Always keen to encourage our progress in the PR world, Lynsey organised for me to spend a day with Matthew Hampton (Deputy Travel Editor) at The Sun to pick up a few tips and tricks…
Scared? A little.
My experience of journalists on press day was to leave them well alone unless urgent. So, when entering the lions’ den at The Sun newspaper, I expected to be surrounded by stressed, grumpy journalists massaging their minds through writer’s block and bellowing at PRs who had dared call them to ask why they hadn’t replied to yet another fabulous event at The Shard.
On entering News UK at a leisurely 10.30am, I was pleasantly awestruck by the grand entrance hall adorned with thought provoking one liners surrounding the legacy of journalism, the importance of conveying the truth and the journalist’s role in democracy.
I met Matt at the entrance and was led through the strict, airport-style security into a surprisingly serene office. Resisting the temptation to take hundreds of uncool tourist-style photos of the dramatic aerial view of London’s skyline, I was set to work.
Task one: the late deals. A job that put me in direct contact with numerous PRs that inundate The Sun’s travel desk with their weekly news and offers. Although they all seemed legit, on closer inspection many deals had actually expired. Nevertheless, having access to Matt’s emails allowed me to compare how other PRs attract journalists’ interest, and I picked up some handy tips.
Task two: keep to the point. Armed with The Sun’s style guide, I was given a small news item and a competition to write up. My rather convoluted writing style made this much more challenging than I had anticipated.
Task three: learning how newspapers work. Matt answered my questions about the different roles of the ‘subs’, the ‘back bench’ and the picture desk, and how each newspaper is put together. However, my biggest question was the reason behind the last minute, urgent requests for round-up ideas that PRs are often graced with. After all those times I’ve thought ‘couldn’t they have asked me for that a few hours ago BEFORE I had to run around London from a client meeting to an event?’, I had to know why.
Little did I know that the number of space dedicated to the travel section is based on the amount of advertising the paper sells elsewhere. Last-minute adverts can increase the number of pages allocated, which need to be filled by round-ups and smaller features at the 11th hour. So, with this in mind, I might respond to requests with a touch less exasperation from now on.
Personally, I think I’ll stick with the multi-tasking pressures of being a PR for the time being, but at least I’ll be slightly more understanding to journalists in the future!