By Emilie Lutostanski • Director, Local News Resource Center
A core pillar of a media organization’s community betterment charter, not to be overlooked during the COVID-19 crisis, is the effect of the pandemic on the local business community.
This canvasses a wide range of merchant and citizen needs, including (but certainly not limited to):
- Helping residents access products and services of need and acquire them in safe, secure ways
- Giving local businesses the proper platform to reach residents with updated information, notable operational changes, and answers to important questions
- Beyond just promoting “shop local,” enabling community members to actually do so, to give businesses the immediate financial support they need
With more residents being told to avoid public places for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, local news organizations are finding creative ways to help their readers and viewers support local businesses, including through new products, resources and direct engagement.
In Cape Girardeau, Mo., the Southeast Missourian created a “COVID-19 briefly” series that provides running updates on business and event cancellations, changes, and other notable developments. Local enterprises and organizations can submit these directly as announcements that run prominently on the site as part of its virus coverage.
The Record-Journal in Meriden, Conn., sent an email newsletter to all local businesses in its database inviting them to submit a free announcement “related to any important notices, changes, or events,” which it is compiling and running on special pages in print and online. The newspaper is also actively working with local merchants to help them promote and sell gift cards, which buttress them with much-needed cash.
The Dallas Morning News not only advises residents about how to live safely and abide by city laws (ex., get takeout or order delivery), but features content that spotlights specific businesses within different parts of the metro that readers can order from.
Similarly, WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC, provides local businesses with a means of communication through their platform to inform residents of what they’re doing to help their customers, and how in turn customers can help them.
ClickonDetroit has launched a “Help me Hank” resource guide for COVID-19, compiling organizations, companies and businesses that are supporting the community, including through discounted food and virtual services.
A large-scale example of local media working to support local business during COVID-19 is the recent launch of Support Local from Gannett / USA TODAY NETWORK. The directory centralizes businesses including restaurants and acts as a portal and point-of-sale for gift cards. Users can also add businesses to the directory, which includes restaurants and other businesses in more than 240 cities.
The 60 local television stations owned by The E.W. Scripps Co. launched “We’re Open,” a public service campaign to encourage viewers to help local small businesses stay afloat during the global pandemic. It includes weekly #TakeOutTuesday content and promotions to encourage support of local restaurants.
Community Impact Newspaper staff have created interactive Google Maps with information about local restaurant offerings. Executive Editor Joe Lanane said reporters and editors across more than 59 local communities have been busy calling to confirm and convey openings, abridged operating hours, deals and more.
Often times, there are ongoing efforts from many local Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau teams to not only create and maintain directories but also elevate local businesses during the pandemic, which can and should be combined with local media efforts.
Want to share how your media organization is supporting local business? Send an email to Emilie Lutostanski (firstname.lastname@example.org).