and higher education. 

To be clear, even if the news cycle does start to slow again, it’s unlikely to happen right away. We remain in the grips of a devastating pandemic (which some might argue also took a back seat to presidential election news at points). But I am optimistic, even despite our social media-programmed, constant search for content, that more outlets will find themselves with more space for those evergreen stories again. And I, for one, am looking forward to that.

This post originally appeared in CommPro.