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At a recent talk the Deputy Head of Digital at the Times talked about the huge investments they’re making in digital innovation. The expansion of their digital team (including the recruitment of developers and data analysts); a new seating arrangement meaning the digital team is now sat in the main building working closely with the Times and Sunday Times (rather than being left to their own devices in a separate building); and a dedicated team member in place to teach all journalists new digital skills –all strong signs that digital is no longer an afterthought and something The Times is taking very seriously.

This is good news for us at Claremont. We’re very excited by the opportunities created through the rise of digital. However it’s important to understand what this means for us in terms of our usual working relationship with journalists and how we pitch.

Some of the basic principles adopted by traditional PR still apply, for example:

  • We still show an interest in and understanding of the paper, its readers and all its sections  – but we broaden that knowledge to digital sections.
  • We talk to journalists to understand what it is they really want before diving in with a story – and be sure that includes the online team

But there are some new things that are definitely worth thinking about too:

Co-creation

Digital teams are still relatively small with tight and demanding turnaround times, so finding ways of working together with journalists from the outset and co-creating content is going to be much more effective and exciting.  With the right budget and suitable brand alignment there is also scope for developing commercial partnerships  – it’s just a question about whether it’s the right thing to do.

It’s not print OR digital, it’s multi-platform

When developing stories take a moment to consider how your story will work across a range of platforms and not just in print. However don’t forget that a connection to print is key as it’s still a main platform for launching things from and for the Times in particular, if things don’t work editorially then it won’t work for them. If you do things in isolation from that core, it’s difficult to get going.

How can they benefit?

The Times’ focus is on dwell time and retention of subscribers rather than page views – their recent stats show that people are spending 40minutes reading their tablet version from cover to cover – therefore they want great content.

Can you provide content that will fit in with and improve one of their apps?

Can you give them something bespoke for their tablet version?

Can you give them exclusive content that helps them stand out and appeal to their readers?

Be resourceful

People are constantly developing new ways of displaying large data sets so if you’re conducting research – often at quite a hefty cost – instead of just cherry picking a few highlights for your story and ditching the rest, think instead about how you can use what is left – perhaps you could turn it into an innovative infographic? Or do you have old data that could be presented in a more interesting way? What looks boring in a spreadsheet (what doesn’t?) could look great if  it is developed and presented in the right way.

Consider the journey

In print, a story could be bathing in editorial glory one day and be wrapping chips the next, whereas the moment a story is published online it comes to life and its journey begins. People can comment on it, they can share it; they can revisit it and reengage with it and suddenly, you’ve started a conversation.