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Three Positive Earned Media Stories in the COVID-19 Era

It seems almost silly at this point to say that we are living through an event with no precedent in the last past century. COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of daily life for hundreds of millions of people and will likely continue to do so for a long time to come.

The nature of this pandemic is such that there is no shortage of frightening news. Of course, as with any crisis, there are also plenty of stories about organizations who have mishandled it in one way or another. In fact, many news consumers are having a hard time getting a break from Coronavirus coverage that seems omnipresent.

For that reason, we decided to highlight some feel-good stories about companies that have garnered attention for reasons that we hope will make you smile.

Federico’s Pizza Takes Out Loan to Pay Employees

Federico’s Pizza in Belmar, New Jersey, was one of the many restaurants and bars impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The restaurant is owned by two brothers who decided they would do everything in their power to take care of their 20 employees: that included taking out a $50,000 line of credit to pay the staff even as business slowed.


As the media analytics pulled from the Critical Mention platform show, what started as just a show of solidarity from two small business owners turned into an earned media bonanza, garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars in publicity for what had previously been a relatively anonymous pizza shop outside of Belmar. The brothers were interviewed for a number of news articles, TV shows and radio programs, demonstrating the power of a positive story during a difficult time.

Minnesota State Trooper Hands Out N95 Masks Instead of Speeding Ticket

Earlier in April, a story broke about Dr. Sarosh Ashraf Janjua, a Massachusetts-based cardiologist who travels once a month to Minnesota to work at local hospitals. The 37-year-old doctor was pulled over by a state trooper, later identified as Brian Schwartz, who admonished her for speeding, particularly because the work she is doing is so important.

After Schwartz checked Janjua’s license and returned to her car, the doctor fully expected to receive a ticket. Instead, the trooper handed her five N95 masks from his personal supply. The doctor later recounted the incident on her Facebook page, writing:

“I burst into tears. And though it may just have been the cold wind, I think he teared up a little as well, before wishing me well and walking away,” she continued. “Like all healthcare workers and emergency responders around the world, I have felt afraid of not having adequate protective equipment, and in my darkest moments, have worried about what would happen if I fell sick far from home. This complete stranger, who owed me nothing and is more on the front lines than I am, shared his precious masks with me, without my even asking.”

Tyler Perry Picks Up Grocery Tab for Thousands

Unlike Federico’s Pizza and Trooper Schwartz, Tyler Perry had been famous for many years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Perry, however, made some positive news recently when thousands of senior shoppers at more than 70 supermarkets and stores in Georgia and Louisiana were surprised with the welcome news that Perry had arranged to pay for all of their groceries. 

A number of celebrities have made generous donations in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, but the scope of Perry’s gesture and the fact that he targeted seniors for the gift helped the story explode. Images of shoppers with their arms raised in celebration or in tears of joy spread across the internet. Although earned media attention was certainly not Perry’s aim—the donation was made anonymously and was only eventually revealed by a manager at one of the grocery stores—Perry’s good deed garnered millions in publicity anyway.

Do you have any feel-good stories you want to share? Please tweet them to us at @criticalmention!

Eric lebowitz
Eric Lebowitz

Eric Lebowitz joined Critical Mention in 2018 as its Director of Marketing. A native New Yorker, he originally began his career in journalism and later moved to marketing, discovering a passion for branding and analytics. Eric brought a background in content marketing, marketing measurement and marketing automation, having previously co-founded and managed his own agency. In his spare time, Eric loves to play as much golf as possible at courses across the country.