Media Interview with Lu Rahman, editor of Renewable Energy Installer
About your publication
You recently told us that the renewables sector has never been more important. How does the growth of the sector determine the content of Renewable Energy Installer?
The renewables and microgeneration market is one of the most exciting industries we have in the UK at the moment. At a time when the country is struggling economically, it is encouraging to be part of a sector that is continually pushing the boundaries in how we view and generate energy. As a result of this, the market is ever-evolving. Technology is growing apace to make renewables more affordable and available. In addition, the government is building incentive schemes (not always implemented in the best way, it has to be said) to increase the uptake of these technologies, and as a result the content of the magazine has to reflect this. It does, of course, make the magazine incredibly interesting to put together as legislation can change from one week to the next – we have to acknowledge this, either in print or online to keep the installer – our reader – well-informed and up-to-date.
What topics are you most interested in covering?
Renewable Energy Installer covers all renewables and microgeneration technologies – solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, ground and air source heat pumps, biomass, micro-wind and micro-hydro. We write about updates in technology, legislation, industry news, etc., but where we are really lucky is that we have worked hard to create a strong bond with the sector. This makes us fortunate enough to have expert opinions and views when we need them. REI has no end of top-flight industry insiders who are willing to air their views. This makes for a fantastic read and gives the magazine a personal touch.
What makes REI different from the other outlets in the renewables sector?
As I said, REI does have the personal touch through the range of industry opinion we are able to tap into. The reader may or may not agree with this which creates debate, and that’s really healthy for a magazine such as ours. We have a great relationship with the industry and it shows in the quality of stories we are able to put out. REI is a niche magazine and is the only magazine in the market place aimed at the Microgeneration Certification Scheme-accredited installer that also boasts a partnership with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) itself. This is hugely important for our readers as it demonstrates not only the credibility of the publication but also the close links we have with this crucial accrediting body – any installer who is serious about doing long-lasting business in this sector is MCS-accredited.
How do you determine your forward features schedule? Is there an element of flexibility to that list of upcoming features?
I aim to keep the forward features list rolling on a 12-month basis. We do try and stick to it but the nature of this sector means that frequently, something new needs to be covered so we make room for that. Being flexible and able to adapt to the news and changes in the market is important in this sector.
About you and freelance journalists
Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists? How should freelance journalists get in touch to pitch ideas?
Due to the nature of the renewables industry we are very lucky to benefit from sector experts that are willing to contribute very engaging copy. The magazine came from humble beginnings five years ago when we did not have a freelance budget. Whilst we don’t often need to use freelancers, we are always open to them contacting us for further discussion. The best approach is to call or email in the first instance and we can take it from there. A writer would need to be aware of the current and upcoming renewables legislation in order for us to use them as this informs virtually everything we write about.
What types of PR agencies/PRs do you work with? Do you tend to work with the same PRs or do you receive contributions from a wide range of sources?
I would say the majority of PRs we work with have a solid understanding of the market and the needs and interests of our readers. We have a range of PR companies that work with us – some old faithfuls and some that come to us every now and then with an idea/article pitch. It’s a good balance and keeps us fresh. Obviously the PRs we work with regularly know the magazine and the approach we take to support the installer.
Do you find that your idea of what makes a story and a PR's tends to differ?
We don’t like sales-pitch editorial or copy that reads like an advert and I would say PRs we work with on a regular basis know this, providing interesting, comment-led editorial that’s a joy to read – we are very lucky.
How do you think the PR/journo dynamic will change in the future?
The relationship between B2B press and PRs is interesting. Brand awareness is becoming increasingly important to companies and PRs are addressing this with the copy they offer and produce. Online activities mean we have more avenues and opportunities and it is important we develop strong relationships with PRs to help them get the best for their client. It’s a two-way relationship and the majority of agencies we work with recognise this in the same way we do.
Describe a typical day at work: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
I don’t think I ever have a typical day! That’s what makes this job so interesting, especially in this sector. Sometimes I drive to work aiming to plan and commission the next issue and by the time I reach my desk, the government will have announced a change in policy. This puts everything on hold as we ring round for industry reaction to get the story online as soon as we can. With every big announcement we try to out an email newsletter to keep the readers properly informed. We pride ourselves on REI being the font of all renewable knowledge so work hard to keep it that way.
Whilst we might be seeking comment from a government minister one minute or the head of a well-known trade counter the next, we also get a lot of reader interaction which is fantastic. It means I can quite often spend much of the day answering emails and even just evaluating some of the points the readers make. It’s great that they tell me things I wouldn’t normally know about and highlights the close industry relationship the magazine has with the readers. It’s a privileged position to hold and I realise that.
Of course, there are days when I knuckle down to writing and commissioning and planning – it’s nice to have some element of calm during the week!
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
Before taking up the mantle at REI, I worked in manufacturing, engineering and home interest sectors and can honestly say that this is the most rewarding and thought-provoking sector I have been part of. The drive for new technology, the enthusiasm of those involved in that push and the number of delightful and interesting people in the industry make this job a sheer pleasure.
When I started out on Welding & Metal Fabrication Journal years ago, I was constantly asked how I ended up in that field and the same question is often asked these days. Back in those days I thought I’d give it six months and move onto Vogue! However, once you get immersed in an industry, it’s hard to leave – what other people may initially find dull, becomes the most interesting topic on earth to you! I left engineering publishing and my office in the heart of Soho to have children and open a restaurant in Cornwall. When I made the move to the North a few years ago, I was lucky enough to answer an advert from A&D Publishing, Knutsford, looking for an editor for a new-launch title. It was definitely the right move and is a wonderful world to be a part of.
Renewable Energy Installer can be found tweeting @REI_digital.