In our first Media Network podcast Keith Gladdis and Michaela Gray spoke with Becky Barrow, the News Editor of The Sunday Times and Anthony France Senior News Correspondent at the Evening Standard. Here are some highlights from the conversation.
There is a lot of doom and gloom around at the moment, how do you find light and shade for the newspaper?
Becky: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said to a journalist “have you got something more positive, that’s more constructive?” We are overwhelmed with negative news. Our aim is to focus on constructive news. So even if a story is very negative you want to find something that will be helpful to the reader, more positive. Nobody wants to open a newspaper or click on a website and come away from it and feel downtrodden.
How is the relationship with your readers changing?
Anthony: We have the Evening Standard news website that people use to get news, but our social media channels on Twitter and Facebook are also really important. We’ve recently started with TikTok which has been huge. We’re now second only to the BBC on TikTok. You wouldn’t normally associate TikTok with hard news but people are turning to that platform for all kinds of news both light and shade.
How are you approaching the cost-of-living crisis?
Becky: There is a lot of fatigue from our readers on the cost-of-living crisis, people are looking for hope and that’s why we are trying to be constructive where we can. We want to hear about what businesses are doing to assist their customers at this time, perhaps initiatives businesses are putting in place to retain their customers.
Often, we are contacted by companies and what they are telling us is wishy washy, very general comments about how they are supporting their customers. We can’t get a story out of that. We need tangible details about what is they are doing.
And what about those pitches, what’s your advice?
Anthony: In terms of those press releases it’s so important that they have a quote that’s written in layman’s terms, there’s often too much corporate speak that is not going to make the paper.
Often, I find it’s the really junior people who are picking up the phone to pitch the press release.
It would be better if they could offer something more, perhaps a spokesperson who can offer an explainer, something more for the journalist. The really good PR’s will follow up with a call to say: ‘this is what it’s really about’.
What can you tell us about the audience for London Playbook – who does it reach?
Playbook’s audience is unashamedly in “the Bubble” – it’s the people who matter in Westminster, from the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition down to ministers and their shadows, MPs, advisers, civil servants, officials, staffers, policy wonks and political journalists. They want to know what their colleagues and opponents are up to, and we make it our business to equip them with all the information they need to get through the day. We know that we’ve also become increasingly important for a politically-aware audience who are interested in politics, as well as people who work in business and elsewhere who value an insight into Westminster to help with their jobs.
What’s been the impact of moving from a morning newsletter to two?
Having an afternoon newsletter alongside the morning Playbook has immediately proved invaluable in terms of framing the day. It means that we’re across the entire 24-hour cycle in Westminster, with pm providing a natural cut-off for what is covered in the am. Put simply, if it happens between 7am and 4.30pm it goes in Playbook PM, and between 4.30pm and 7am then it’s picked up by Playbook AM. It’s a symbiotic relationship with each providing a jumping off point and scene setter for the other.
What types of stories work well for Playbook?
Of course, we very much want the big political scoops, but what makes Playbook so special is that it also covers the gossip and niche parish news of Westminster too. So, while I wouldn’t say no if you were to give me the full content of the Budget, I’d be almost as happy if you told me you’d seen Jeremy Hunt playing squash with Rachel Reeves in your local leisure centre. The idea is to bring you whatever Westminster is talking about, even when other publications aren’t necessarily writing about it. We are very forward facing, so we focus on letting you know what is going to happen, rather than what’s already taken place. Everyone loves to be mentioned in Playbook, and some of our most popular items are the Spotted section, where notable attendees at Westminster events are listed, and Birthdays. I’m particularly keen too on PM’s new section setting out what’s on the menu in the various canteens in Parliament.
Are you interested in hearing from businesses and comms professionals? If so, what kinds of information are valuable?
Yes, but it’s a high bar. Do get in touch if you have a story you genuinely think will be of interest to Playbook’s readers; please don’t if it’s an item your client is keen to place but isn’t on its own merits that interesting. We also know that you will often be a great source of the kind of gossipy information I mentioned before. And London Playbook is only one of the stable of newsletters and other offerings across POLITICO; business and comms professionals should definitely reach out to my colleagues elsewhere in the company with relevant material – I’m sure they could do some great work together.
