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Freelance Journalist Focus: Sarah Flower

“PRs are invaluable” according to today’s Focus interviewee Sarah Flower; nutritionist, freelancer and, previously, a PR. Sarah tells us about her current work, and a bit about her experiences on both sides of the PR/journalist divide…

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
A wide variety, but mainly anything that applies to women’s interest. Currently I seem to have taken on a money saving role, with two columns (one in My Weekly and the other for Kindred Spirit). I adore writing about health or food – being a nutritionist I am very passionate about healthy eating and long-term diets. I really enjoy putting together pages, with spend vs saves, copy cats, reviews and advice. Real people often struggle to meet certain expectations and I think it is up to us as journalists to help them and make them feel good about opting for something within their price range.

I have written features on beauty, fashion and home style so can really get involved in most concepts. I write a number of recipe books, all promoting healthy and home-cooked food choices and all everyday foods – not too fancy. I have had success with my Halogen Oven cookbooks (currently in top 15 on Food & Drink category and in the top 100 of Amazon book sales). I like to offer readers real, honest help – such as tips on saving money, saving time in the kitchen and real food choices that are easy to follow, understand and implement.

I also love using my nutritional knowledge either by writing features or helping PR’s with quotes, etc.

Where are we likely to see your work?
My Weekly – weekly column called Live More, Spend Less.

Kindred Spirit – Bimonthly column on eco/green money saving.

My books – see my home page on Amazon.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
It was many years ago now but I managed to create a 160 page monthly glossy from my home in North Devon, with one one full time member of staff. Tonic Magazine was in all the newsagents, supermarkets etc, but due to my inexperience as a publisher and some bad advice, this sadly collapsed after 6 months – however, to create this from start to finish every month, I think was a massive achievement and I am very proud of that. The skills learnt when editing and writing Tonic, has enabled me to write on most subjects. I am a stickler for deadlines and labelling images when sending to editors. Silly things that would have driven me mad.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I would love to do more to show people that healthy eating isn’t so difficult and to bridge the gap between healthy eating and money saving – so many families wrongly believe that healthy eating is expensive when it is the complete opposite. I would also like to interview celebrity chefs and find out more about how they eat at home, whats in their store cupboards and whether they really need to use that much salt and butter in their recipes!

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
PR’s are invaluable – I used to run a PR company so I hope I am more sympathetic to the hard work and little rewards they have. Without them, it would be very hard to function, especially with my money saving columns.

How can PRs be useful to you?
I use response source a lot and constantly ask PR’s for info. It would be nice to hear about new products, promotions etc without having to keep requesting them.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
I prefer email as I can answer at my own leisure. Working from home and juggling writing books and being a single mum means time is often spent fire-fighting. Answering the phone constantly to PR’s asking if you have recieved an email can get a bit annoying – I prefer email and if I want more info, I will ask or arrange a time for a chat.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Useful but sadly being in the SW I am not always in London to attend. It would be nice if those who can not attend are sent info, especially when it is due to logistics. I try to get into London as often as I can but it is not always easy.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I value PR’s input, but if pressed to moan, I would say – stop unnecessary cold calling, keep me on mailing lists, especially when I have weekly requests that are often repeated week after week. Actually, one thing that does annoy me is silly fonts on emails, making the script harder to read or press releases that are attached rather than in the copy of the email. Sounds so silly but I get hundreds of emails every day and I scan them quickly – I don’t want to have to open attachments to find out what the email is about.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Is there a difference – do journalists pay differently and no one’s told me! Lol.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I would love an iPad, but probably end up spending it on boring household stuff.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Currently reading One Day by David Nicholls and also The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. Love blogs – favourite is a slice of cherry pie (adore the book too).

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