Journo intel: Junior Isles, editor-in-chief, The Energy Industry Times on woolly phrasing, timing and bad PR habits
Since 1988, Junior has worked as a technical journalist in the electronics, communications and power generation sectors. We were lucky enough to catch up with him and get some insight on what makes a good story, what he wants from companies interested in working with him and what good PR agencies do.
What makes a good story for you?
I think above all else, stories are about timing. I’ll give you an example, an extreme case, I admit, but it helps make my point. If the queen dies, you would automatically expect it to be on the front page of every UK newspaper. But what if, on the same day, it was announced that an asteroid was about to obliterate the planet? The queen’s untimely demise would likely be demoted or not covered at all; it was bad timing. So, it’s a case of the story having to be topical as well as having the biggest impact on the widest audience. Sometimes a story can be a first, an exclusive, or something totally unique but that isn’t always enough; it should also have broad appeal. This is especially true for B2B publications like The Energy Industry Times.
What do you wish that brands would do more (or less) of?
I don’t like to paint everyone with the same brush but a growing number of brands are becoming less and less willing to share details; instead they’d rather replace solid facts or data with woolly phrases and marketing speak. This is especially frustrating for us technology editors. It’s odd because those same brands always want details. But where do they expect editors to get them if they are increasingly reluctant to share them?
As editor of a well-established magazine, how are you negotiating the switch towards digital and social?
Personally, it’s a difficult switch; I don’t know how people find enough time in the day to fit it in! And old habits die hard. But it’s a case of constantly reminding yourself that people are increasingly consuming media in a different way and trying to meet that need.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the agenda for your readers?
It probably depends on where you fit in in the energy business. The pandemic has forced a large part of the workforce to operate remotely. For engineers in the field it has meant making greater use of technology such as remote diagnostics, for example. For those in areas such as marketing, media relations or events, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become their best friends!
What have you observed about working with PR agencies? What works and what doesn’t?
Good PR agencies will not only facilitate interviews and help you build relationships, they will also generate good pitch ideas and follow through on delivering. They also don’t pester you after every single press release pitch. The bad ones are just the opposite and really are more of a hindrance than a help – an unnecessary extra hurdle.
If you weren’t a journalist what would you be?
A singer/songwriter no doubt! But you never know; it’s never too late!
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