Inside the Press Association

The Press Association is the thumping heartbeat of Britain’s news, as the principal newswire for the UK media. And yesterday members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Not-for-Profit group visited the PA to hear the best ways to engage with it.

Pete CliftonPete Clifton, the Editor-in-Chief, gave an enlightening speech on how how the Association works – and on the high ethical and quality standards its journalists follow.

Some of the takeaways from not just the Editor-in-Chief’s speech but also a range of PA staff are as follows:

  • While there are news outlets that don’t really read generic email addresses, the PA’s main email inbox is read religiously. Stories – if they are good enough – are directed to the right reporter.
  • The Press Association has a “Christmas box” where they store stories that are ready to go over the Christmas period. Submit your Christmas stories early. Think also of content that’s designed to run at Easter and bank holidays.
  • There’s less news occurring on a Sunday, so stories pitched for release on Monday work well.
  • PA journalists are very busy in the run-up to the 8:30am news conference. After then (e.g. 9am onwards) is a better time to get in touch, but in general the earlier in the day is better.
  • They prefer to do interviews between 7am and 10am.
  • Try not to pitch routine stories after 3pm. While important breaking news will of course be used, the journalists are busier then and probably already have plenty of similar stories to the ones you’re pitching by that point.
  • They like embargoes.
  • Don’t put photos of people on roller banners if you’re going to take photography of people standing in front of them. They make odd photos: big background heads on the banner clash with much smaller heads standing in front.
  • When sending a set of pictures to the PA’s picture desk, send your best picture and a link to the full set (e.g. on Dropbox).
  • Speed is absolutely of the essence when sending pictures to the PA from (major) events. Talk to the picture desk beforehand to discuss how you can work together.
  • They like pictures of heritage sites, the weather and animals. Discrete branding workings but it must be integral to the story.
  • Don’t clog up inboxes by sending emails that are bigger than 10Mb.
  • The PA has a news service called Snap.PA, which supplies media outlets with content aimed at younger audiences – stories based on “viral” video and content play well here.
  • Videos should be less than two minutes in length.
  • Create a database of B-roll video (stock background footage that can be incorporated by the PA, who create video stories for newspaper websites and internet-only portals from MSN to Aol).

Press Association news desk