‘It’s not all been negative – people have been more open to collaboration and new ways of doing things,’ is how Freelancing for Journalists’ co-founder Emma Wilkinson summed up working during the pandemic during our latest virtual event, Building better relationships between PRs and journalists.
Sharing their experiences and advice alongside Emma for the webinar was her Freelancing for Journalists’ co-founder Lily Canter and Journo Resources founder Jem Collins and senior staff writer Faima Baker.
Jem writes about lifestyle and human rights topics; ‘anything a bit quirky’; Faima covers topics including race, religion, culture and gender; Lily works a broad beat including money, health and lifestyle; and Emma has been specialising in health and medicine throughout her 15 years as a freelance journalist – each have continued to write throughout the challenges of the last year alongside their work supporting fellow freelancers.
a quite a lot of my working set up that didn’t change because I’ve worked from
home forever. Though, admittedly; I wasn’t trying to homeschool children at the
same time before now,’ said Emma on the challenges the pandemic brought to her
covered pandemics before – I covered Swine Flu – but this was really
overwhelming. Trying to get all the up-to-date info on COVID. One thing that
did change – I had to contact lots of press offices, NHS departments and think
tanks, and they’d all started working from home. The systems they had didn’t
shift over straight away, office numbers weren’t diverted at the start – that was
made three very good connections with PRs over this period, who approached me. It’s
not all been negative.’
difficult parts – keeping in touch, dealing with sometimes unrealiable
technology – has come positives – what changes are worth keeping,
it’s the flexibility:
real polarization when we talk about new ways of working and whether working
from home is better – camps of “we need everyone in the office” or “I’m never
all be a little more flexible. I’d like that, from a journalist/PR perspective
– offering that interview in a number of different ways; phone, video. More
generally, I’m hoping for a bit more nuance with we’re able to help each other
video calls,’ added Emma. ‘As someone who’s based far away from where most of
the publications I write for are based, I used to get lots of “Let’s meet up
for coffee,” assuming I was based in London. I’ve been able to connect with people
I couldn’t before, sure – when I choose that as something I want to do,
it’s good. It certain circumstances, it’s really opened access for me. I hope a
bit of that hybrid model stays.’
hopes for less emphasis on London-based events and meet-ups:
more of a blended approach of in-person and virtual, going forward. It will
take a while to settle down, I think. It’s all about flex, and people getting a
better work/life balance’.
in-person meet-ups and mingling at events hasn’t been an option, other ways of
accessing relevant material for stories have taken their place. For Faima, it’s
charities and organisations working in the sectors she cover have been vital:
like working with charities and orgs who have a good idea of what I’m after.
Sometimes I’ll contact the same people for future stories, because they already
know what I cover. I represent marginalized communities so make sure I’m put in
touch with the people I’m writing about. Covering an issue without speaking to those
you’re writing about can be really dangerous.
thing that I use it Facebook Groups – whatever I need, there’s a Facebook Group
for that. DIY, family dramas…’
going to mention Facebook Groups as well,’ said Jem. ‘In terms of PR, you’ll be
able to see from the pieces I share on social media what I’m interested in
advice for PRs looking to connect with journalists now? Keep it focused on what
the journalist wants – nothing tangential to the topic:
sent out a request through the Journalist Enquiry Service, responding to what
has been sent out, exactly. Don’t use it as an opportunity to jump to something
else. That sounds super simple, but I do get “I don’t have this, but I do have
this” emails. Make sure you have what we’re looking for – it’ll help when we’re
Watch the full virtual event Building better relationships between PRs and journalists here and find out more about our collaborations with Journo Resources and Freelancing for Journalists here.
Want relevant statistics, expert comment and review products from UK PRs? Send your own request via the Journalist Enquiry Service.