MHP Group’s Alan Tovey, the former Industry Editor at the Daily Telegraph explains how businesses can insert themselves into coverage of Jeremy Hunt’s budget on March 15.
For business journalists, Budget day is like Cup Final day. They build up to it for days, often weeks, preparing teams commentators, case studies, and trying to work out what the big themes are likely to be.
When the Chancellor stands up to deliver his speech, phones go unanswered, emails unread – but Twitter gets pretty lively as they offer instant commentary and shoot from the hip analysis of what’s been said.
But Budgets aren’t the surprise they once were. Most big measures will have been trailed (or leaked) in the days ahead of the speech.
So, what can the business do to insert themselves into their commentary?
Top tips & expert commentary
Make sure your tips are actionable and easy for the reader to do, Jade won’t cover anything that is complex. When adding commentary from an expert or spokesperson, they need to be relevant to the story and from someone who has the authority to discuss the topic at hand. Recently Jade has seen lots of cost-of-living tips sent through that aren’t reasonable for many of her readers to action, and as a result aren’t included in write-ups.
Case studies & data
Case studies are a big win, and Jade rarely writes a feature without one. She will often go direct through charities, or use call outs on Twitter, so give her a follow to keep an eye out for requests.
Jade uses Response Source from time to time, but tends to put a very short deadline as she will be inundated with replies. It goes without saying but if you’re able to offer a case study, make sure this is in the subject line.
Has it been covered before? If so, here’s how to get your data included
Always check to see if a similar story has been covered before and if it has, this isn’t end game. Drop the team an email with your story to see if they would be interested in updating the article, especially if it’s new data, as the team are regularly updating old pieces for SEO purposes.
Body confidence performs well & pet content doesn’t
Body confidence stories are the sweet spot for Cosmo readers, so any stories on the topic are always of interest. While Jade loves animals, pet content doesn’t perform well, so animal content isn’t likely to get written up.
Is it time sensitive?
Jade often keep emails flagged for weeks if they’re not time sensitive (and admitted to often forgetting about them), so it’s always worth checking in with them a couple of days or even weeks later, as you might just land yourself a last min piece of coverage!
Emily Shea-Simonds reports
The importance of discussing financial abuse
At Money Marketing, we have a regular slot around vulnerable clients and one of the topics we have addressed is financial abuse. I have noticed more people in the financial services industry are talking about this issue and I’m so glad that is the case.
We all have the right to live our lives free from the control and manipulation of others. We all need to spend money on the essentials, save for our future and it’s also nice to treat ourselves occasionally because life should be enjoyable. Sadly, some people are abused financially by people they trust so they don’t have the kind of freedom with money that adults should have.
Raising awareness of the signs and impact
They may not even realise what is going on – it can be difficult for them, and the outside world, to see it for what it really is. The perpetrator will most likely have plenty of reasons or excuses to justify their abuse that sound plausible to the people they are taking advantage of. They may even make it appear that they do have this person’s interests at heart. But if the rest of us take what we hear and see at face value without questioning or delving a bit deeper, the abuse is more likely to carry on.”
“That’s why we need to keep talking about it and writing about it. The more people who are aware of what it is, what the potential signs are and what to do about suspected financial abuse, the better.”
For more information on economic abuse, or to donate, please visit Surviving Economic Abuse.
Entries for our 2023 30 To Watch journalism awards go live this week. The awards, now in their 12th year, celebrate outstanding journalists under the age of 30 across the entire media spectrum, including news, business, personal finance, health and much, much more.
Previous winners include Harry Cole of the Sun, Sophy Ridge at Sky News, John Stevens of the Daily Mirror and Lewis Goodall at the News Agents.
This year’s judging panel includes some of the biggest names in journalism led by John Ryley, the long serving head of Sky News. He will be joined by 18 more media heavyweights including Ruth Sunderland, the Group Business Editor at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, Laura Donnelly, the Health Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Kerri-Ann Roper, Head of Entertainment and Features at PA Media and Richard Fletcher, Business Editor at The Times.
This year will see a new award category introduced. The 30 To Watch Breakthrough Award will recognise an outstanding young journalist that did not attend university.
Anyone wishing to enter this year’s awards can do so here. Entries will close on March 31.