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Writing for today’s Media: A view from the FT

by AprilSix Proof

Our recent event on making the most of the news agenda offered a rather stark reminder that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have under your belt with the national press, in this game, if you don’t constantly connect with journalists, you’re going to reduce your ability to generate media coverage in the long run.

When Sam Jones, Defence and Security Editor at the FT took to the stand he spent 20 minutes delivering some fantastic insight on his approach, focus, and direction from above. I’m not ashamed to admit that 50% of this was news to me.

That’s not because I haven’t kept in contact with the people I need to engage with from the media, it’s simply that every newspaper, every broadcaster, and every website now has to constantly adapt to the changing needs of its readers. We are a fickle bunch – we change our approach regularly and the way we consume information shifts all the time. Those responsible for growing readership and revenues spend more time looking at web analytics and reader surveys than ever before. Much like the world of football shifted to a more academic review of performance to enhance results, so the publishing world has been gripped by ‘stats-mania’, resulting in publications look and feel different all the time.

So what did I learn from Sam’s great reveal?

Primarily that there are two types of story the FT wants to run – fast, or original and in depth. Put simply – it wants to be the first to run the news and supplement it with larger articles that no one else has written that offer deeper analysis. This sounds obvious but how many people know that this means that the FT won’t run any stories delivered to it under embargo? Or that it is not interested in reactive statements to news – even if they come just hours after the story breaks. This starts to affect a PR’s thinking.

Sam also shared his main areas of focus as an investigative reporter. Many were obvious given his beat – but would I have guessed he has a particular interest in whether cyber becomes America’s third offset strategy? Probably not. There’s a nice angle for a pitch there….

This was 20 minutes with one editor at one publication. And we learned a great deal. It’s not that we didn’t know much to start with – it’s that the focus and stance of each publication and its reporters changes so frequently now that there is simply no choice for PRs but to engage, regularly and broadly, with the people they need to pitch. If you rely on your legacy of experience alone, the chances are your results will suffer. Time to organise some coffee briefings I think….

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