Roxhill Webinar: City in lockdown - how business media is dealing with the Coronavirus crisis


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Register to watch the full-length webinar with Simon English - Chief City Reporter at the Evening Standard, for a discussion on how business media is dealing with the lockdown.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately we suffered some technical difficulties with Simon's audio throughout this webinar. For this reason, we've provided you with some webinar notes below. We've taken steps to ensure this doesn't happen again in future. Thank you for your patience, and we hope the notes will be useful to you.

The Speaker

Simon English is Chief City Reporter for the Evening Standard. He writes a regular Tuesday column and covers banks and telecoms specifically.

Webinar Notes

Challenges for the media

  • This crisis has been different and worse than the two previous crises – 9/11 and the financial crunch – that he’d covered. The operational challenge of getting a paper out whilst working remotely is something newspapers have never faced before.
  • The Standard was ahead of the curve on planning for remote publication. Editor George Osborne had an early sense of how serious the crisis was going to become and the paper trialled a number of dummy editions with journalists working from home.
  • Deadlines are tight at the Standard at the best of times but with the added distribution challenges they are now sacrosanct. Pages have to go at 11am.
  • The paper is now being distributed at places where people can get them - eg supermarkets in Zone 2 & 3 - and Standard distributors are delivering door-to-door. The website has assumed even greater importance.
  • The Standard is holding a Zoom conference at 8.30am. Journalists put in calls up to 9.30am before concentrating on copy.
  • Visibility of events is a big issue for journalists being at home. There is no office chat and it is harder to get hold of people. It can be a struggle to get the background and colour on a story.
  • Tone in a crisis is very important and journalists pay special attention to the language they use in articles and commentary.

Challenges for comms teams

  • Simon’s perception is that PR activity has dropped dramatically – there is a lot less in the in box.
  • “Emails work” - that’s the way to get hold of me. It is no crime sending something important to multiple contacts at a publication to make sure it is seen. Flagging issues the day before is a big plus.
  • Personal relationships are more important than ever. Simon has leaned heavily on his top contacts during the crisis. It is harder to reach journalists at this time if you don’t know them. Legwork over the past ten years pays off now.
  • “Language is so notable. Things that are tone deaf stick out a mile – they go clunk”. Read things again or get somebody else to read it for you.
  • Simon believes the quality of a lot of communications is better in the crisis as spokespeople focus on what is important- say what is happening using the shortest least dramatic terms you can.
  • Non virus stories being crowded out. The Standard trying to run one non-virus story every day.
  • In Simon’s view the Treasury and Bank of England are doing a very good job in the crisis as the best run British institutions. He is less favourable of the banks who missed the opportunity to do the right thing themselves on capital buffers.

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