Some excellent inputs and thoughts on the future of journalism and editing as we head into 2009 here. Happy New Year all!

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Advice for budding Editors

December 29, 2008

Check out this for great hints, tips and advice. Happy Reading!

Christmas choc shocker…

December 24, 2008

Great choccie story here as we head into the festive season – Happy Christmas indeed!

If, like me, you are at times overwhelmed by the sheer volume of online and offline sources of editorial to keep abreast of, this might be of use to you – great concept.

Alright, it’s a paid-for service, but sometimes you have to pay for up-to-the-minute editorial results.

Good work fellas.

Some of my newsroom companions do not see the value in blogs and blogging, either in the sense of adding value to a company’s editorial output, or as a useful editorial resource for journalists to tap into for sourcing News, Features and industry commentaries on business developments and trends.

The USA is way ahead of the UK in terms of seeing the value in blogging for business. Personally, I am a huge advocate of blogging – for me, anything that adds quality editorial resources to time-pressured Editors can only be a good thing.

The corporate blogs that first came out of the States from companies such as General Motors have been viewed as seminal case studies in best-practice examples for business blogging – for an American audience of course.

British marketing directors seem to have been reticent to take-up blog platforms and include company content online in this medium – a shame, seeing as it adds value to their marketing spread, whilst also providing customers and the Media with important additional sources of information.

British PR Agencies have been shockingly-slow in promoting blogging to business clients. They seem to fear the openness of blogging, it appears, and only a handful of PR providers are actively adding value in the UK to media sources via client blogs and online forums, where us media representatives can source valuable editorial inputs from company directors across the country. Most UK PR Agencies seem stuck to be in a rut of traditional media relations.

As a Managing Editor constantly on the look-out for fresh content, interesting editorial and commentary pieces which will add readership value, I hope more UK businesses will blog in 2009. Whether or not their PRs advise it.

There are some really useful inputs and thoughts here on the reasons why British bosses aren’t blogging.

An effective press release is like a perfectly-formed circle. It flows, ends where it starts. Seamlessly.

Or, at least, that’s the theory.

Too few of the press releases I have seen during my time in the Newsrooms of British magazines and newspapers in the past have been relevant, consistent, punchy, and factual from start to finish: more importantly, they need to carry ONE strand of information, ONE central News item to be conveyed, and ONE main media message. Not several bundled into one!

PRs take note and pay attention to the requirements of your primary audience in media relations – the needs of a time-strained Editor juggling to keep the publication on track. It is NOT all about your Client.

Too many PRs send press releases – many of which I can classify from the 250 I receive daily – containing too much information, most of it useless and simple fluff, rather than one key newsworthy, value-adding News item.

At times, of course, many PRs forget to even include one newsworthy element in a press release. It’s just irrelevant.

A regular and significant mistake made by PRs when conducting media relations via press release format is to attempt to cram too much information into the copy. Don’t. Keep it simple. Give Editors one message only.

The Editors you are liasing with will appreciate it, will be able to understand and decide quickly whether they want to proceed your press release to publication, and ultimately, can make the newsworthy judgement call quickly.

Simple fact of press release survival, for me, is this – if you don’t add value to my readership, your press release is binned. And none of us want to see a potentially good story being dropped because of sloppy, ineffective, ill-advised PR activity.

Recruiting in a Recession…

December 15, 2008

Recruiting in a recession – insanity? Absolutely not!

Given that running a portfolio of magazines with a burgeoning online community, including two blog forums, daily content management inputs, as well as increasing commitments for advertising-linked copy are all making time demands somewhat unreasonable – not that it stops the fluffy PRs ringing daily and emailing of course – it is an appropriate time to recruit in some junior editorial talent.

Well, it makes sense to expand the editorial department, seeing as advertisers are screaming out for more online opportunities to promote themselves – and possibly because more and more customers are buying banner ads, online insert equivalents and sponsorship of websites.

First round interviews out of the way – down to the final three.

And the results thusfar? 38 applications, of which only 6 had the required (and requested) NCTJ qualification. A few promising magazine-trained candidates, and a few straightforward chancers.

The perennial line: “I appreciate I do not have the required NCTJ qualification, but…”

As for the news-writing exercise which formed part of the first round…well…how hard can it be? 30 minutes, 150-word News story from a PR’s bog-standard press release.

Anyway, back to the start – recruiting in a Recession.

It seems that there are alot of people out there wanting to work in the Media: maybe it is a perception of glamour and huge salaries. Maybe they imagine it is fun to deal with fluffy PRs all day. Perhaps they think it’s easy to write good copy. One of the candidates commented “my Drama degree has given me an understanding of working with words” which obviously gave me a huge amount of hope and the added propulsion required to send the application to the bin.

So – quantity does NOT guarantee quality, as we all know. And the impact of a Recession is clearly being felt, when scores of jobseekers apply for a position which is totally unsuited to their core skills and abilities.

The Feature-writing exercise will be separating the proverbial Men from the Boys – which is interesting, because the strongest final three candidates were not male. Maybe women are better-equipped than men to deal with tough economic times? The guys in our recruitment first round didn’t handle interviewing as well as the majority of their female counterparts, irrespective of newsroom experience. What are your experiences of recruiting in editorial?

Content vs. Revenues

December 13, 2008

Here’s a quandary, and one which I am sure many Editors will relate to during credit-crunched times.

What’s more important – content quality or protecting magazine revenues?

Most editors I know will answer ‘both’ and for the most part I agree wholeheartedly….but…

I have a PR who is controlling the advertising budget for a client – a pretty large client in their industry sector. Said client receives regular monthly News coverage. Rightly so, as they are of interest to the readership of the magazine.

However, when it comes to spending a bit of cash on advertising in the magazine, the PR (on behalf of the client) is cagey, reticent and somewhat obtuse – even though I have seen the PR’s client advertising in other Trade magazines in the past.

So, the quandary is…to reduce the PR’s coverage and push for revenues coming in to demonstrate a mutually-beneficial relationship is occuring, OR to continue the current monthly News coverage for the client, in the readership’s interest?

The PR is woolly, fluffy and demonstrating time-delaying tactics, the readership deserves quality content, whilst the Chairman of the company expects revenues from clients which gain consistent and positive PR-based editorial coverage in the magazines across the portfolio.

It seems impossible to keep all three parties happy!

What would you do? I do not have this issue with any of the other magazines in the portfolio…tricky times indeed.

The Perfect PR – Part II

December 11, 2008

Further additions to the ongoing attempt to find a perfect PR, and here is a strong contender. No, it’s not the magnanimous Rubelle Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR either!

This was an email received yesterday following a brief, courteous and informed phone call from a PR. They knew my name, they asked if I was on deadline, didn’t sink straight into a self-obsessed Pitch, and popped this across to me within 10 minutes of the initial chat. Spot on.

“Hi ******,

Good to talk to you just now.

As promised, here is the feature I spoke about. This looks at ******’s **** ****** ****** equipment and discusses the key attributes that differentiate it from other market offerings. There’s also a quote in the piece from one of the UK customers, who talks about the difference the machine has made to his business.

Like I say, happy to let you take this as an exclusive for ****** ****** in the UK if it’s of interest.

I’ve attached high resolution images. I also have a shot of ****** ******  from ****** (quoted in the feature) which I can send you.

Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Kind regards,

******”

Now – PRs. Is this your modus operandi with the Press or do you follow the likes of Rubella? Please READ and discuss!

Absolutely gutted…

December 9, 2008

And here’s why.