Journalism skills / Lessons learned

Lessons learned – pick up the phone.

My blogging has slightly been put on the backbench since I started working, but it has constantly been on my mind that I need to, and want to blog. So finally, on a horrible rainy Saturday afternoon I have cosied myself up in bed and made time to write!

This is my first blog I have written about my new job, as editorial assistant/sub-editor at PTA+ Magazine. I always said to myself that if I did get a job in journalism, I didn’t want to stop blogging and unfortunately I have been really slack, and the time that I have had to myself, I’ve wanted to sit and do nothing, not open up my laptop to start staring at the screen like I have been doing all day! Bad excuse.

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For those of you who don’t know, PTA+ Magazine stands for Parent Teacher Association, and one free copy of the magazine is distributed to 25,000 schools throughout the UK and NI every issue. It gives tonnes of fundraising advice, interviews, seasonal checklists, new ideas and great giveaways! I am working on the winter issue now and really excited already for when it will be printed, although that’s a while off yet. It will be exciting to see some of my work in print in the magazine for the first time. As well as this, I have been freelancing for a local magazine in my area, sourcing and writing their community features and my first spreads as community features writer will be in the October issue too – an exciting month for me!

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But the simple lesson I have learnt over the past couple of weeks, in both positions I am in… is to pick up the phone! Being my first job in journalism, as well as my first, ‘real job’ (at nearly 23, pretty awful), I have been learning loads – about the workplace, the industry, the skills you need and communicating with PRs. But undoubtedly, picking up the phone has been the first vital lesson.

Emails are easily ignored, you spend a while drafting them up, saying everything you want to say, getting your message across. You press send, and then what? You wait. For the first couple of days I was sending a LOT of emails out to people, requesting giveaways, coverage in the magazine, fundraising stories. After a couple of days, I realised I was still waiting for replies. Understandably there are a lot of people on holiday at this time of year, but in spite of that, if you only ever email you will spend a lot of your time waiting for replies. People who come into work and have 52 emails to answer too on a Monday morning, have a high chance of forgetting/ignoring yours, especially if it is not an email they are expecting!

Example: sourcing high resolution images. If we want to feature products on our pages, we can’t use images that are on their website because the resolution won’t be high enough and come out pretty blurry when it’s put onto print. Every image we want to use we need to ask permission for a high resolution image. Last week, I happily emailed all the suppliers requesting for a high resolution image. Monday morning I check my emails and I have ONE reply.

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I then decided to bite the bullet and ring – following up from my emails to ask:

  • Who the best person to email was (the info@… emails rarely reply…)
  • If there was someone I could talk to about images
  • If they could send me an image directly

Funnily enough, many people were happy to send over an image straight away after me telling them my email. Why was that so hard? Well it wasn’t really, but a good lesson learnt.

So why pick up the phone? To get a response! Or a quick response at that. If you want to be proactive and get guaranteed replies, pick up the phone.

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