Cicero/AMO hosts event with PA Media City Editor Simon Neville

Cicero/AMO was delighted to welcome Simon Neville, City Editor of PA Media (formerly the Press Association), to discuss the best ways to engage with his team to secure coverage.

Taking place on Wednesday 4 March and chaired by Director of Media Relations Adam Taylor, Mr Neville used the session to outline the PA team, the stories they are interested in covering, and his top tips for organisations looking to secure coverage.

PA is one of the few outlets to have no political agenda, with their “only objective” being to provide stories for media companies to use. He works in a team of four people – himself, his deputy Holly Williams, and City Reporters August Graham and Henry Saker-Clark. They all have slightly different beats, but are expected to be able to jump on any business story that comes in. The team also works closely with Vicky Shaw, Personal Finance Correspondent, and Alan Jones, Industrial Correspondent, and their lobby team, who will often lead coverage on days such as the Budget. Releases should be sent to citydesk@pa.media, which all of the team monitor. On the day before the event, the team wrote and published 35 stories.

Mr Neville used the session to emphasise two key points: “writing in crayons”, and “the pub test”. Journalists are time-starved and are not experts on individual subject matters, so if you want to grab their attention it needs to be easy to understand and free of jargon (written in crayons!) and comprehend. The pub test is simple – if you were speaking to a stranger in the pub about your release, would they find it interesting? If not, PA won’t be interested in covering it.

He made the point that journalists ‘aren’t trying to screw your organisation over’ and love when they get advance notification from companies about something that is about to break. He referenced a recent announcement from a large supermarket, who phoned him up at 2pm saying at 3pm they were going to make an announcement about a number of redundancies, meaning he could speak with the organisation, understand the details behind the announcement, ‘ask the questions that needed to be asked’ – and importantly, it meant their story that was published was accurate.

He also pointed to BT’s CEO, who had a media dinner briefing ahead of the organisation’s rebrand with all senior members of his team for two hours, all on the record. “I learned more from that than any press releases they could have sent me.”

He suggested that firms should give his desk a call at least 20 mins before they make an announcement that will have a big impact on the public (where legally possible).

Neville advised smaller and challenger organisations looking to secure coverage that they will have access to data and markets that the media doesn’t. Journalists will always want to work with firms whose stories pass ‘the pub test’, regardless of size, he said, adding that firms can help unearth interesting stories and angles from official releases that journalists do not always have the time to look into.  

If you would like to be invited to similar events, please do get in touch.

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Adam Taylor

Director of Media Relations