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Meet the media: Andy Shaw, Web User


Written by Paul Stallard

Andy Shaw Web User

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This week’s meet the media interview is with Andy Shaw from Web User. Andy makes a good point about contacting journalists to arrange meetings with specific times and dates in mind. If you are lucky this can work but on most occations, with the pressures the media are under these days, clients can get more benefit out of meeting the press at a time that fits their schedule.

Name: Andy Shaw
Title I work for: Web User (www.webuser.co.uk), where I’m the Technical & Reviews Editor, looking after hardware and software product reviews, step by step guides and problem solving. I’ve previously worked for Computeractive, PC Advisor and PC Home, and have been working in computer magazines since 1993.

Paul Stallard: What is your pet hate of PR?
Andy Shaw: Pointless phone calls, where the caller sounds like they’re reading a press release before asking if I’d be interested in writing a review – I’d rather read the press release at my leisure. Requests to meet a PR’s client at a specific time on a specific day – I may be free but there are other things pulling on my time. Give me a couple of days and I’ll happily tell you which blocks of time I’m available for. Suggestions of products aimed at businesses – Web User is a consumer magazine (see the ‘read the title’ question below). Oh, and requests for forward features lists – do other magazines do these? I’ve never worked on a magazine that does.

PS: What is the best way to contact you?
AS: Email. I work from home two days a week so the chances of catching me at my phone aren’t great. Plus the phone is an interuption. I stop work to read emails too, but at least I’ve got the option not to.

PS: Do you think that most PR professionals read the title you write for before contacting you?
AS: I’m always pleasantly surprised when I find ones that do – they often really like it! I suspect too many rely on clippings only. I often get business products pitched, which is a waste of everyone’s time.

PS: Have you ever done any PR work and if yes what was the experience like?
AS: No, I don’t think it’s for me.

PS: How many emails / calls do you get a day?
AS: I don’t count them. Lots of emails and a smattering of calls.

PS: How has the increase of social media affected traditional journalism?
AS: I think there’s a long way to go with it. Do I want news headlines and marketing nonsense mixed up amongst updates about what my friends had for tea? Not really.

PS: Have you had to change your writing style for online copy to incorporate SEO?
AS: Sure, print and online are different. Magazine buyers are approaching material from a different angle. You have to cater for that. It’s not just about the SEO, though obvsiously that’s incredibly important. But what do people want from a story on the web as opposed to something they read in a magazine? It’s not the same thing, and it’s a tightrope that all print media with websites are walking. Interesting times lie ahead.

PS: Is there a future long term for hard copy publications or will online rule?
AS: Ask the advertisers. I don’t believe print will die but I think its glory days are over.

PS: Are there any PR agencies you have black listed because of bad practices?
AS: No.

PS: Do you believe journalists are rude to PR professionals?
AS: Some are, yes. I think being rude to anyone is abhorrent.

PS: Is being London based an advantage for PR professionals?
AS: I’m sure it is when starting out – more agencies must equal more opportunities. Once you’re established you can make choices. I live outside London now, which is great for almost every reason I can think of. I even love the commute, as it’s the only time I haven’t got either work or family pressures pulling on me. I can pull out a book and lose myself.

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