11 Jul 2022

Media Network: Shaun Lintern, Health Editor, The Sunday Times — on Pharma’s opportunity in health campaigning

Welcome to the MHP Mischief Media Network bulletin. Our unrivalled team of former journalists and media experts bring you the latest insights behind the headlines.


Shaun Lintern, Health Editor at the Sunday Times, has built a reputation as one of the leading advocates of patient safety in the UK.

MHP Mischief’s Jaber Mohamed, former senior advisor at the Department of Health, spoke to him for the MHP Media Network.

1: What is the role of pharma companies when it comes to campaigning for health issues?

I know pharma companies often work with charities and patient groups to support their campaigns, but they often don’t want to be overt about their involvement. I think that’s the worst possible approach because it looks suspicious, like they’re trying to hide something. They should either not be involved at all or be transparent about their involvement. If I see companies being open about why they are supporting a campaign I’m more likely to engage with them and the story.

2: What sort of pharma stories would you like to cover?

I don’t think the public really understand what it takes, in terms of time, resource and cost, to develop a drug and get it to market. I read somewhere that for every 10 drugs that begin development only one will make it market, so it has to pay for the research into the other nine. I’d love to work with pharma companies to explain the complexities of drug development and some of the supply chain issues that lead to drug shortages. I’d be open to interviews with any pharma companies who want to talk about this.

3: What is the role of trade media and why shouldn’t they be ignored?

As a former journalist for a trade title I know decision makers, such as NHS managers and directors, pay attention to what appears in the trade press so you ignore them at your own peril. I spend a lot of time looking at trade media to help me generate ideas for stories. Since the decline of local papers, great trade publications like Inside Housing, the Local Government Chronicle and Health Service Journal have a lot of enterprising young reporters and now produce a lot of future national journalists.

Expect a boring replacement for Boris, says Times Radio’s Lucy Fisher

By Abigail Smith

While there is not yet a clear successor to Boris Johnson, we can expect his replacement to be far more traditional and serious, with a greater grasp of policy detail, according to Times Radio Chief Political Commentator Lucy Fisher.

Speaking at a MHP Mischief panel event yesterday, Fisher said Conservatives have grown tired of Johnson’s light touch knowledge of important issues and promises going underdelivered. She expects fiscal policy and rebuilding the economy to become the policy major themes, while there is an opportunity for the new leader to restore relations between business and the Tories after Boris’ ‘f*** business’ approach.

There could also be a broader shift away from the culture wars which have characterised society in recent years, including the shelving of plans to privatise Channel 4.

In summary, Fisher thinks the Tories will take a safety first approach: “Looking back at recent contests, it tends to be the candidate with the fewest enemies rather than with most friends that wins.”

Great images and punchy quotes key to securing business and consumer coverage in the Mirror

By James Rollinson

On 14th July, the MHP Mischief Media Network is hosting a brunch briefing with Daily Mirror Head of Business and Consumer Graham Hiscott. He will talk about how the role has changed in Graham’s 15 years at the paper, the key topics he wants to cover over and how brands and PRs can optimise stories for his audience.

In a pre-briefing ahead of the session, Hiscott has already stressed the importance of great images for the pieces he writes. A brilliant image can turn a NIB (news in brief) into a page lead in the paper, while a selection of images is a prerequisite for online coverage.

Quotes are equally as important. Good stories have not made in the past due to vanilla brand/spokespeople quotes, while a punchy, interesting comment can elevate an otherwise dull press release.

To join us, please RSVP to [email protected].

Looming recession continues to dominate national business pages

By Pete Lambie

‘PRs need to be available out of hours’ says 30toWatch winner Molly Clayton

By Keith Gladdis former Daily Mail executive news editor  

PR Week spoke to MHP Mischief’s 30toWatch winners to ask them what they think of the industry and what tips they have for pitching stories. Here’s Mail on Sunday news reporter Molly Clayton’s tips for PRs.

Be available out of hours

As a Sunday journalist Molly can file stories as late as 8pm on a Saturday but she often struggles to get hold of PRs after 5pm on a Friday. “That can be quite frustrating” she says. Out of hours numbers for PR teams are essential.

Make your pitch short and to the point

PRs need to ‘get the top line right’ when they pitch a story says Molly ‘being able to pitch it in a few lines because, ultimately, that’s how I’m going to pitch it to my editor’. But don’t even bother to pitch to a Sunday if the story has been elsewhere. ‘If the dailies have already picked it up, it’s very unlikely that we will, even if it’s a great story’.

Sunday’s want an exclusive

Sunday stories need to be new, but also need to be exclusive to the title you are pitching to. Molly says: ‘I got a really great story in my inbox yesterday from a PR. I said: “That’s fantastic, can we have it exclusively?” They came back and said: “No, sorry, it’s gone out to everybody,” and in that case, we won’t then run it.’

When it comes to TV news, timing is everything

by former ITN presenter and reporter Charlotte Grant

For any brand wanting broadcast coverage, it’s important to remember that the time of day the news programme is on will dictate its content.

For breakfast TV, very little ‘actual’ news is happening at 6am. They often preview something that hasn’t happened, or talk about what happened yesterday, which is why big overnight US stories always do well for them. Meanwhile, evening news programmes are very focused on the events of that day.

This provides an opportunity for brands that can offer exclusives. Good Morning Britain’s Louisa James tells us she ideally wants stories that are exclusive until 9am, meaning GMB can invest time and resource into the segment but other outlets can still run it afterwards and brands can achieve multiple coverage hits.

MHP Mischief 30toWatch and Westminster News Editor at ITV News Rachel Bradley believes allowing enough time for TV pieces to be crafted also helps. She told us PRs and brands should remember that TV segments take more planning and logistics than print and online pieces: “We need pictures and people to tell these stories, and we need as much time as possible to get them together and make interesting, well-produced films.”

Movers and Shakers

Andrew Dagnell, Head of Newsgathering, has been promoted to Editor of ITV News. He will be in charge of ITV’s national news, ITV London, ITV Tonight, documentaries, live specials and the ITV News website. Current editor, Rachel Corp, has been appointed CEO of ITN. Both positions will start from 1 September.

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