Freelance journalist Clare Sturges talks about her work, blogging, dream features, and where Ken Livingstone’s vegetable patch fits in to it all. Clare believes a good writer can cover almost anything, and proves it with her work appearing in customer magazines on topics from hair to motoring, but with a particular focus on finance and the environment.
About your journalism:
What do you write about?
All sorts of things: financial investments, environmental issues, what it means to be a writer and copyeditor, motoring, hair (yes, there’s quite a lot to say!) – I’m often asked what I specialise in. I’d have to say financial and environmental journalism, but a good writer can apply their skills to most things.
Where are we likely to see your work?
Within the corporate literature of big brands like Legal & General, Environment Agency, AXA Sun Life, Royal London, Connaught Group PLC and customer magazines like Lansdown Links (for a firm of financial advisers). I also microblog with a Twitter feed @claresturges, so you can find my musings there.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I once interviewed then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone about what he did in his personal life to be green. He was a real talker – it turns out he does all the usual recycling, has low-energy light bulbs, a water butt, he cycles and has also got a vegetable patch… the list went on. I wondered where he finds the time!?
My most memorable piece of work involved interviewing the Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) and his co-astronauts at an autograph fayre. During the recording – for the BBC Sky at Night coverdisc – a waiter went past with a huge trolley of clanging plates. It ruined that section of the minidisc, but true to form Jim Lovell was completely unfazed. It was a pleasure to meet them as they’re absolute gents.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love the chance to write about how the written word translates to the visual medium of film and screen. It’s a pretty niche subject and sounds very theoretical… I’m really interested in exploring how journalism and writing is comparable to telling stories in film – how words on a page can be carried through to the screen to create drama, suspense, intrigue, interest and excitement. Lots of journalists are being required to multi-skill now – with online videos becoming an increasingly common method of news reporting.
About you and PRs:
Where do you source ideas for articles?
Ideas can come from all sorts of places – not just the usual press releases that land in my inbox. I’m a member of Chartered Institute of Marketing, so get some useful consumer trend updates from there. That’s really useful for keeping my finger on the pulse.
I always keep an eye on the news and an ear on the radio, so I’m in touch with what people are thinking and what’s current. My best ideas come from chatting with friends, family, colleagues and people on the street. Talking about things with real people can give you a valuable insight into the most engaging way to approach an issue or feature.
How can PRs be useful to you?
Send out relevant, timely, interesting releases that are useful to their intended audiences. Build relationships based on two-way communication – I think PR is about starting and maintaining conversations with publics, not just conveying information. Think about how your idea can be used across media – whether that’s web, print, audio or TV.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Email is becoming a less popular way of staying in touch, especially for people who receive high volumes of mail, like journalists. I think social media is a really effective way of connecting with both existing and new contacts. You can create interest and maintain attention with top-quality content – and if what you’re providing isn’t hitting the mark, you’ll soon see the numbers drop.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Useful. Great for getting stories, networking, building real relationships and staying in touch with the hot topics within a sector.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
The dog-eared old press release! Make it snappy, enticing and topical every time.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d teach English as a foreign language in some beautiful tropical country, where the cost of living is low and mangoes grow in the trees.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’d use some of it for necessities like that new scanner-printer I’ve had my eye on… Then I’d travel: a tour of South America combined with some voluntary work. I speak Spanish and welcome every chance to practice the language and get involved.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by New York writer Jonathan Safran Foer, Copywriting: successful writing for design, advertising and marketing by Mark Shaw; a copy of Living etc magazine, National Geographic and lots of issues of Marketing magazine and The Journalist…
[lnk|http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/zggT/clare-sturges/|_blank|Find out more about journalist Clare Sturges on the Freelance Journalist Directory]