Analysis

Media Network: “Cost-of-living: The worst personal finance issue I’ve seen in 30 years of journalism.”

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.

“I read every press release I get sent, it’s only right PRs read the pages they’re pitching to.”

MHP Mischief’s Ellie McGarahan chats to The Mail on Sunday’s award-winning Personal Finance Editor Jeff Prestridge

With the energy and cost of living crisis looming large, what are the priorities for you and the team?

The cost-of-living crisis is the biggest personal finance issue I’ve seen in my career. With each passing day it becomes more pressing that the government needs to come up with and announce solutions now. That means tracking exactly what the new Prime Minister will offer over the winter will be a priority for us. On the business side, while we’ll obviously be the first to call out those that aren’t acting in their customers’ interests, we will also shout about the ones that are doing good.

Having spent decades at the forefront of Personal Finance journalism, what are your biggest PR pet peeves? And what are your tips for those wanting to land a story in your pages?

As a journalist, I read almost every press release I get sent. It’s therefore only right that PRs read the pages that they’re pitching to. That’s the best way to increase your chances of landing something with us.

In terms of bringing stories to us: the earlier we hear about it, the better. We get the wheels turning for our Sunday pages on a Monday morning – or sometimes even the week before – so bringing us the right story packaged in the right way as early is possible is important.

 

You’ve been called the consumer’s champion many times in the past. Is this how you view your role?

Not so much – I would see the work my team and I do as more educational. Many people are intimidated when it comes to finance. So, while there is certainly a campaigning element, our main aim is to make personal finance more accessible and digestible.

The Mail is gradually moving toward a seven-day operation with many editorial desks having merged – how will that impact the personal finance and business sections?

Historically, we’ve kept the personal finance, business and money sections across the Mail titles separate. This has often meant that we’ve scrapped a Sunday story and been forced to go back to the drawing board mid-week when we see a story covered by the daily.

In the next couple of months we’ll be shifting our operation to ensure there is much more collaboration across the Daily Mail, Money Mail, This Is Money and Mail on Sunday brands. My role will change accordingly, with more oversight on what gets published and when across Personal Finance and Wealth.

“Video calls allow us to include a greater spread of opinions and expertise”

MHP Mischief’s James Rollinsonspeaks to Sky News Producer and News Planner Leila Hudson about how their output is changing.  

The pandemic heralded 18 months of Zoom-dominated segments. Presumably you only want to interview people in person now?

Not necessarily. While our priority for pre-recorded interviews and news packages are in-person, on-camera interviews, many of our live interviews will feature an interview down the line via video call, as it allows us to include a greater spread of opinions and expertise in our pieces. While a story will always stand a better chance if is appealing visually, if you have a prominent spokesperson available via Zoom its always worth pitching as we are constantly on the look out for expert voices.

Are London-based stories easier for you to cover?

No, we have news and camera teams based all over the country. If a story is too London-centric we are less likely to cover it, as we want to produce content that relates to our national audience. Of course, if a great story or interviewee is based in London it won’t put us off, but PRs should always consider the should always consider national and global angle.

What else makes a great story for Sky News?

We’re really focused on covering news that is relatable. The best stories are ones our viewers can really engage with, be that shock, humour, affection or something else. This of course relates to the topics that dominate the news agenda, like the cost-of-living crisis, but also for other features on subjects not already in the public eye.

If you’re pitching a story to us, whether it’s data, an expert, inspiring business or new initiative, focusing on the human element is crucial. We will also often go out and find case studies to bring stories to life, so as long as the key news line is relevant to a broad audience, you’re halfway there.

 

When is it best to pitch stories?

We are a 24/7 breaking news channel, so our priority will always need to be ensuring our audience has the latest breaking news. That said, we tend to work two to three days ahead, although again this is dependent on the broader news agenda. If you have a big announcement or significant spokesperson on the horizon it’s worth flagging earlier so we can get it in the planning diary, but generally editorial decisions are taken a couple of days before and resources are then assigned.

“Influencers can be effective but it has to be the right person, authenticity is key”

MHP Mischief’s Jaber Mohammed, former advisor in the Department of Health speaks to Emily Fairbairn Senior Associate Head of Features and Books Editor at The Sun

How can companies get a health feature in The Sun?

