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Meet the media: Sara Yirrell, CRN

Written by Paul Stallard

Sara Yirrell, editor of CRN

My latest Meet the Media interview is with the editor of CRN, Sara Yirell. I have had this interview for a good couple of months so I must apologise to Sara to begin with for the delay in posting it. I also have quite a few others which I will be posting over the next few weeks, now new clients, new role and house move are almost behind me.

Back to this interview I advise you read Sara’s worst case of PR. Shocker.

Name: Sara Yirrell
Title I work for: CRN

Paul Stallard: What is your pet hate of PR?
Sara Yirrell: I have a few – but here are my top four:- Being called up and asked if they can send me an email. Please just sendit

– don’t disturb my chain of thought just to ask a pointless question like that.

– Being told by a PR person who has no real idea of what CRN is interested in that ‘your readers would be really interested in this’ or ‘this is agreat angle for you to use in this story’ – is that so?

– Being called about a irrelevant news release on our print press day -please learn when a print publication’s press day is and avoid calling atall costs.

-Being monitored during interviews via a conference call is another one -makes for one dull interview – although I understand in this ever increasing Big Brother society, more clients are insisting on this. More’s the pity.

PS: What is the best way to contact you?
SY: Email – definitely – that way I cancheck emails in between doing everything else, rather than being forced tostop one thing to look at another and getting annoyed in the process.

PS: Do you think that most PR professionals read the title you write for before contacting you?
SY: In the case of CRN, definitely not. We have a very specialist audience that is a vital part in the technology route to marketand that covers most of the big-name vendors in the industry. Yes we are a technology title – but we don’t cover technology, we are interested in business issues. Product launches, whether they are ‘sold through the channel’ or not, are NOT of interest to us!

PS: What is your top tip for PR professionals?
SY: Please understand that when we call and say we have a deadline, we usually mean it – news cannot be made to wait for a client to decide when and where they want to comment. Instant comments are what we are after. PLEASE please please have a high res colour photo of ALL spokespeople BEFORE you pitch them to us in press releases – being made to wait for a picture when we are on a deadline is excruciating and unnecessary. Also don’t phone up and ask if you can send a press release through. Just hit that send button.

PS: How many emails / calls do you get a day?
SY: I would say 150 emails and between 8 -15 calls a day.

PS: How has the increase of social media affected traditional journalism?
SY: I think is has had a slight impact – mainly because more people think theycan call themselves journalists because they write a blog or have had something published online.  Social media has definitely helped on a contact front, is a good source of news on occasions and I think it has forced more of us to be quicker off the mark with news.  But quality over quantity will always prevail in the end.

PS: Have you had to change your writing style for online copy to incorporate SEO?
SY: We have always gone for the shortest, sharpest sentences where possible to ensure punchy copy, but SEO is an important part of webjournalism, so yes we have had to incorporate it into our style.

PS: Is there a future long term for hard copy publications or will online rule?
SY: There is always a future for hard copy – but they will have to adapt to survive – you cannot keep doing the same thing when you have an online competitor snapping at your heels. Online is very instant, and is oftenless detailed than print copy with the emphasis on getting the basic facts in the public domain as quickly as possible – so there will be a demand forboth from the readers.

PS: Bar your own, which news titles do you read?
SY: Private Eye, motorcycling and gardening magazines (my hobbies) and occasionally the Sun. Also the Evening Standard on the train home and sometimes the Metro in the morning. I also check out Sky News online every day – mainly to read some of the crazy comments at the bottom of stories – my lunchtime entertainment.

PS: What is the worst case of PR you have come across?
SY: Shortly after I became editor of CRN, some woman (who I think has thankfully left the industry) told her client that we had promised her a story would go on a certain page of our magazine (that would never happen). When it didn’t, she rang me several times the following week shouting down the phone that her client was not happy and asking what we were going to do about it. She also made the mistake of calling me unprofessional.  It ended up with me giving her the worst earbashing I have ever given anyone in my professional career and then hanging up.  I never heard from her again thank God.

PS: Do you believe journalists are rude to PR professionals?
SY: Some are definitely, but I hope I have never been rude intentionally. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, whatever role they play. After all, we are just doing our jobs and no one person is better than another.