In 2007 consumer and property expert Barry Cashin moved on from an 11-year tenure as Bella consumers’ advocate Kevin Cotton. He now writes regularly for the Sunday Mirror and Real Homes among other famous names and in this interview tells us more about his other specialisms and how PRs can help.
About your journalism:
What do you write about?
Mainly consumer issues but now focussed heavily on the credit crunch and helping people save and make the best of their homes and money. General money-awareness, savvy shopping, property and property market analysis are specialist areas of mine coming from a customer service and real estate management background. I also love food and eco issues so can turn my hand to those areas too. There isn’t much I won’t write about except Mongolian macro-economic policy and the tanning effects of Simoon’s tellurian breeze!! What I do pride myself on though is an almost manic insistence on complete efficiency. I work almost around the clock and provide editors with a service that they are generally not used to!
Where are we likely to see your work?
I write regularly for the Sunday Mirror (Homes & Holidays) and have two regular advice columns in Real Homes magazine. I only write for key national newspaper and magazine titles. A full portfolio of the major titles I write for as well as previous TV/radio work is available upon request from email@example.com.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
In 1996, I created an alter-ego in the form of consumer champion Kevin Cotton (an alliteration of King of the Consumers) – and for 11 years, wrote a highly popular consumers’ advocate column in Bella magazine called: “Don’t get ripped off, let Kevin fight for you!” tackling the consumer issues of Bella readers head on. Working from home, as I do, with nothing but a phone, PC and printer, I single-handedly won back £8.5 million in refunds and compensation for the great British public and always tried to fight cases involving those people who were less advantaged: the elderly, the disabled and those struggling on tight budgets and without the knowledge or rights expertise to know how to pursue a case against big business. It was a fantastic journey serving, in my view, a worthy cause and was immensely popular with readers – but was sadly ended in Feb 2007 when the title changed to a more celebrity focus.
I’m actively looking to park Kevin Cotton’s talents in another major weekly presently as he has a lot of unfinished business serving the public with a much more effective and personalised service than Watchdog could ever achieve via TV. And with a recession coming and money getting tighter, I’m pretty confident there’ll be a huge demand for someone to help the public get a fairer deal again. Maybe even Bella might ask me back!?
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
Fame and celebrity does not faze me as I talk to so many TV personalities in the course of my work that I do not really do personal interviews unless totally necessary for the piece. I have extensive experience of travel and of the travel industry so I suppose something I would love as another challenge apart from pursuing TV work would be to find titles willing to commission some travel pieces – where I could offer a dual angle, both from the consumer’s perspective as well as important information for the ardent traveller.
About you and PRs:
Where do you source ideas for articles?
I write mostly advice columns and features based on my previous experience and expertise in consumer, family finance and property issues so the ideas really flow from this.
A lot of my inspiration for property features is based on my previous incarnation as a successful property agent in the late 80s, when the industry was riddled with malpractice and when a knowledge of stage selling and sales psychology was essential for business survival. For my consumer features, I look no further than the personal tutelage I received from one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen of the 1980s, Miss M J Boarer, former CEO of leisurewear chain Milletts, whom I worked under many years ago when she took me on as a raw recruit in the early 80s and eventually sent me around her many stores to improve sales and service standards. The experience in that job taught me everything which I apply today in my consumer work. However, keeping abreast of new laws, practices, markets, market change and news is essential to keeping one step ahead of other journalists and securing the early commission.
How can PRs be useful to you?
A good PR is essential to the efficient delivery of any deadlined project. Working for various titles each with their own tight deadlines means that when I call a PR, I need him or her to act with all urgency to get the information required, whether it is a suitable case study, facts, figures or images. I generally find most PRs to be very hardworking people who are always willing to help. If they pull out all the stops for me, I go out of my way to unashamedly promote their client company, not just in that particular feature, but also in further features on similar subjects.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
PRs have recently become not just a source of product and feature info but also writing work as many now ask me to handle a variety of urgent writing projects for their clients that they are too busy to deal with. As this is a useful source of income, I am always willing to receive emails with offers of work or potential projects to consider at firstname.lastname@example.org. What I do not appreciate though are unsolicited, poorly targeted press releases which are of no real use. Generally, I prefer to contact PRs when I need help with a project. Of course, if the news is extremely useful and relevant, I welcome a release – but have no compunction about blocking persistent emailers!
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I refuse to attend them (Christmas and other summer social events excepted) so, no, they do not bother me at all. If I need anything from a PR company, I am bold enough to ask for it but am, fortunately, often too busy to spend working time attending events which detract from the real business of earning money.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a thing. I have a smashing relationship with the key PRs I use. When I call, they know my name and that the opportunity I am offering their clients will be high-profile, prominent and national, so they are always keen to assist.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Other investments take care of the bills – but I have 20 year’s high-profile writing experience behind me and couldn’t imagine doing anything else but working with words – but as I see myself as a kind of Peter Jones of the writing world, an entrepreneur with bounceability – if my journalism stopped tomorrow, I’d return to selling. It was in my blood from an early age and the sales patter hasn’t left my hemoglobin yet!
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
Towards a flight to San Antonio, Texas, my favourite place on earth! Or a nice week away for my two beautiful daughters whom both my wife Amanda and I are so proud of.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Books: ‘Driving over Lemons’ unfinished since my recent holiday to Kefalonia and Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour.” I find his culinary tales stimulating and his humour as dry as the deserts he travels in search of food Utopia.
Magazines: I normally keep every magazine I appear in purely for clippings purposes, but I do have to store these in a special area of the loft now.
Blogs: One of my favourite editors was recently struck down by breast cancer at the ridiculously young age of 28. Her heart-rending battle to deal with the daily effects of the disease is an inspiration to all humankind, not just other females and I follow her blog with enthusiasm and alacrity every day. I always feel inspired, not depressed after reading each daily entry as she writes with such telling humour of her plight. God bless you, Lisa – get very well, very soon. http://www.alrighttit.com/
[lnk|http://www.journalistdirectory.com/pr/mQgz/Barry-Cashin|_blank|Barry Cashin on the Freelance Journalist Directory]
[img|jpg|Barry Cashin and clippings]
[lnk|http://barrycashin.synthasite.com|_blank|Barry Cashin’s website]