Each day we speak to a journalist about their new normal.
Where are you working from right now?
My home office as usual. Having said that, I have noticed that I am working more and more from my sofa whilst eating Hula Hoops and with Disney+ on in the background. That is definitely a shift in working habits. Normally it’s Netflix.
What’s your new morning routine?
Same as the old one, except I now start the day with an hour’s reading in bed, two breakfasts and a LOT of pondering about life, relationships, work, the past, the future and what to have for dinner – especially what to have for dinner because my entire life now revolves around food. A friend asked if I was ‘eating for immunity’ the other day and my answer was no – I was just eating for two!
If I’m feeling motivated I will do some admin in the morning. Invoice chasing is (sadly) a new obsession. Work tends to happen in the afternoon, as it always does for me. Like an old banger I need time to warm up.
Have you got dressed today?
Hold on, do you think I normally work in the nude? Or in my underpants? Actually, I have worked in nothing but my underpants but that was when we had that heatwave last year. Luckily, that was before Zoom meetings were the norm.
So, yes, I have got dressed today. As someone who works from home, I am wearing what I always do: a sweatshirt and sweatpants. Office attire for me is anything with the word ‘sweat’ in front of it. I’m currently thinking of ordering some sweat bands to complete the ensemble.
How has your working week changed since Covid-19 hit?
A lot actually but that’s partly because I have been ill (according to the doctor I spoke to on 111 it’s very likely I’ve had ‘it’ but without testing who knows?) so I had to down tools for a fortnight. I just didn’t have the energy to do much of anything. Trouper that I am I somehow still managed to file my Telegraph Mag copy though (Commissioning Eds note my heroic fortitude!).
As is the case with many of journalists, Coronavirus has definitely had an impact on my workload though. Some clients have stopped commissioning altogether and I understand that. I guess it’s challenging for PRs too. All we can do if feel our way through this crisis on a day-to-day basis.
What are the current plans for filling your pages?
The Telegraph were – quite rightly – keen on me tweaking my columns to reflect the times, so the themes have had to change to be more lockdown-relevant. That is slowly changing, as the prospect of restrictions loosening slightly increases, so things will, hopefully, return to normal in terms of subject matter soon.
What does a work lunch look like these days?
It looks a lot like Heinz tomato soup.
What’s the biggest challenge for your desk/publication right now?
The biggest challenge for ANY publication right now is to keep on publishing! As a journalist who spent the first half of his career in print media and who still has a fondness for that medium, it breaks my heart every time I get an alert about another publication suspending its physical edition. As I write this I just had a message saying one of my favourite mags, Classic Pop, is suspending print publication until July, which is terribly sad for the journalists, designers, publishers, printers – everyone involved.
Has anything positive come out of this?
Absolutely. On a personal level it has made me realise what’s important and what isn’t. It has allowed me to have some (guilt-free) downtime, recharge the batteries and has sparked ideas for new creative projects I will develop later this year.
I’m also impressed at how adaptive and creative people have been – from PRs creating virtual launches to publications exploring different ways to communicate with their readers. That’s been amazing.
I think that if you don’t use this period to take a long hard look at your life, relationships and working practices you’ll be missing a major opportunity – one that might not come again. I don’t just want to come out of this crisis alive – I want to come out of it happier, more focussed and hopefully a better person too. It’s a dark, dark time but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t looking for the light.
What’s your top tip for PRs right now?
Be nice. Be kind. Be relevant without jumping too wholeheartedly on the bandwagon. Think of variations on the ‘hope you are safe and well’ email opener! Tell me how you are and how you’re coping (I do actually care and want to know!). Ask whether people actually want samples sent to them (I don’t want a moisturiser to put anyone – a PR, a postie or a courier – at unnecessary risk). Be creative, adaptive and experimental.
Most of all, understand that not every journalist wants to write about hand cream (and probably won’t for a long time to come)!
Oh, and DO NOT panic! You will get through this. PRs are amongst the most resourceful and resilient people I know! I mean, if you can organise – and survive – a press event with a bunch of over-privileged, over-indulged journalists and influencers, a global pandemic is a walk in the park! A walk in the park with two metre distancing, yes, but a walk in the park nonetheless.
What’s your comeback plan?
Was I ever truly away?