Freelance Journalist Interview with Jaillan Yehia
About your journalism
What do you write about?
I live, eat, breathe, sleep and write about travel. I specialise in writing about stylish, discerning, quirky, design-led and high-end travel which usually means I cover hotels, destinations, experiences, shopping and art, food and culture and anything else wonderful I find when I’m overseas.
Where are we likely to see your work?
On my own travel blog – www.savoirthere.com, in the magazine of which I’m travel editor – East Kent Lifestyle, on Travel Trade Gazette’s digital platform where I have a monthly column talking about consuming travel in the digital age, and also on sites for whom I freelance regularly such as Flight Centre UK, Round The World Experts and North London magazine The Kentish Towner.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I recently spent three months in Asia including a month in Siem Reap, Cambodia where I compared ten of the best stylish and interesting hotels in what I think has to be the most hotel-heavy town in South-East Asia. That was very memorable and let’s face it, pretty enjoyable too.
Other than that, I interviewed an amazing and formidable lady called Patience who was South Africa’s first female game ranger and with whom I went on Safari on the South Africa/Botswana border. She is a force to be reckoned with and no mistake!
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I would love the chance to write a consumer feature about travel blogging – everyone understands what a travel writer is but most people don’t know what travel blogging is and I can’t blame them. It would be cool to explain how we can help the public with their trip research and planning – there’s so much incredibly up-to-date, in-depth and unique information about travel on blogs, if only the public knew that it existed and where to find it.
About you and PRs
Where do you source ideas for articles?
Like most travel journos, I subscribe to the Travel Writers Alliance bulletin and Travmedia alerts and like everyone in the modern world I am on a relentless number of email lists so I might get an idea from any of those sources. Equally, I might read something in a completely random publication which sparks an idea, which I then tear out and save for a rainy day – so I have lots of scraps of paper ready for the mythical day when I am on top of all my work and looking for something new to do!
How can PRs be useful to you?
The most useful thing a PR can do (and I speak as an ex-travel PR here!) is get back to a journalist quickly. Sending out information speculatively is all well and good but when you have a bite it’s important to prioritise following-up on that. When PRs give you either the information you need fast or help set up a visit to a client’s property quickly and painlessly it makes an enormous difference – and usually if a journalist has a few options, it is first come first served. The other thing I appreciate from a PR is ongoing communication – so when I produce coverage and send it on it’s nice to get an acknowledgement that they’ve seen the coverage and passed it onto the client.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Email is ideal but sometimes if you need to thrash something out there’s nothing like a phone call – sometimes I think with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, MSN Messenger, Skype and all these other methods of communication and media we are all a bit slow to pick up the phone these days. Having said that, Twitter works really well for an initial contact and I’ve met a few great PRs in 140 characters or less.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
As a freelancer (read ‘pyjamapreneur’) I often find these events essential as an excuse to get dressed. They also force me to step away from the keyboard, and engage with real live humans. I believe that when you are with the right people networking is great fun and highly productive.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I’d love it if all the time PRs spent writing generic press releases about how a hotel has launched a new drink or something similar could be used dealing with specific and genuine enquiries – but I understand that the client wants a press release every month.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’ve worked in various aspects of media, from advertising sales to PR and marketing so I’d go back to the most lucrative of these and enjoy the sensation of a big fat pay packet again.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
Oops, I’ve already mentally spent it on clothes and shoes; I don’t need to be asked twice to go shopping!
Do you tweet? Why, why not?
I do tweet, really rather a lot. Twitter is the first place I go for news and to look up prospective stories. It sounds barmy to those who don’t tweet but I’ve met some amazing people and learned a lot from Twitter. As a writer, the challenge of composing the perfect tweet is hard to resist, too. Also, when series two of Twenty Twelve was on TV, the brilliant PR pastiche character Siobhan Sharpe followed me on Twitter; it completely made my day.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I think of books as the most unbelievable luxury in this fast-paced world and I’d consider it the height of indulgence to read a book in bed while eating hot buttered crumpets. When I do read now it is either something I picked up at a book swap while away (I have to confess it is often the most low-brow chick-lit I can get my hands on for a real head-holiday) or a business book. I used to co-run a software company and I think there are fantastic lessons for all business owners in the books by 37signals, like 'Rework'. "There are no such things as business plans, just business guesses" – so true!
Magazines – my house is absolutely stuffed with travel magazines, especially in-flight magazines from all over the world that I like to keep for reference and story ideas, but the only ones that make it into my handbag are Time Out and ES Magazine (I’m a staunch Londoner) and Grazia and Heat – I’m an incorrigible gossip lover and I like to stroke the pictures of the nice handbags.
Blogs – I read as many travel blogs as I can but it would be unfair to single one out. I also drool over fashion blogs and follow Isabelle at Caroline’s Mode. For kick-ass career advice I turn to Marianne Cantwell of Free Range Humans, her ideas are a real breath of fresh air.
Jaillan is tweeting @SavoirThere.