This week we catch up with Mark Ludmon at Bar magazine. Read on to see what he has to say about those long lunches and a typical day in the life of an editor in the Bar industry.
About the publication:
Who reads it and how many of them are there?
Bar magazine is read mainly by people who own and run bars, from independent cocktail bars and multiple operators to bars in hotels and restaurants. It is also read by designers, drinks companies and other suppliers to the bar trade.
What subjects do you cover?
We publish news and features on a mixture of topics relating to running a bar, from audio-visual equipment and epos to legislation and business planning. The core subject areas are drinks and bar design, with features focusing on spirits, beers and soft drinks as well as furniture, lighting and bar fittings.
What makes you different from the other publications in your sector?
We cover the full range of topics relating to running high-end bars, so rather than focus on just drinks or just interiors, we cover those plus all the other subjects that bar operators need to know about to run a successful venue.
Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
Yes, we do. It helps with planning content throughout the year and ensures that there are as many opportunities as possible for reaching PRs whom we may not speak to on a regular basis.
Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
Most of the companies in our sectors, from bar operators to suppliers, are not geared up to dealing with journalists, so we work with a lot of PR agencies and a few in-house PR teams as this means we can get relevant and interesting information and good imagery. We do also work closely with PRs on special supplements or events such as cocktail competitions linked to a drinks brand, for instance.
Do you have any advice for PRs?
Always think in terms of pictures. When space is at a premium, the story with a picture will often win over an equal story without one. A lot of people still imagine magazines have teams of photographers on their staff but that is no longer the case. And in terms of getting space on a page, a small story without a picture is at risk of just becoming a nib while a great picture could mean a small story taking up a quarter of a page.
Don’t assume that all journalists have time for long lunches or long press events as they might have done 10 or 20 years ago. Cutbacks in staff and the constant deadlines of new media mean that you’re more likely to get a journalist to your event if it is short, relevant and in a convenient location. If you do want to do an event at lunchtime, make it a light meal, maybe a buffet so they can shoot off if they are on deadline. Some journalists do still like to be wined and dined (so apologies if any of them are reading this), but the reality is that the vast majority just don’t have the time for it now.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of the magazine or newspaper or a list of regular features if you think it might be relevant to your company or client. It will save everyone’s time if you understand exactly what they cover and see what kind of features and columns are available. Or just check out their website – it’s surprising how many irrelevant pitches we receive from PRs.
What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
A quick phone call is probably the best way, especially if you don’t know the magazine and can find out if it’s relevant. Find out in advance what buttons need to be pressed rather than use a standard script – every media title is different, so include the relevant stuff early on – some editors will probably give it five to 10 seconds before making up their minds. And be prepared to stop selling in a story if the editor says it is relevant too – there’s nothing more annoying than a PR ringing up with a good story and, after you’ve said you’re interested in getting information emailed over, they carry on trying to sell it in like an unstoppable train.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
As a monthly, there’s not really any time when we can say we’ll be too busy to speak to a PR. But, if it’s a news story, it’s best to get in touch in the first two weeks of the month as the news pages are finished around the middle of the month preceding publication. We put out an email in advance of each issue telling PRs what features we are working on and what the deadlines are so they know exactly when is a good time to get in touch. Make sure you don’t get in touch too much in advance, even if that makes you seem very organised – there’s a danger that the information you sent over will be forgotten when someone comes to work on the feature a month or two later.
Where have you worked previously and what led to you becoming editor of Bar magazine?
In the licensed trade, I was previously deputy editor of The Publican and also contributed news and features to bar magazine Flavour (now Theme). I have also edited magazines covering the incentives and promotions sector including Sales Promotion, Incentive & Motivation (formerly Incentive Today) and Promotions Buyer. Before moving into B2B magazines, I was business editor of Portsmouth’s daily paper, The News, and business reporter on Northampton’s daily Chronicle & Echo.
What interests you most about your job?
I’m fascinated by the modern and inventive design in today’s bars and the creativity of some of the operators. I am also interested in the drinks business, from how some of the best products are made through to how they are served and marketed.
Describe a typical day at work:
On a monthly, the days change depending where we are on the production cycle. Early on, I am getting out and meeting people in the industry, going to launch events and tastings and planning features. As deadline draws on, it’s a case of long days spent on the phone and in front of the computer writing up all the copy, although there is usually still time to attend bar openings and other events in the evenings. We will soon have a new website that will need updating regularly, although we have started Twittering – it’s about my adventures in the world of drink and bars, although I hide behind the mask of just “barmagazine”.
I’d like to have a go at…
Making cocktails properly, although I wouldn’t have the stamina to run a bar.
Where do you hope to be in five year’s time?
After taking over as editor of Bar magazine a year ago, I’d be quite happy to be doing the same sort of thing.