Media: Target the fulcrum of UK news outlets

What does a PR professional do if they want to get their story out to pretty much every local, regional and national media outlet in the country?

They target the sprawling behemoth that is the Press Association (PA). The news agency sends out hundreds of news stories, sports reports, features, listings, photographs, videos and much more every single day.

PA turns 140 this year and legend has it the idea for the news agency came about when a bunch of Victorian hacks were stuck in the back of a black cab deep in fog.

Whatever the truth, there is no denying the agency's impact. Andy Rowlands, director at Burson-Marsteller's corporate, issues and technology practice, says: 'The Press Association is one of the most important media outlets you can target. If it picks up a story, that story will automatically go to every news desk in the land.'

To coincide with its birthday, PA is rebranding, to show how it has evolved from a domestic news agency into 'a forward-thinking digital organisation'. The old blue logo has been replaced by a new, red branding and some striking artwork. A new website has also been launched.

The idea is to bring the many brands and services under one clear umbrella.

'Emphasis will be placed on the customer, making it easier for people to contact us and to understand the scope of our work,' says editor Jonathan Grun. 'PROs who work with us will not have to change their approach.'

When it comes to pitching stories into PA, not being overwhelmed by its size and breadth is key, says Rowlands. 'There are reporters with specific industry briefs.'

Rowena Denham, associate director of Fishburn Hedges, agrees and warns of the dangers of not sending stories to the right person. 'While it is a good idea to send the release to the generic news email address too, don't send it to a wide number of people. If two journalists under pressure find they've written the same story they are likely to be so annoyed neither will put it on the wire.'

Grun says PA is very open to PR pitches: 'We cover hundreds of stories a day. Key details are the significance of an event, how quirky or fun the story is, and timing.'

The features and showbiz desks are also always open to pitches, says Grun, but these operate differently from the newswire. Denham suggests targeting features at regional newspapers, which are often produced by PA. 'Target these specialist journalists as well as the main news writers with topics that will appear across the country,' she advises.

'We always offer personal finance research stories in this way and they often appear in the section of regional papers for which PA provides content.'

QUICK FACTS

Output One million news items and 120,000 pictures every year

Employees 1,800

Archive More than seven million photographs

Countries covered More than 100 countries worldwide

Contacts

News desk copy@pressassociation.co.uk

Picture desk pictures@pressassociation.co.uk

Video desk multimedia@pressassociation.co.uk

Features desk features@pressassociation.co.uk

Entertainment/showbiz desk showbiz@pressassociation.co.uk

Sport desk sport@pressassociation.co.uk

A MINUTE WITH ... Jonathan Grun, editor, Press Association

- Define the Press Association

At the heart of PA is the team of journalists. For 140 years we have been the UK media's trusted source of news and information. We supply breaking news and interviews, real-time sports results and the weather. We are a digital business with the ability to supply text, pictures and video for use on any platform.

- How can PROs choose the right department to target with stories?

If you want to get a story on the main wire, it is best to email the newsdesk first. But remember that it has to be a real story. We spend a lot of time spiking flimsy story ideas and surveys. Our features, entertainment and magazine teams cover lifestyle and celebrity stories while our real-life team works on case-study-based stories.

- What can PROs gain from targeting PA?

Our service is taken up by every major media organisation. A good story can be picked up by scores of media outlets and go around the world.

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