Freelance journalist Focus with Roger Marshall
Roger Marshall is an Englishman living and working in America. He sailed in the UK aboard Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath’s Morning Cloud in the 1970s. He is a member of the judging panel for the DAME awards at the METS (Marine Exposition and Trade Show in Amsterdam), chairman of the judging panel for the Innovation awards judging at the IBEX show in Miami and gets to look at a lot of boating products in many parts of the world.
What do you write about?
Boats and marine products of all sizes from the littlest dinghy to 50 meter superyachts. Most of my work entails actually trying out the yacht or product, so I’m on the water a lot.
Where are we likely to see your work?
All At Sea magazine in the Caribbean, Yacht Essentials, Southern Boating, DIY Boat Owner, and many other sailing and boating magazines. I’ve written for magazines all over the world including Japan.
What is the most memorable work you’ve done?
My latest book, Fiberglass Repair Illustrated to be published in June this year by International Marine in America. I’ve written fourteen other books and have a superyacht book in the works.
What interview or feature would you most like to do?
A long coastal cruise that encompasses the Galapagos on board a very large sailing yacht. Hopefully the yacht will be going to New Zealand or some other warm destination.
Where do you source ideas for articles?
I get them from all over. I might be reading a newspaper and see something on the economy which generates an idea on the boating economy. I often get PR people pitch ideas, but usually they are pitching a product. My readers want to know about all the products in that area, so while I will include the PR’s product, I also include other products. I get numerous ideas from a show and jot them down all the time.
How can PRs be useful to you?
I get a lot of new product info and often get good contacts within a company from PR people. They often know who the right person to talk to is. If they don’t they can find out.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
I usually have personal contact with most of the PR people I know at shows. I make sure they know what I am interested in and what my readers are interested in. Most send a release or three a week by email and there’s always the delete button.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I find them very useful most of the time. I often get information or see products that are not yet available to the public and I get a better insight into what is driving the manufacturer and who the target audience is. Sometimes the target audience is not my audience, other times I learn about the product. I’m not interested in the press conference that hypes the company. Give me solid info that helps me do my job better.
Surprisingly, many parties are great for networking.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Don’t send fluff. I need solid data and hard info to bring to my reader. I don’t need to be told that a product is the best thing since…. I can judge that. Many PR people send me a paragraph or three of BS. That’s what the delete button is for. I’m not interested to learn that Joe Smith has become vice-chairman of Widgets, but if he has a brand new widget and a market direction, I’m interested.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Do what I do when I’m not writing, designing boats from dinghies to large sailing yachts. Of course, I have to try them too!
If we gave you £1000 how would you spend it?
Probably buy yet another boat to restore. My sons and I have too many now. We are working on rebuilding a seven meter sailboat and writing about each step of the process. The fiberglass repair book was done by repairing, photographing, and writing about the restoration of an older boat.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag?
Gallipoli by Len Carlyon – a really interesting book, a 1920 edition of the Battle of Jutland, the manuscript for my newest book, and John Masefield’s book on Gallipoli. I also have a hand written midshipman’s diary from the battle of Gallipoli. That’s what started me reading Masefield and Carlyon’s books.
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