Covering EU tech policy might have been niche and nerdy 10 years ago – but as technology developed, so did the influence of this beat. From copyright and data privacy to healthcare, banking, retail, transport and much more, technology has redefined our lives, and policy-makers are struggling to keep up.
On 12 October 2016, Cambre Media Director Victoria Main, moderated a debate with leading EU tech journalists about the challenges of making policy developments relevant and accessible to their audience. A resounding theme in the debate starring Julia Fioretti (Reuters), Magnus Franklin (MLex), Ryan Heath (POLITICO Playbook) and Duncan Robinson (Financial Times) was that media relationships matter enormously, despite the digital whirlwind in which we live.
Soundbites from the pros:
Julia Fioretti on writing for global audiences: “Incremental policy decisions are not interesting – big changes make good stories. I always ask the questions – what is the impact on the sector? The companies? Who will win? Who will lose? If the answer is no one, it’s not a good story.”
Duncan Robinson on Twitter: “While it is a real bubble, it can be useful for gathering expert advice and for thinking out loud.”
Ryan Heath on knowing your audience: “PR professionals need to understand what a journalist is working on. For example, Playbook is made up of short items with links. I can’t use a one-page press release, but I can use a quote or a fact. So you should try to send brief material.”
Magnus Franklin on trends in covering tech in the EU. “In the tech sector, the products and services, and therefore the companies, develop so fast. As journalist, and observers, it’s impossible to always know where the technology and company are moving and how policies could be shaped around them – so don’t make any assumptions.”
- Brussels is a small town. Unlike other big cities, work and social life overlap. Journalists are people too so build long-term relationships.
- Stories pitched to journalists should offer intel of interest to their audience and give them information they can use to act.
- Be clear and snappy when pitching your stories or positions. Think about how you would explain it to a family member who doesn’t care about your job.
- Remember you will be part of a story with winners and losers. It’s the differing ambition of companies, member states and the EU institutions make a good story.
- Learn whether your close journalist contacts want to be reached by email, text, landline, mobile phone or Twitter.
- Provide relevant and timely information if you want to have impact.
- Send advance comments under embargo when possible, as early comments stand the best chance of being included in a story.
- Know the time constraints that journalists are working under. These differ from publication to publication – so learn them and act accordingly.
- Trade associations should be clear about who they represent, as the longer it takes to dig into your background, the less likely you are to make it into a story.
- Facebook Live is becoming an important tool to reach audiences, for journalists and organisations alike.