In the third and final part of our Q&A series with veteran infosec freelancer Davey Winder, we discuss the importance of relationships and what makes a good media spokesperson.
How, in an age where we spend so much time online, can we as PRs build a relationship with you?
I’ve pretty much spent my entire working life building online relationships, a byproduct of my emerging into journalism from the world of FidoNET bulletin boards and USENET groups. As I’ve already said, for me it’s all about honest communication. That’s a two way street, of course, and journalists needing to be honest about what we want out of a PR is just as essential as PRs being honest about what they want from the journalist. Whether that is by way of email, social media or face to face isn’t necessarily as important as the act itself. The best relationships I have are with those PRs who enter into a meaningful dialogue, who understand how I work and importantly how I don’t, and who treat me as an individual rather than just a publication mouthpiece; and vice-versa!
What are your thoughts on out-of-hours events (for example, evening roundtable) as a freelance journalist?
Evening events can be problematical for me, as can breakfast ones, from a purely logistical perspective. I’m based in West Yorkshire and so getting to London, and 99% of events are in London, in time for breakfast or getting a train home after an evening event, is often impossible without an overnight stay. That adds cost, to an already costly transport exercise, and will usually make it not viable. Even those events where a PR kindly offers to pay for hotel accommodation impacts on cost, as it takes additional time away from my working routine and freelancers really do count the hours and the pennies these days. The best events for me, be they morning or evening, are the ones I’m invited to with lots of time to spare. Then I can sometimes manage to ‘cluster’ appointments, events etc across a single trip lasting a few days and get real value from it.
What do you think makes a good spokesperson? Do you think a good spokesperson has to be on social media?
There are only two things that I look for in a spokesperson: a deep knowledge of the subject and the ability to explain it in an interesting and understandable fashion. Social media doesn’t really factor in my judgement, as long as the spokesperson can be contacted in some way other than by telephone (I’m a confirmed phone-a-phobe, but thankfully this hasn’t held my career back so far.)
What are your thoughts on spokespeople who have been media trained?
I like to deal with human beings, warts and all, rather than robotic ‘on-message’ droids if I am being honest. By way of example, there’s nothing worse than asking a very specific question that gets answered with something that’s no doubt the message the spokesperson wants to get out but doesn’t actually answer the question. That’s a waste of their time and mine, as I won’t use the answer. Media training is, in my never humble opinion, all too often less about honest communication and more about media manipulation. The best spokespeople don’t need training, they are naturally good communicators.