Freelance Journalist Focus: Ian Freeman

Today we chat to journalist Ian Freeman, who tells us about the importance of plurality in freelance work…

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
Mainly the business side of leisure and hospitality. I write about the operational and financial aspects of nightclubs, bars, restaurants, tenpin bowling, snooker – just about anything that involves going outside the home to have a good time.

My particular speciality is in-depth interviews with CEOs and MDs – I want my readers to understand what makes them tick.

My background in the entertainment and movie industries also means I am knowledgeable enough about the film and theatre businesses to cover them, too.

These days, freelancers have to be plural, so I have also written and edited the corporate website of a major European chemicals company, as well as being involved in advising leisure companies on corporate relations and on handling the media in crisis situations.

I also moderate seminars and conferences, am an adept compère and public speaker and, in the course of my work, have appeared many times on TV and radio.

Where are we likely to see your work?
Mainly in trade and business-to-business media, and on line, although I have written for the Daily Telegraph and consumer magazines too.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
My favourite interview was one I did a few years ago with Gerald Ronson, the founder and patriarch of Heron, the property company. What an amazing life the man has led – including being imprisoned for his part in the Guinness share-trading scandal in the 1980s.

Next favourite was with Sir Rocco Forte of the legendary hospitality industry family. Having had his company taken from him via a hostile bid, I interviewed him just as he was beginning to build a new empire – one which is now, a few years on, one of the prime movers in hotels worldwide. A true inspiration.

Here’s an interview from ‘Leisure Management’ with Maurice Kelly, the boss of Rileys, the once-tired chain of snooker clubs, which shows how they are reviving the business.

And I’m also very proud of the work I did for Rhodia SA, Europe’s biggest chemicals company, in writing and editing their corporate website. Take a look and click on anything that’s not news-based.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love to interview one of the true greats of the hotel business – someone like Conrad Hilton, Howard Johnson or Ian Schrager, who is credited with inventing the ‘boutique hotel’ concept, and is the only one of those three still alive!

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
I am, in the main, commissioned by publications and websites, but I do often put forward ideas of my own.

How can PRs be useful to you?
I spent many years as a PR and learned that the best way to appeal to a journalist is to provide the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible and to be creative when putting forward suggestions for articles. The same-old same-old just doesn’t wash any more. And please don’t call every ten minutes asking what’s happening with the piece – I don’t know any more than you do!

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
How? By e-mail, please. When? When they have something that will help me to help them.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Call me old-fashioned, but I find events really useful in getting to know people face-to-face, as well as extremely helpful when I want to dig down deep for a company profile or interview. Plus, of course, all events offer networking opportunities.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I’d like them to be older! I have nothing, sadly, in common with a 23 year-old Oxbridge graduate!

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d own a pub. Or a hotel. Or be a stand-up comedian. Or a theatre producer. Or a writer on a US TV sitcom. Or maybe something else.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’d buy everyone at DWP a cocktail in the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. A grand might just cover it!

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Apologies that my tastes are so narrow, but I’ve just finished the radio presenter Chris Evans’s autobiography and am about to start Lord Sugar’s. Magazines are mainly trade, such as ‘The Stage’, ‘Leisure Management’ and ‘Caterer’. Dull, huh?

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