What journalists want: The how, what and when of adapting to the Covid-19 newsroom - Hanover Communications


9 Apr 2020

(journalists and PRs alike)

At a time when the whole world has slowed, the temptation is to slow down with it. But that’s not what Hanover’s corporate team has heard from our friends in the press over the last few days. We may not be catching up over coffee, lunch or a glass of wine, but we are catching up via phone calls and video chats.

Journalists are always busy. But this is a different busy. They don’t have the newsroom buzz or the transparency of knowing what their colleagues are writing about. They’re short of the (limited) time they usually have to know what other papers are writing about or to follow live updates of what’s happening to the world away from their computer screen. They’re officially (like the rest of us) isolated. And PRs have a key role in changing that.

With podcast consumption down by 20%, print paper sales plummeting and advertising non-existent (according to everyone we have spoken to and many articles), PRs need to be front and centre, doing their bit to make journalists’ job easier but also to ensure that news as we know it, still has a place in the future. And that’s at the table each weekend, in the garden, with your orange juice and buttered toast (at the very least!).

Here are our top tips, based on the conversations we’ve had with senior journalists this week:

Hanover’s Top Tips (overheard from the new newsrooms)

What? We need some positive stories at times like this. I see the effect all the negative press has on my friends and family. It’s scaring a nation already terrified. Another journalist confirmed that “All papers have a general sense of purpose right now” and that’s to cheer up the nation.

Journalists are relying on us to provide them with positive news, not just doom and gloom, but quirky, fun stories and stories of companies doing something significant, generous and non-self-serving.

Simon English, City Editor at The Evening Standard says “PR activity has majorly dropped off, but right now we really want and need PR. We don’t have visibility of what’s going on like they normally do.”

When? Journalists have told us the best time to get in touch is first thing.

Dan Jones, Consumer Editor, The Sun says For non CV-related pitches, send them first thing so we have a chance to send them to the newsdesk, write up (if approved) and filed before CV strikes later in the day.”

How? Email is your best bet – and don’t be afraid to follow up, as given how busy it is, and they are, they’re more likely to miss emails.

Dan Jones adds “We’re time-poor. Any releases shared in the format of an article are more likely to get in”

And remember: Striking the right tone is absolutely key. “News that is tone deaf” is sticking out like a sore thumb, so each company and its PR needs to constantly check itself. Are you truly doing your bit to help a struggling Britain? Or are you making decisions to generate headlines? We want the former. And journalists want to hear you’re doing so as well.