What's the story...

Posted on April 17, 2020


Media relations is a fundamental part of our jobs here at Clearbox, and it’s important that we get to know and understand the roles of our colleagues in the media industry, working with them to secure great coverage for our clients.

In a new blog series, we’re going to be speaking to some of our key media contacts across the UK and Ireland to learn a bit more about what they do, and how PR teams can help them to do it.

First up, it's not only one of our favourite journalists, but one of our favourite human beings. Hi ya, Ieuan Williams from Dunfermline Press…

1. What does your day to day look like?

The answer to this question has changed significantly since the UK-wide lockdown was introduced. For starters, the commute from my bed to my work desk has shortened from a 10-minute drive to a mere three seconds. Time isn’t the only commodity I have saved since working from home, however. I have also saved more money than I wish to calculate on supermarket meal deals and petrol. You have to celebrate these small victories in these brutal times.

The laptop is still fired up for a 9am start though and I’ll begin by reading any weekend emails and browsing social media for any potential stories. That’s how each day will commence unless the editor assigns me an online story to publish as soon as possible.

Each reporter has a long and varied newslist with stories to get through. It is constantly updated throughout the day with your priorities highlighted. I’ll aim to finish for 5.30pm but that is often not the case as all of the editorial team will finish the story they are working on before calling it a night. We all finish later on a Tuesday to put ourselves in the best position we can heading into our paper’s deadline the following afternoon.

Wednesdays are fast-paced as the remaining stories are filed and the final touches are applied to the paper. Thursdays and Fridays are quieter as we take some time to breathe again before the process repeats itself come Monday.

It’s a cliché, sure, but every day is different. 

Last week I spoke to Batman, Spider-Man and Supergirl. On Friday I interviewed a local footballer who represents Scotland as part of the country’s Cerebral Palsy team. This Monday I’m speaking to a woman who lost both her parents to COVID-19 in the space of two days.

Every day is different.

2. What’s your top tip for PRs hoping to pitch a story to the Dunfermline Press?

Make it as easy as possible for us to help you. We spend a considerable amount of time and effort chasing stories, conducting interviews and putting pages together, so any time saved is cherished. If you, therefore, provide a press release that has great quotes, relevant background, a link to high-quality images and contact details should we require them, it will be greatly appreciated and I’ll be your best mate for a while. At the end of the day, we both want your story published - if it’s good, of course -, so let’s work as efficiently as possible to make that happen.

3. Do you prefer email or phone pitches?

I’m constantly working on several stories at once so it’s rare to catch me without one to actively pursue or write. That’s why I prefer a pitch to be sent by email. It affords me the opportunity to respond in my own time and value how good the story is with all the information laid out clearly (hopefully) in front of me.

4. What makes a good story?

A good news story has to be current and impactful. It should be no surprise to you that our coronavirus live blog is attracting thousands of views a day, well over 200,000 in total. The coronavirus crisis is what everyone’s talking about. Why? Because it’s happening right now and it’s having an impact on everyone’s lives. Journalism is all about what’s new and how it will affect people. To use another example, a recent story I wrote about imminent changes to bin collections in Fife was one of our top stories (page views) because it was going to have an impact on a very large number of people.

5. Tell us something you wish more PR people knew about your job.

It’s not my job to please your client. This is a short answer but it says everything that needs to be said.

6. PR pet peeve?

I have many answers to this question but PRs who fail to research the paper and its audience before they send us their story ideas is probably my number one pet peeve. Despite there being three bridges standing proudly in the Forth connecting Fife with Edinburgh, we do not cover Edinburgh. If you look in our editorial trash folder you would think that we did with the amount of email we receive about the Scottish capital.

7. When is the best and worst time to pitch a story?

Let me preface this by stating again that the Dunfermline Press is published on a Thursday with a Wednesday afternoon print deadline. As soon as one edition is away we get started on the following week’s paper. Receiving a story on a Thursday or Friday is therefore great for us as it gives us more time to plan what we’re going to do with it and to carry out any follow-up interviews and arrange photos. Pitching a story on a Monday or Tuesday morning is still okay, but it does mean we have less time with it and, if we have more time-sensitive stories in the news basket, it could be held back a week. Pitching to us on a Wednesday afternoon is without question the worst time to do so. That’s when we’re finishing off the paper and our keyboards are being battered. All calls will likely be cut short and any notes taken will be put aside unless it’s urgent. Email received during this time could also be either forgotten about or missed.

I’ll apologise now on behalf of my colleagues and I for any curt replies PRs may have received from us on a call as we moved towards our deadline.

8. What does a good PR picture look like to you?

A good PR picture is one that grabs your eye and makes you want to read the story it belongs to. With this in mind, it’s always better to have a face in the photo than a building or product. Often a great photo can save a mediocre story from the bin, so that’s why I’d advise any PR company to have a professional photographer take their photos. We’re never going to reply to you stating that the image you sent is ‘too good’, but we will very quickly ask you for another image if the one you initially provided isn’t going to print well.

Note: If the only image you can provide is a company logo then we’re simply just wasting each other’s time.

9. How can the PR industry continue to support and work effectively with journalists?

The local print industry is fighting for survival at a time when it’s needed the most. Communities need a trusted source of information and that’s what the Dunfermline Press has provided and will continue to provide during this period of great fear and uncertainty. In order to do that we’re constantly scouring through social media for potential stories and maintaining relationships with our readers and trusted sources both local and distant. In the past fortnight we’ve received numerous emails from PR companies both UK-based and abroad with stories relating to Dunfermline and West Fife. While our demand for content is higher than ever, our standards cannot and will not slip below our readers’ expectations. We’re very grateful to PR companies that come forward with local news and we’re still very much committed to helping you and your clients receive coverage if it’s newsworthy. As long as both sides continue to work well and respect each other’s positions, we’ll all get through this.