Freelance Journalist Focus: Steve Cotterell
Today we talk software reviews and nom-de-plumes with freelancer Steve Cotterell…if that’s his real name…(hint; it is):
About your journalism:
What do you write about?
Each month I write an in-depth review of a software application used by project or programme managers and their people. Mostly this is scheduling or process management software, but the field also includes applications for risk, benefit and opportunity management. Mind mapping software and a few other applications also fall into this area.
I’m always interested in writing about project management training and team-building (and related), though that has to be something more than just classroom sessions or computer-based self tuition.
I also write a monthly set of short ‘Quicklook’ reviews which look at any other software, hardware and gadgets that I can link into my area of interest – and it’s surprising just how much can, with a bit of imagination, be linked!
When I come upon a case study that particularly interests me, I am likely to want to write that up as well – and I enjoy writing these the most of all.
I write case study pieces, on commission, for organisations’ internal publications and for publicity purposes and have been asked, in the past, to write a software review solely for the eyes of the software vendor.
Where are we likely to see your work?
Most of my writing, these days, is done for Project Manager Today, a subscription magazine that’s also available on the Web and where I’m the technical editor. As most of my commercial work is done anonymously, or under a non-de-plume, you are unlikely to be aware that it’s my work.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Two pieces come instantly to mind. The first was quite a few years ago, when The Eden Project first opened. I wrote a case study about the early days of the project with which I was particularly pleased and which, I later discovered, was used by one of the lecturers at a well-known business school as an example of good case study writing practice.
I also enjoyed a safari trip to South Africa when I was writing a case study of a team-building training package that was based around observing the behaviour of animals in the wild.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I enjoy foreign travel and interesting case studies – let’s take it from there!
About you and PRs:
Where do you source ideas for articles?
Mostly from information sent to me by both internal and agency PR people.
How can PRs be useful to you?
By sending me relevant information.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
When they have relevant information.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I find press conferences, product launches and, especially, trips very useful. Parties not so much and I seldom attend them.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
If I request something from them – like an action or a review sample – and the answer is no then that they should say no rather than saying yes, doing nothing about it, and leaving me hanging on waiting, and waiting, and waiting. If they make a promise, they should keep it.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I am the assessor for the APM Group/OGC Project Management Software Endorsement Scheme. I am also the auditor for their ITIL Software Endorsement Scheme.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I could do with a powerful laptop; the one I use is beginning to show its age (I could review it too!).
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
To tell the truth, although I used to be an avid reader, I don’t read a lot these days. My favourite book of all time is Catch 22 (if you’ve never read it, get a copy. It’s hilariously funny but with a very powerful message hidden behind the humour).
I read a few computer-related magazines but only dip into blogs now and then, when I hear of something worth reading in a particular blog.