By Jaber Mohamed, former Department of Health Chief Press Officer and Abi Smith
This week, MHP Mischief brought together some of the nation’s top health editors. We heard from Shaun Lintern of the Sunday Times, Nick McDermott of The Sun, Laura Donnelly of The Telegraph and Victoria Macdonald of Channel 4.
Here are some highlights:
Nick: “If you have a story, make sure it is relatable. Statistics and numbers don’t work because people don’t think like that, a story needs to be about people.
“If you email me, just be really clear about what the story is and please get my name right. I keep getting emails saying: ‘Hello Helen’, I don’t know who Helen is but she’s getting sent some terrible stories.
“Also, a word on campaigns. If there’s something you know can happen, if you’re at a tipping point in getting government to do something then get in touch. Newspapers want campaigns they can win, if there’s an open door then kick it down.”
Laura: “Be opportunistic about stories, often it’s all about the timing. The best organisations to deal with are the ones that know what is coming up, they are the ones I will take notice of.
“Relationships are critical. Just send me one usable story and we can take it from there. Coffees aren’t always the best way to interact because it often ends up with a circular conversation of me saying what I want and the contact not having it. It’s always best to start with a good story.
“An ideal press release would look like a news story. Also, I want a print embargo, it helps me clear time to write exclusive stories and meet people.”
Shaun: “When pitching a story think be aware who you are pitching to. In journalism our work is literally out there, everyone can see what we produce.
“I am often the contrarian, I will go in a different direction. Think about our readership, we are a subscriber-based model we want exclusive stories not an all-rounder press release.
“At the Sunday Times we want constructive news stories, not PR puff pieces. Our readers are not shy of complexity, they are not averse to subtleties.
“The best way to contact me is by email but I don’t want 1,000 words. I don’t necessarily want a finished story and definitely not a press release.”
Victoria: “Unlike the others I only do one story a day and I do have the freedom to pursue stories I’m interested in.
“When pitching to me it’s important to think about timings, a story embargoed for newspapers isn’t going to work for me because it will be nine hours old by the time we broadcast.
“Remember we are broadcast, stories that work for Channel 4 News are ones that can also work on YouTube and TikTok.
“And for television it’s about being articulate. It’s amazing how many brilliant minds are out there who can’t get their message across.”
For further insights from the MHP Mischief Health media panel contact firstname.lastname@example.org
By Yasmeen Sebbana former Head of Private Office to Keir Starmer
The MHP Public Affairs team hosted a dinner with Daily Mirror Associate Editor Kevin Maguire at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool this week.
He offered the following fascinating insights
This week MHP Mischief’s Pete Lambie hosted a Q&A with Financial Times reporter Dan McCrum, about his investigation into the €1.9bn fraud at Wirecard
Dan McCrum is the Financial Times reporter whose dogged investigation into a €1.9bn fraud at Wirecard brought down the German payments company.
Speaking at MHP Capital Markets event he explained how his reporting unearthed Wirecard’s links to organised crime, the Russian government and even a divorce lawyer making YouTube videos.
He also offered a little PR advice too.
‘After a few stories exposing corruption, had Wirecard come clean and said they were going to clean house, we would have probably declared victory,’ said McCrum.
‘But they didn’t. They said the FT is incorrect. That it had turned its pages over to rogue reporters who were running around trying to manipulate the share price.’
McCrum’s PR advice is not to do that. It forced the FT to fight.
‘That made it impossible for the FT to walk away. They called into question the FT’s reputation which is quite valuable,’ he said.
The investigation went from reporting on a shoestring to money is no object, as the FT battled to prove it was right.
And right the paper was, with McCrum and colleagues on the paper bringing down a company he admits he initially thought was just ‘a bit fraudy’.
McCrum told how he found himself the target of the UK’s biggest ever private security investigation, developed a habit of checking his garden hedge for spy cameras, and even started standing away from Tube platform edges for fear of having an accident.
By Pete Lambie and Hugo Harris
By Ellie McGarahan
Ex-Newsnight producer Sam McAlister – the one who clinched that Prince Andrew “interview of the century” – shares her top tips for interviewees.
McAlister also suggested that the Queen’s funeral may be the last we will see of Prince Andrew for a while. Where he was once the monarch’s favourite, King Charles plans to take a very different approach.
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