The relationship between journalists and PRs is storied to say the least, yet as we all know, it’s crucial in public relations for one to bounce off the other and maintain good relationships going forward.
I recently got the chance to head off to the stunning Ironmongers Hall in London for a breakfast media briefing and networking session (the pastries and coffee were very much welcome), alongside hundreds of fellow PR representatives.
The subject was Ian King, Sky News’ newly-appointed Business Presenter. At first glance, you’d think this would include nothing but discussing about interest rates and inflation to a niche audience of city dwellers.
Fear not, as Ian’s experience gave those present a fascinating look into everything his job entails, including how stories reach our screens – through his Ian King Live show aired at 6:30pm Monday-Thursday – and his (mostly) hassle free daily liaisons with PR officers.
With an assembled plethora of communications executives present, the topic of conversation was always going to reach how Ian reacts when news stories start to hit his inbox. His response generates a collective sigh of relief from the audience.
“I look at everything that’s sent over to me; I need to continue gathering information. I’d much rather gaze at a release and pick up valuable information, rather than miss out.”
Ian continues with a refreshing take on his rapport with PRs, describing them as an ally and pinpointing that any final decisions on whether desired guests appear on his show, either live or pre-recorded, rests with the interviewee. Phew.
“As interviewees go, George Osborne is understandably the trickiest one to tie down to an interview, which can be quite irritating, whereas Vince Cable is always readily available. I’ve had a lot of treasury members on the show. In fact I’ve probably been through the entire Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet!”
As the clock strikes 8:30am, with Sky’s team having been at their desks in Sky’s South West London HQ for 90 minutes, Ian runs through his morning of meetings and editorial brainstorms, which is interspersed with VT recordings for any pieces which are bound to be newsworthy throughout the day.
The majority of attendees are furiously scribbling down Ian’s comments – although ‘scribbling’ is used loosely as many utilise tablets and mobile phones – and simultaneously tweeting his words. These appear on Gorkana’s live feed at the head of the room, a somewhat important metaphor for combining new media with traditional journalism in these grand surroundings.
But does he miss sitting down and writing compared to daily button bashing?
“I still write my weekly column for The Times, and I’m trying to do more for the Sky News website. That said, I do miss it, but the nature of the job has changed. I resisted Twitter for years – Rupert Murdoch always said an editor speaks through his newspaper. I don’t Tweet a lot; there’s a lot of rubbish out there.”
Indeed, the nature of journalism has changed, as Ian points out by highlighting the need for more newspapers to migrate online and feature digital content. It’s all about appealing to a wider audience in a simple and jargon-free manner, with Ian’s on-stage enthusiasm shining through and appealing to those outside of the business and finance world a priority.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time at the moment with the General Election just around the corner. It’ll be nothing but deficit reduction for the next 18 months. If it’s not exciting, then communicating stories is a real challenge.”
As I file back into a Wintery drizzle, I begin to process a brilliant insight into the hectic and non-stop world of economics from one of the best snouts in the business, as Ian passingly flicks through newspapers left over from the early-morning start. Now, where’s his pen and paper?