Any health feature we publish would have to be directly relevant to consumers and can be based on something simple that makes our readers sit up and take notice. For example, news that Marmite’s high vitamin levels can lower stress sparked a feature about what other unlikely health benefits you might find in your condiments. As well as features in the main paper, every Tuesday we have a dedicated, three-page Sun Health section.

How should companies use influencers in health campaigns?

Influencers can be a really effective way to drive a health story up the news agenda, but it has to be right person. Authenticity is key, so someone with direct experience of the issue or the cause they are promoting counts for a lot. Davina McCall was the perfect person to champion issues around menopause because she was going through it.

You also don’t want your influencer to be promoting a million other things because, again, it makes them seem less authentic. Ideally the influencer should be current and newsworthy beyond the thing they are promoting.

 

Do PR stunts work?

They do but the best ones are those that don’t look like PR stunts. An ideal PR stunt is something really visual that would make for a great picture story. One that got a lot of coverage recently was by Peperami where a couple had a Peperami-themed wedding.

Don’t lose heart: The perfect time to pitch is coming soon

By former News of the World Political Editor Ian Kirby

Timetables for new media launches were a nightmare over recent months. Droughts, the fuel crisis, cost of living and politics grabbed space as soon as the war in Ukraine started to fade. We’ve had an extended Tory leadership race and now the last Bank Holiday has gone.

Anyone hoping for a sell-in at the start of next week should forget it, with major news titles already planning wall-to-wall coverage of the new Prime Minister.

In the run up to the party conference season, there will be a new Cabinet, emergency budget and energy plan, negotiations with Brussels and a trip to America for the new PM. But after that there is a glimmer of hope.

Christmas officially starts in most news publications in the final weekend in October. That gives three weeks between the party conferences and the tinsel to get coverage. Pagination in newspapers is up to 20 per cent higher so there’s also more space to get in print.

New analysis by Newsworks shows engagement with major news brands is also highest in the Autumn, with 26m adults reading major news brands every day.

So don’t lose heart. We’re a month away from the best time of the year to pitch a campaign.

At the Mail, we think about how it looks on the page

Francesca Washtell, Deputy City Editor at The Mail on Sunday, spoke to Pete Lambie and Pauline Guenot about what she’s looking for in interviews, stories and campaigns.

What do you look for in the City & Business Sunday profile slot?  

Ideally it needs to be a big name, either a FTSE 100 or FTSE 250 CEO. We want someone with personality, who is willing to get into the detail of their industry and share their opinions. I would love to interview Jim Ratcliffe from Ineos but appreciate not every pitch will have someone of his stature.

If you are pitching a smaller company, it needs to come with a juicy story in line with a macro-trend. Whatever you do, don’t tell us the topics we can and can’t cover!

What makes a great SME Story?

The quirkier, the funnier, the punchier, the better.

Research and statistics is usually the best way in for SME coverage, but bear in mind that ‘small business says small businesses are struggling’ type stories can be a really hard story to write. If a story is research or data based, something outside of the box is more likely to land.

We don’t tend to use case studies we prefer to source them ourselves. If you have a brilliant case study-led small business story you’re best going to my colleagues at Money Mail.

The Daily Mail has recently relaunched its online version Mail+, what does this mean for you?

Currently, there are a couple of business stories that will directly go on Mail+ during the day, including the market report. With the Mail on Sunday, on Saturdays we put out a 5pm update which usually includes at least the city interview but (at the moment) we won’t publish our big scoops until Sunday.

More and more readers are engaging with it – it is a great interactive service. There is increasingly a shift to digital that we needed to respond to for our own readership of course, but we also wanted to appeal to a new audience.

It’s time to dispel myths about news and social media

By Jaber Mohamed, former senior advisor at the Department of Health.

Ofcom claims teenagers in the UK are increasingly getting their news from social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. At first glance this may seem to underscore the demise of print and broadcast news, but it is the wrong conclusion.

Social media platforms do not hire professional news reporters and social media users rarely do original journalism – they just share what they have read/seen from a traditional news source.

Traditional news organisations are also more active on social media platforms, BBC News has 22.4million followers on Instagram and Sky News has 1.8million followers on TikTok. So even if young people are getting more news from social media, it is very likely coming directly from a professional journalist.

Traditional news organisations remain very good at packaging information in a way that is accessible to their audience across a variety of platform.

This Ofcom data is not a reason to move away from traditional news media. Traditional news organisations are usually the source of the news content seen and shared on social media. It means getting your story into traditional media more important than ever.