Recently, our media relations team had an opportunity to listen to one the Daily Mail’s health editors, Shaun Wooller, discuss the hottest stories in health journalism, what he looks for in a pitch and how to get in touch.

First of all, a quick rundown of the Mail’s Health team. The paper has two health editors, Shaun and Katie Pickles. Shaun focuses on public health issues and the royal medical colleges. Meanwhile, Katie deals with breakthrough treatments, medical journals and new treatments (perfect for a few of our healthtech PR clients!). That said, feel free to send press releases to both.

Other members of the team include:

  • Kate Foster – health editor of the Scottish Daily Mail
  • Stephen Matthews – associate editor for health and science, Mail Online
  • Dr Max Pemberton – columnist (also an editor for the Spectator Health)
  • Cassidy Morrison – senior health reporter, Mail Online

There is also a supplementary publication, Good Health, released every Tuesday, which tends to focus on consumer health. They have their own ways of working, but Shaun recommends that you check them out to see what stories they’re covering.

Here’s a brief rundown of the Good Health team:

  • Justine Hancock – editor
  • Jinan Harb – deputy editor
  • John Naish – health reporter
  • Dr Martin Scurr – columnist

Who’s the audience?

When it comes to health-related stories, readers tend to be women (64%). However, they are not just reading for their own health, but also their partners’, parents’ and children’s too, so it’s certainly relevant to everyone. To this point, Daily Mail readers are a quarter more likely than average to take an interest in health – this reflects the paper’s primary demographic. It’s also the most popular segment among readers; almost four in every 10 (37%) stated they read the publication for health coverage.

What to pitch

Whatever the story is, the Daily Mail’s coverage is UK-focused, so anything you pitch should ideally be happening in Britain. That said, the team has many pages to fill each day, so a range of stories are considered.

Shaun’s most important contacts are the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England. He will also focus on health charities, the royal medical colleges, universities, and research institutes. Any story related to university research will gain more traction if the university is well-known. The paper also loves to use charities as sources of case studies or quotes.

Nonetheless, much of Shaun’s workload is also taken up by ongoing health-related issues, like the nurses’ strikes. Consumer PR agencies can grab his attention here – they can give him fresh angles on these stories. The ongoing cost-of-living crisis is interesting to Shaun, but only from a public health perspective. Additionally, the paper considers mental health coverage to be just as important as physical health, so coverage in this area is appreciated.

The pandemic has caused journalists to be more interested in pharmaceuticals, so any big company news is welcome. On a related note, health technologies are of interest as long as you can demonstrate their benefit to patients. Shaun also likes to highlight case studies that humanise an important medical breakthrough.

It’s also worth noting that Shaun has a folder for each day’s edition and will put any embargoed stories in the relevant folder, not touching it until the publication date. So, if you have an embargoed story, clearly display the embargo in the subject line of your pitch email!

How to get in touch

You should contact Shaun via email – he isn’t a big fan of calls. If the pitch is interesting, Shaun will get in contact with you and request more information. There’s no need to send a follow-up either – Shaun checks every email he gets!

And when?

Shaun checks his emails, Twitter and other outlets from the moment he wakes up (and continues until he goes back to sleep). However, he ‘officially’ starts his day at 8am, when he shortlists all the stories he wants to cover that day. This list then gets delivered to the news editors between 9:30am-10am. They will then discuss the ideas and let the section editors know what they want to see covered. Any reactive comments need to be pitched ASAP – they work on a fast turnaround.

The news team might often have another meeting at 2:30pm for breaking stories and can even have a third meet at 7pm if the right story comes along. In general, though, the deadline for stories is between 3pm and 4pm. Shaun ideally finishes by 5 pm and will get his stories sent over by 6pm.

That’s all from Shaun for now, but you can follow him on Twitter at @shaungw.

Are you looking for a healthtech PR agency that knows what journalists want? Get in touch!

Written by: Jasmin Martin, media relations executive at Definition.