Our latest professional pairing were Rhys Thomas, a consultant at BLUE Communications and Chris Lewis, a freelance journalist specialising in transport and logistics, and editor at Freight Business Journal. Here’s what happened when they met for their PR and journalist lunch.
How was your lunch?
Chris: Very enjoyable and productive.
Rhys: It was a fantastic experience and really underlined the power of a face-to-face meeting. In our increasingly digitalised lives, there might be the temptation to sneak back behind the shelter of an email inbox. But a ‘black book’ of contacts is as important as it has ever been for PR professionals, particularly in specific sectors like marine and energy which BLUE works within. I would encourage any PR professional to cultivate those contacts face-to-face and, when possible and prudent, ditch the emails and pick up the phone.
Did you learn anything new about their role? If so, what?
Chris: Not as such but discovered that he does PR for a couple of organisations relevant to my area who I weren’t aware of actually having any PR.
Rhys: The biggest takeaway was the complexity of Chris’ position as a freelancer; clearly, he has an immense knowledge of the market, but I was extremely impressed by his ability to silo knowledge to a very specific level – something that must be invaluable in editing and contributing to a range of titles across the same or similar sectors.
Were you surprised by anything they told you about their job?
Chris: Not really, other than the 2 above.
Rhys: Not surprised, but relieved to find in Chris a defender of independent journalism. We discussed at length the natural tension between publishers and editors, and finding a middle ground that helps a publication to thrive as a business whilst also maintaining its editorial integrity. Clearly, Chris is managing this very well across his publications and they stand as a tangible example of how, even in the digital world, good information is still a commodity that people will pay for.
If you could share one top tip from lunch what would it be?
Chris: Never refuse the offer of a new contact, and certainly not a free lunch!
Rhys: Definitely enter into conversations with an open mind. Chris’ sectors are aligned with BLUE’s, so I had some expectation of where the discussion would lead – but we ended up talking about so many industry-impacting trends that it actually opened doors for more clients than I had first expected.
Do you think this lunch will change how you interact with PRs/journalists in the future?
Chris: No, I don’t think so.
Rhys: No – in the sense that I, and BLUE as an organisation, has always understood the power of meeting someone face to face wherever possible, and engaging on the topics and issues that genuinely interest their readership. I would really encourage other PR and communications professionals to get out to industry conferences and make a point of meeting journalists first hand. Putting a face to a name can cement a long-term relationship that goes beyond what is possible over email. And no journalist is going to give you the time of day if you can’t demonstrate that you understand what their readership wants.
Did you disagree on anything? If so, what?
Chris: No, it was all very civilised.
Rhys: Thankfully – no! We both had similar interpretations about the ways that our sectors are heading. We also agreed on how integral shipping and logistics and their associated industries are to the world economy, which we both felt should heighten everyone’s awareness of the trends that are impacting those sectors.
If you could change one thing about PRs/journalists what would it be and why?
Chris: Stop trying to keep journalists and clients at arms’ length from each other through devices such as demanding questions in advance and doing written replies rather than proper interviews. However, Rhys fully agreed with me on this.
Rhys: Generally, BLUE is very lucky to work with a genuinely excellent crop of journalists across the sectors we work within. I think the dynamic cuts both ways: it is incumbent on PR and communications professionals to be understanding of the pressures that a publication or journalists face in their day-to-day work. How can we work together harmoniously? That is the question we all must answer to ensure our industries thrive.
Finally, do you think you’ll stay in touch?
Chris: Definitely. Rhys has at least a couple of clients that are right up my street.
Rhys: Definitely. Chris is an excellent contact with lots of knowledge about the marine and energy sectors in which BLUE operates, and we certainly see a few opportunities for Chris to meet our clients in the near future; in fact, we are already trying to sync diaries!
Chris and Rhys’ ‘blind date’ took place at the Paternoster Chop House aka the First Dates restaurant! If you’re a PR or a journalist and you’d like to be set up on one of Vuelio’s professional ‘blind dates’, please email Rebecca Potts.