Tips from the Lifestyle Editor of the Guardian on how to get your brand noticed by the national press

I spoke to Kate Carter, Lifestyle Editor at The Guardian, and Vicky Powell, Shopping Editor at Real People to get their views on the future of journalism & how to get national & lifestyle journalists to buy into your brand.

  1. Do you prefer PRs to pitch to you by email or phone? And do you mind follow-ups?

Kate: Definitely email rather than phone. I think phone can be a little bit pointless for follow-ups, because if I am interested in something, I’d reply! Sometimes PRs follow up on ideas that are just never going to be appropriate for my publication, so they need to take a minute to really think about who might be interested in the story.

Vicki: Email, because I work on a floor where I have to deal with lots of people, so I’m not necessarily always at my desk to pick up the phone. Email’s great because I’ve got a record of it and can always go back to it later. I do look at my emails a lot – and I also tend to archive. For example if something comes in in July and I’ve got a feature for Christmas, I would keep it archived and potentially come back to it later.

Personally, I don’t mind follow-ups, though sometimes there are a few PRs that will bombard you and you suddenly feel swamped! If they’re emailing constantly about something that’s already going in then what else do you need to know really?

I’ve worked in PR and seen it on both sides, so I understand 100% why people follow up as you need to get results. However, a PR that pushes a little too hard isn’t going to get them.

2. Do you have any stories of pitches where a PR really got your attention?

Kate: I don’t have any in particular, but the main thing PRs need to watch out for is sending over things that we would really not run. If you’ve ever picked up a copy of our paper, you would have an idea about these types of things already, so it’s important to think about who you’re pitching to.

Vicky: I’ll tell you where they haven’t – it’s usually when PRs have no idea what the magazine is about and will send over an email where my name isn’t right or if the content’s not relevant. People who understand the magazine and readership stand out.

What has got my attention in the past though, for example, is when your agency sent over the Easter Gift Eggs from Playmobil, pitching that not all kids can eat chocolate, so here’s a nice alternative. You knew who you were targeting, i.e. young mums who may not be able to give their kids chocolate at Christmas, so that was good. And always bear in mind time schedule, which is also really important.

3. Would you say journalists pay a lot more attention to stories that fit their personal interest – and is this the best way for brands to reach out to you?

Kate: Realistically yes – although of course you’re still going to cover something if it’s relevant regardless of your interest. But because you get so many emails a day, something that chimes with your own personal interests is going to leap out in the pitch.

Vicky: I think journalists want to be sent materials relevant to the kinds of things they’re working on. With weekly magazines, you have to find content every week of course, so it’s not necessarily what you’re personally interested in. If you know your readership will be interested in it, journalists like the fact that they won’t have to do lots of work – they want to be spoon-fed!

4. How do you think influencers will impact the news industry and journalism?

Kate: I think there’s a bit of a divide at the moment. People become overwhelmed by the reach of influencers, but don’t stop to think how many people they actually influence. Some may have a large following on Twitter, for example around the same as mine – and I don’t consider myself an influencer, so how are they? People tend to think that the influencer must be important just because he/she says they’re important, but this is not always the case.

Vicky: As with the recent tragic incident in Manchester, you have a situation where every news angle is provided by public bloggers. Finding missing people has been strongly influenced by shout-outs on social media. So traditional news sources are going to become more and more influenced by people – everyone’s a journalist now. Most people have a camera and instant access to an audience, so I expect this will have a huge impact on the industry.

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