Understanding the UK media landscape
22 July 2022
There is no marketing channel more credible than earned media, but securing media mentions for your business is hard work and requires building long-term relationships with top tier journalists. And if you are new to working in UK Public Relations, there are a number of pitfalls that can be avoided by understanding the do’s and dont’s in the country’s media landscape. Nicholas Baines, Co-founder at SCC member firm Nara Communications, lets us in on the differences between the UK and Sweden, and how to run successful PR in the UK.
What is Public Relations?
I would describe PR as the way a brand tells its story to the world, outside of the communications channels it can control (like social media, advertising etc.). Although the definition of Public Relations has changed dramatically over the last few years.
What is the difference between paid media and earned media?
There’s no marketing channel more credible than earned media. Anyone can pay a publication to say nice things and to repeat bland, corporate messaging. But securing earned media means you have managed to convince top tier journalists why your company is special and why their readers need to know about you.
How would you describe the relationship between communication agencies and the press in each country?
The global trend is that PR people outnumber journalists, and this applies a natural strain on the relationship between the two professions. Some describe the relationship as a partnership, others as antagonistic. This tension can be found all around the world, though it might be more keenly felt in the UK than in Sweden. In Sweden the relationship between PRs and journalists is more collaborative, or for example, Swedes often read drafts of articles before they’re published. British, and American journalists, very rarely allow for that.
Are there differences in the way the public views media and the press in the two countries?
We British have a love-hate relationship with our media. The UK has created some of the most established, important outlets in the world, like The Economist, The Financial Times, and The Guardian. But we are also responsible for tabloid culture, and for exporting the Mail Online’s ‘sidebar of shame’ internationally. Although that range of attitudes and approaches also exists in Sweden, I think it’s less polarised.
What are the key differences and similarities you need to know between approaching the press in Sweden and in the UK?
This is the central rule: a good story is a good story. It’s not about great media contacts (though that helps) nor about writing well (though that helps too). Often business owners are too close to their companies, and are sitting on a treasure trove of good stories that need to be told. It’s about finding out what these good stories are and running with them, and this applies to both Sweden and the UK. Another difference is that Swedish entrepreneurs I work with often know someone at Breakit or DI they can just call up with a story. Swedish journalists expect this kind of access, whereas British media have a much more formal relationship and use PR people as conduits.
Would you say it’s more important to focus on approaching niche media outlets or national media?
Niche outlets, or ‘trade media’, should be viewed as low-hanging fruit. Cracking national, mainstream media is much harder – and therefore impactful. Every business in the world wants to get into national media – which means that when you do finally get featured, it’s worth the wait! If you want to target an international audience of members of the C-suite, investors, and decision-makers, national media is the place to be.
Nicholas’ top tips when approaching UK media
- Be succinct. Keep communications with journalists short – they’re busy people!
- Be targeted. Don’t spam thousands of journalists in the hope that eventually one will bite. If it’s a bad story they won’t.
- What would a reader want to read on the page?
- Don’t use corporate jargon and marketing messaging. Speak clearly.
- Think about what a journalist actually wants. Don’t expect them to do you favours.
- Nothing is off the record unless explicitly agreed.
- Consider getting professional help with your PR, as it’s time-consuming and difficult to bring in-house.
- Try to get to know a friendly PR person or agency who you can call at short notice if needed.
ABOUT NARA COMMUNICATIONS
Nara Communications is a PR agency telling the stories behind technology startups and scaleups. The agency has clients all over the world – from London to San Francisco, Cape Town to Uppsala – and across a variety of sectors. Nara Communications also has an accidental leaning towards (and love of!) the Nordics, and help plenty of businesses expand from Sweden into the UK, and then beyond.
Working with household name publications like Bloomberg, The Guardian, TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal, the agency secures its clients the kinds of media coverage that transforms their startup journeys overnight.