Bite Sized Covid Media Tips: The Sunday Times

This is the third in our series of Bite Sized Covid Media Tips, designed to help you get thinking about the best way to get your business in front of the national media at this time.

Like every business, the business of media has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with reporters and editorial teams working remotely and many on furlough, editions slim-lined to save costs and “normal” coverage put back on the shelf in preference for more news style coverage related to the pandemic. Volpa has been keeping up to date with those changes as they have happened and are sharing our knowledge in a series of Bite Sized Covid Media Tips because, while it is still possible to generate media coverage at this time, businesses need to be prepared on what editors are looking for, now more than ever.

Here’s just a bite sized briefing from a recent exclusive international webcast we attended with Oliver Shah Business Editor of the Sunday Times, on what changes they have made since the crisis began and what kind of stories they are looking for now.

Oliver Shah’s Top Ten Tips

  1. The team works from Tuesday to Saturday and have really missed being able to attend events and meet new people who provide intelligence and colour for story creation. In the current circumstances they are more reliant on their existing contacts for stories and so there is no ‘new blood’ (contacts) coming through. This creates opportunities if you’ve got a good story to tell.
  2. Oliver works in the office from Thursday to Saturday to put the business section to bed, this means that a lot of the decisions are made earlier in the week about what will run so if you’ve got a good story, be sure to get in early with it for it to be considered.
  3. The crisis has accelerated the consumption of the digital edition of the Sunday Times. There is a heightened focus on online. They are seeing established print readers moving online. As a result, print circulation has declined a little. Print is still important, but there is a definite move towards digital consumption.
  4. The Sunday mandate is to look ahead, covering the impact of the pandemic, focus on the economy and the return to work of furloughed staff. Editorial focus will be on the furlough scheme and what happens next and how much unemployment there will be. Other issues will include debt hangover from state intervention and how involved the state will continue to be in certain areas of industry as Government support for business during the pandemic is withdrawn.
  5. Oliver believes behaviour associated with capitalism will be toned down shortly after the pandemic. But he feels capitalism is a strong natural force, and the new normal will very quickly look like the old normal. This, however, creates space for stories that show changes in trends.
  6. A key editorial theme going forward will be monitoring the amount of borrowing after the pandemic (after 2008 businesses vowed never to take on so much debt, but three years later it was back to as it was).
  7. They are actively looking for stories about pay levels and balance sheets – companies who have left themselves exposed and have had to turn to the Govt for support. Their behaviour following the pandemic will be closely monitored.
  8. They are particularly interested in stories about furlough payments: have these all been needed and were they genuine?
  9. They also predict scrutinisation of the operations of tech companies who chose to structure sales through Dublin for example, in the light of the mounting debt the Government will be in, and for which the taxpayer will need to pay.
  10. Very few senior business people have spoken out against the Government, probably for fear of not wanting to seem ungrateful for everything that they have done for businesses during the pandemic. Oliver says some public leadership and opinion pieces would be welcome.

Top tips for communicating with Oliver and the business team:

  • Know the publication (The Sunday Times) you are speaking to
  • Any approaches with stories need to be constructive
  • Knowing what the big stories are that the media are focusing on, so you know what the journalists’ priorities are that week
  • Being targeted in terms of who you approach and knowing what you want to achieve

Areas of focus in terms of positive news will be those smaller online businesses who have done well out of the crisis (Moonpig for example) and who are growing and creating jobs.

If you have a story that you think has national media interest and need help getting it in front of the right people, please give Volpa a call on 01738 658187. We’re here to help.

Read our cunningly good guide to generating press coverage in a pandemic if you want to know more on how to generate media coverage.

Read our Bite Sized Covid Media Tips: The Business Desk for more tips on pitching business stories to a national outlet.