In the second part of our series looking at the future of the press with board members of the London Press Club (LPC), Gorkana‘s Ronan George talks to LPC director Vikki Cook, founder and owner of Cookie Media, about what journalists want from their own events, the changing media landscape and lessons she has learnt from her career highlights, including the launch of London Live.
You’re a director of the London Press Club (LPC) and now head up its events committee. What does the role entail and what can we expect from LPC events in 2016?
I’ve been a director on the LPC Board since 2013 and was recently asked to chair a new events Committee. I have two key areas I want to focus on. First off I want to drive an ambitious new programme of events, so that we create a real buzz around the London Press Club.
We have two fantastic annual pillars in the LPC diary – the Awards lunch and the LPC Ball – so I will concentrate on building on the monthly debates and discussions, which attract good press pick up. Secondly, I want to increase membership. While we have the word Press in our name, we want to attract journalists from across all platforms and disciplines.
Why should people join the London Press Cub?
London Press Club has some of the best journalism within its DNA and operates out of one of the most vibrant cities in the World. We have just announced a fantastic new partnership with the Corinthia hotel in central London, which gives us an amazing new venue for our monthly social meet ups. This is where journalists and opinion formers, both new and old, can come and meet face to face in a relaxed and informal setting.
LPC is all about providing a strong network for journalists, so a lot of work is also going on behind the scenes on our digital presence. Modern club membership is also a competitive thing, so we’re currently looking at additional benefits associated with becoming a member of LPC, which we’ll announce over the coming months.
From webinars to social media, there are more ways for people to connect than ever. Why are you confident in the future of media and journalism face to face events?
Nothing will ever replace the importance of face-to-face communication within journalism and the media industry.
Whether it’s to gauge opinion, connect with your audience, establish trust with contacts, or merely have fun with your colleagues, you cannot simply replace human interaction with a digital interface. It’s important to strike the right balance. Webinars and social media provide fantastic and easy ways to hook up, maximising diary time and spanning continents, but all too often people hide behind their computers – a personal approach is so much more effective.
Your career to date has taken in the BBC, Sky News, Five News, and the launch of London Live. What has been the highlight?
Working for a big broadcaster is amazing, but launching London Live has to be the highlight. It’s rare to be asked to launch a brand new channel and it is one of the most exciting things you can do in television. Seeing your creation come to life, from a blank sheet of paper, is an incredible feeling.
Is there anything that in hindsight, you’d like a second shot at?
Yes – presenting on national radio.
You are currently running your own company, Cookie Media. What sort of projects are you currently involved in?
I’m spinning a lot of plates, which won’t surprise anyone that knows me as I’m not very good at sitting still. I’m working with a number of digital companies, which are looking to move into the content arena as that’s definitely where the current focus is. I’m also still passionate about good quality television, so I’m working on a couple of specific TV projects. I’m also involved in Women in Leadership training, trying to build my website and finish a TV sitcom…though there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
Throughout your career, the way audiences consume news content, and the way it is presented, has changed. What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Change is good. Of course the way we consume content has changed and it will continue to do so, that’s progress. Technology now defines much of the way we live our lives and we should embrace that. My one word of caution, however, is never take your eye off of the quality of your product. You can aspire to play your content on the moon if you wish, but you must be producing something that people actually want to watch and share.
How important have PRs been in your career?
Good PRs are always important to journalists as a source of ideas, contacts and story leads. But, they must understand the company or individual they are pitching to and they must understand their own product. If they can’t sell it to me on the ‘phone, how the hell am I going to sell it to an audience? One of my favourite examples was during the 2005 General Election. I was running the political unit in Westminster for Sky News and a PR rang me to see if I’d like to do something about the latest UK Breastfeeding Survey…
We’ve also seen enormous changes in print media, with the rise of digital, paywalls and newspaper closures – with The Independent and Sunday Independent recent casualties. What do you foresee for the broadcast news industry in the short, medium and long-term?
The eye watering speed with which the digital world is maturing means that it will continue to play an ever more dominant role within broadcast news, but I strongly believe that those who talk of the imminent demise of TV, will have a much longer wait then is often predicted. People have the luxury of choice as to where and how they consume their news now, which is why the quality of the content has to be first class.
Broadcast news must continue to evolve, but it’s not just all about technology – it’s about people too. One of the best things about launching London Live, was recruiting my entire team from scratch. There’s currently a lot of talk about the need for diversity among the bigger broadcasters, but who is really leading the way?
I am a passionate advocate of strong and inspirational leadership, so we need to start seeing real proof of change – not only to encourage the new and emerging talent, but also create a product that will appeal to – and inspire – a whole new generation of news consumers.
What is the single biggest piece of advice you would offer a prospective broadcast journalist?
Be honest, be yourself and never lose your sense of humour.
Vikki Cook is a director of The London Press Club. The Club provides opportunities for journalists and others interested in the media to meet and learn of new developments, debate the latest issues and explore our collective past as communicators. It runs a range of regular events from networking drinks, sponsored by Gorkana, to discussions on matters of importance not only to journalism, but to the furtherance and protection of free speech throughout the world.
Earlier in the series, Gorkana talked to Squawka’s Amar Singh about the future of sports journalism and content.