Transcript of "Dos and don'ts - working with Journalists"
Roger Borrell, The Editor of Lancashire Life’s
Do’s and Dont’s of working with Journalist’s
• Always make the journalist feel you are working especially for him or her. Under
no circumstances include us in a group email along with all our competitor media.
If someone sends me a press release and I see it has also been sent to Lancashire
Magazine I delete it.
• Don’t send us research that you’ve made up – yes, we can spot it
• Please learn our deadline times and don’t phone us during that time, unless it’s
• Get to know the person you are calling. I don’t mean go on holiday with them or
send them a birthday card but form some sort of relationship so they know who
you are and you trust them. When I was young reporter I had a list of contacts I
used to ring them all once a week just to ask them ‘what’s happening.’
• Know the publication and its agenda. You’d be surprised how many people will
contact me about the opening of a new prison or a Chinese takeaway or a new
brand of mass produced bread that’s come on the market.
• Understand the geography of the publication. You’d be surprise how many PR
people in Covent Garden call me to ask if Lancashire’s in Scotland.
• Make sure you always provide contact details so the journalist can contact you –
email address, name, phone number etc
• If you are calling blind, don’t read the whole story to us as soon as we pick up the
phone and refuse to let us speak - we don’t know what you’re talking about and
you probably have the wrong person anyway Give a very brief outline and ask who
would be the best person to talk to.
• Don’t phone us to ask if we received the press release followed by a call asking if
we’ve read it, followed by a call are we going to use it. And the worst crime of all –
did you use it and can you send me a copy. If you can’t be bothered to buy the
publication and check, well tough. If you haven’t heard from us, the chances are
we aren’t interested. If you are lucky you might get a kindly hack who’ll explain
why they’re uninterested and that will be a valuable – understanding what they
don’t want is the first step towards understanding what they do want.
• Always think pictures and be prepared to provide them yourself. And if you have
half a dozen shots taken, let the journalist know that the one you are sending
them is exclusive to them. It won’t be sent anywhere else. There’s nothing worse
than seeing the same pictures in your rival publication – it turns the hack against
• Read the publications you are trying to target. There will be all sorts of corners
that they struggle to fill and you can help them by providing them with your copy.
What’s On sections always take a lot of filling and I’m sure the people in this room
have plenty of those events
• Aim high. Don’t be afraid to work the nationals. Invest a few pounds in reading the
titles that might be bought by the people you are trying to attract. It drives me
nuts when I read the Times or the Telegraph running Britain’s 50 top walks and
the nearest they get to Lancashire is Yorkshire or the Lakes. Today, the Times is
running Britain’s top ten gastro pubs – not a sniff of Lancs. If you have an unusual
wedding venue or a stately home doing something unusual for the bank holiday,
have a bash at getting it in one of the mass circulation titles – what have you got
• If you are dealing with a magazine like mine, always think pictures. Send me a
decent story with poor imagery and you might get a small spot on a news page.
Send me a good story with brilliant exclusive pictures, and you will probably get a
double page spread.
• Don’t be frightened of journalists. Be prepared to be let down, develop a hide like
a rhino and go back for more. I’d like to think that most will be polite even if they
aren’t interested but I sometimes get the impression that a few go into journalism
simply so they can be rude to people over the phone. It’s often because they are
• Don’t be irritatingly cheerful when you call us – every day a Jocasta will ring me
and without fail ask me how I am. I know she doesn’t care and she knows I don’t
care. Because I’m a polite chap I’ll say ‘Fine and how are you?’ . A competition to
see who can sound the most insincere isn’t a great starting point.