Yesterday, Portland hosted a panel discussion on a topic that’s close to the hearts of those working in an industry so reliant on networking. In a world of lockdowns and working from home, how do you build and nurture strong relationships online?
Louise Winmill, partner at Portland, was joined by former City Editor of the Evening Standard, James Ashton; Retail Editor for The Times, Ashley Armstrong and Director of International Communications for Snap Inc., Tanya Ridd, to discuss ‘Media Networking in Lockdown’.
Below are four different things that we learnt from their honest and insightful discussion;
1. Everything is quicker and more transactional
Journalism has always been a reactive business, by the very nature of news. But with so many breaking stories, so few people and all sorts of new pressures on journalists and media relations staff alike – the pace of work has increased exponentially.
As a consequence, the advice to those watching was clear. Long lead in times to embargoed stories are not going to be the most effective way of delivering for clients. Unfocused meetings, catch ups and editorial boards are not popular right now either. Everything should be targeted, have a clear purpose and a deliverable outcome.
2. Journalist deadlines are earlier than ever
Because of the logistical challenges of delivering print news remotely, deadlines have been moved forward. For some, this means delivering next day’s news by 2pm – naturally having a knock-on effect in terms of when you are newsgathering and looking for stories.
Whilst it would not be advisable to start ringing journalists at 6:15am, a text or whatsapp at the start of the day was suggested as a useful way to flag something, which they can come back to if of interest.
3. In person will always beat digital
For all of us, lockdown has meant our circle of physical interactions has decreased dramatically. And without the opportunity to bump into someone in a hallway or at a bar, there is a real risk that stories are being lost and opportunities missed.
As well as this, more than one of our panellists referenced missing the “spark” of meeting people and working together creatively in a team. At the time of writing, no one has successfully figured out how to replicate informal interactions and in-person chemistry in the digital realm.
4. The world is both bigger and smaller
Whilst there are missed opportunities for informal conversations, there are benefits to knowing that everyone is working from home. International organisations and their leaders have been grounded for months – and the ever-changing travel plans which used to be the bane of journalists (and colleagues) lives, currently aren’t happening.
This has meant that there are increased chances to interview people or speak to teams in other markets and time zones. All of us are spending more time at home, so even with all of the challenges that can bring, diaries may be more open and flexible now than previously thought.