How did you get to where you are now?
I’ve been a journalist for 15 years, starting out at a local news agency after a postgrad in newspaper journalism. I was selected for the Daily Mirror’s trainee scheme, working for their Sunday and daily titles around the UK before joining the London office as a news reporter. I joined The Sun in 2010 and in 2013 I was asked to cover the Royal beat. Two royal babies and countless tours later, I was offered the post of royal correspondent at Hello!, joining in 2015 [promoted to royal editor in August 2018]. I’m also a regular broadcast contributor for UK and international networks.
What is your view of the PR profession – and is that a career you’d ever want to move into?
Most of the PRs I come into contact with are impressive, highly professional people who I work with on a regular basis, but I still get the occasional wildly mis-targeted emails from people I’ve never met, that start: "Hi lovely, I hope you’re well…" and then go on to tell me about something that has no relevance whatsoever to what I write about. I love my role at Hello!, so have no plans to move into PR – but then, I never predicted I’d be a royal correspondent, so who knows what the future holds?
How does dealing with royal press officers differ from other sectors?
The royal communications teams never struggle to generate interest in their brand; rather, they are gatekeepers who are protecting their principals and the reputation of a centuries-old institution. While that can be frustrating for journalists in terms of limited access, you can’t take it personally. They’re constantly being inundated with requests from all over the world and are just part of a much bigger machine.
Has dealing with royals and their PR people changed your view of PR?
Specialising as a royal correspondent has allowed me to build longer-term relationships with PRs. I’m in very regular contact with royal communications and we have a good relationship. Hello! is able to give space to the issues members of the royal family want to highlight and our approach means I’ve been able to secure exclusive interviews with Prince Harry and the Countess of Wessex in recent years. We have 24 international editions, so coverage can reach a global audience of 25 million people every month.
Which royal do you think is going to be the most interesting over the next 12 months and why?
Our readers are captivated by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – not just their love story, but their work at home and overseas. Meghan has brought a new wave of interest in the royal family, and their autumn tour to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga will cement their status as a global power couple. But the Prince of Wales, as he turns 70 this year, is also one to watch.
Be it royal press officers or elsewhere, what are the things you think the PR industry could do better?
Understand deadlines. We close the issue every Friday, so we need content in time to get it into the magazine, which goes on sale on a Monday. Build trusted relationships with journalists. Keep using the traditional media as well as social media to get your message across so you aren’t just preaching to the converted.
To what extent is the way you approach journalism changing in a digital age?
My output is focused on the print issue, but I am always thinking about how we can use content online as well. I send video and other material to the website from royal engagements and tours and I’m very active on social media. Both our print and digital platforms are hugely important.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of journalism?
I am an optimist because the alternative is just too depressing to imagine. In a time of so much misinformation from people in power, it’s crucial that we all support a free press and try to separate facts from fiction. There are brilliant reporters doing their best to achieve that and I hope that many more will be coming through the ranks.