January 13, 2012 Leave a comment
Words by Stephanie Soh
October Cohort 2011
The media industry is widely perceived as being difficult to gain access into, with preferential entry given to the friends and family of already established journos. And to some extent there is some truth in this assumption. But not every fresh-faced aspiring writer can claim Rupert Murdoch as a relative, so how does one go about cultivating media contacts? In other words, how do you – successfully – do that elusive thing called ‘networking’? Here is what I have learnt thus far.
1. Be persistent, but not aggressive.
So you’ve sent off an email to that journo from that magazine you really want to intern for, but haven’t heard anything back in weeks. Don’t be deterred – journalists get inundated with emails asking for work experience on a daily basis, and whatever their good intentions will probably end up forgetting about individual requests. So be persistent and keep up your correspondence even in the face of no replies. But keep it polite – there is nothing to gain from venting your annoyance at their stony silence!
2. Demonstrate an engagement with their work
If you’re chatting to a journalist, the one topic guaranteed to stimulate conversation will always be about their work. This isn’t because they are inherently egocentric (necessarily…), but because it is the very nature of their job to engage others with their writing. So by asking questions and showing an interest in their work, not only do you demonstrate your engagement with their work, but you also stand of good chance of engaging them.
3. What can you do for them?
Obviously an editor from Dazed & Confused or The Guardian can do a lot for you, but how will they benefit from knowing you? Think about the skills they might value from a young person like yourself – such as your direct experience of youth culture, or your knowledge of a specific subject. Who knows, if they are made aware of your specialities, you might become their go-to person when they are thinking about writing a feature on that topic.
4. Don’t think of it as ‘networking’
If you can’t bring yourself to go up to a media bod because the thought of networking brings to mind smarmy brown-nosers, ruthlessly manipulating others for their own personal advantage, then re-conceptualise your idea of networking. It doesn’t have to equal exploiting others as a means to an end – there is much to gain from just getting to know people. Approaching people with the aim of actually wanting to get to know them as an individual will ensure that you come across as genuine, rather than calculating. And who knows, you might even make friends.
p.s. just don’t forget to get that all-important contact detail…