The coronavirus pandemic has taken many industries by storm and the media is no exception. Maity Interiano, Emmy-winning journalist, correspondent on Univision Network’s morning show “Despierta América” and founder and creator of the travel blog, www.MaityontheGo.com, shares insights on how COVID-19 has transformed broadcast news and how companies can reach audiences with messages of support and optimism.
What should companies think about when pitching a news story?
At Univision, we work under the philosophy of “Why are we doing this, why are we sharing the story, what are we bringing to the audience?”. As a result, when a brand or company reaches out, they must keep that in mind. There is a need to be conscious of what the situation is. People are looking for help. People are struggling. They are worried. The question that companies should ask themselves is: “How are we going to help alleviate this struggle with the information that we are providing?”
This is the time to be genuine. Our audience is smart. They know when brands are acting out of purpose and when they are simply taking advantage of a situation.
What types of stories are you focusing on right now?
We are running stories that help people access information easily. An example includes tutorials that guide our audience and teach them how to complete tasks and/or access information step by step.
We are also looking for stories that people can relate to. There must be a human aspect to each of the stories that we run. For example, we are looking to learn about people (or companies) who are helping, as well as for those who are going out of their way to support with generous acts of kindness. We also want to talk to experts who can provide helpful tips to address the struggles that the community is facing.
What are the most meaningful initiatives you’ve seen from companies in the last few weeks?
One of the biggest worries across the board is unemployment. There are companies that are hiring and many that have had to downsize. Either way, companies should be transparent with the information that they provide. The companies that are hiring have been great about giving us information and making it easy for us to communicate it by providing details that inform people on how to apply online.
Companies that are offering free services have also been helpful, providing information on how consumers can access these services.
Timeliness and quick responses are critical in times like these. We are working in an environment that is more fast paced than ever before. Our stories are changing by the second.
I think in many cases, PR teams are working non-stop. I have reached out for comments, quotes and even interviews and the response has been rather quick and usually within 12-24 hours-whether it’s via email or even a Skype interview with a spokesperson explaining or giving more information. This has been so helpful.
How has the newsroom changed to adjust to the current situation?
I am on my third week of working from home. It’s been a challenge, but it has also taught me many lessons. Many of us are working from home. Therefore, we are using Skype and telephone interviews to be able to tell our stories. This is a challenge, because “Despierta América” is a show that airs for 4 hours Monday through Friday, and for the past month we’ve been producing a special every Sunday as well.
It is remarkable, because sometimes we only have a few people in the control room and they’re making sure that everything runs smoothly on Skype, just like it would behind the scenes of the live show.
I’ve had to figure out how to set up lighting, how to make sure my connection works, how to connect my modem and router to make sure that I have the fastest internet. From a communications perspective, I must be more precise with my interviews, so I can get the material quickly and be able to finish the story. Precision helps to ensure that the story is interpreted in the same way by me, my editor and the copywriter.
Really, it has been about coming together as a team in times of crisis and being able to put together a show, a story or whatever it is we are working on.
What are some of the positive aspects of the new way of working?
I am a big fan of concerts; they provide a connection between artists and fans, and virtual concerts give you access that you wouldn’t otherwise have. They bring you and the artist to the same level – you’re both in the living room, you’re both at home. I applaud those artists who are taking advantage of digital platforms.
I recently interviewed Maluma and Lin Manuel Miranda from their homes. We had an easy-going conversation, and as a journalist I appreciate having that accessibility. It’s different from the studio, where there are tons of people around and everything has to be perfect – from lighting to everything else.
Maybe this is a way of getting to know people better, whether it’s artists or professionals in other industries. Right now, we are all in this together. I can communicate with you via Skype, and I can communicate with Maluma on the same platform.
You write a travel blog. The travel industry has been one of the most affected. What is your perspective on what travel companies should be communicating right now?
I think something good can come out of all of this, and I also applaud all those hotel and travel companies that have been making videos and photos available on their websites, so that if people cannot physically travel, they can do so virtually; it’s a way to escape from everyday worries, especially if they can’t go outside. The travel & tourism industry is getting hit hard, but we will appreciate travel even more when we get through all of this.
If I had the time, I’d be doing more helpful tips on how to explore places from the comfort of your home. I did a segment for “Despierta América” on the parks that are sharing virtual tours. Many museums are making their collections accessible online as well. It’s not the same as being there, but it sparks an interest.
There is enormous appetite from consumers to hear positive messages. People have more time on their hands, and they’ll be navigating the internet and Instagram. So now is the time for destinations to share what they’re about, because people have more time to discover.
What are you reading / watching to stay in the know?
Unvisión has a great platform. UnivisionNoticias.com is a live blog that is updated hourly by journalists from Mexico and the U.S. We get updates from Los Angeles and Miami to New York, the cities where the news is being generated. A lot of its content feeds our shows, including “Despierta América,” “Noticiero,” etc.
I always refer to the CDC and USA.gov for up-to-date information, and Johns Hopkins is a great resource for numbers & statistics. Of course, I also read a broad range of outlets, among them The Washington Post, NPR, The New York Times, CNN, Fox News, and subscribe to several newsletters.
What is the best way for brands to reach you?
Email is best for a pitch from a brand. You can reach me at email@example.com
You’d be surprised how many stories I am getting from Instagram, because of the nature of the show. “Despierta América” is not only news – we’re sports, we’re entertainment, we’re everything. It’s something that I appreciate because every day is different.
I recently covered the story of a gentleman whose father passed away and couldn’t travel to say goodbye. The story showcased that this pandemic is real, and it showed us how to take care of our elders and appreciate every second. I also interviewed a couple who met on each other’s balcony. It was a great example of how social life is happening despite social distancing. I also interviewed a business owner in California who is making masks at her printing company and has donated more than three thousand to the community.
I’m always on the lookout for content – whether it’s from the concierge, a new report from the CDC, or content on Instagram. On Instagram, communications teams can tag me or DM me @maityinteriano.
Gina Carriazo, Director