A lucky group of us at Clarion were recently given the opportunity to visit one of Britain’s national newspapers to get the inside scoop on how the other half work. And when I say other half, I mean of course journalists - we all know there’s a love/hate relationship between journos and us PRs, and although some don’t like to admit it, we do work hand in hand to help deliver news.
One of the main issues with this sometimes precarious relationship is the lack of understanding of how each other works - and like any relationship it’s all about compromise and learning to work together. What better way to learn than to visit the other half’s environment.
Our exclusive Clarion visit was to The Daily Telegraph in Victoria, one of the most technologically advanced news operations in London; on arrival we were greeted by a senior newsdesk journalist, who had kindly taken time out to show us around. It was fascinating to see where people you call on a daily basis sit and work - the sheer size of the office was incredible, but one thing that stood out for each of us was the silence that hung over the office. In our minds, we thought the phone would be ringing off the hook, with PRs selling in their Monday morning news stories, but we were reminded that it was the Monday following the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and that our hosts hadn’t finished work till 1am that morning - and we thought PRs worked long hours.
So down on the floor, next to the conference call area we were able to explore what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to our unbalanced relationship:
1. PRs should speak more often to Forward Planning the day before a sell-in - most nationals have someone on the newsdesk whose job is to compile a diary of forthcoming stories, so if it's a big story, well worth doing a phone round and asking for Forward Planning.
2. Before contacting Forward Planning, PRs should always see if there's a specific correspondent it's worth trying the story on, ie Consumer Affairs, Consumer Technology, Showbiz, etc - and try the story on them a couple of days before the sell-in.
3. There are stories of a senior newsdesk journalist who currently has around 23,000 UNREAD emails, who says he rarely opens an email if he doesn't know the sender - so every reason to get to know your personal contacts on the Nationals
4. Utilise news and photo agencies: journalists trust that the stories and photos syndicated by agencies will be relevant to them, and are therefore more likely to open their emails than an unknown source.
5. Maintain maximum relevancy: if you have a light-hearted story, try targeting the online team as they are possibly more likely to consider it.
Soon our time was up and it was time to go our separate ways - with a greater understanding of the way the other half works, and thoughts on how we can utilise what we learnt to strengthen our relationships with the other half.