Dear Dr Deadline 16-05-03

Dear Doctor Deadline,

After putting in a request for an interview with a senior-ish civil servant recently, I was asked by the press office that looks after his department whether I would send them a copy of my CV and an “indication of what direction my questioning might take”. I’m not sure whether to think this is sinister or not. What do they want my CV for? And if I refuse, are they likely to turn down my request?

PR departments asking to see a CV or a “biography” of journalists appears to be a growing – and rather alarming – trend. Some have even taken to asking for this information before accepting replies to press conferences. Their defence, no doubt, is that it enables them to “facilitate” meetings better and to be prepared with specific information that you may require. And no doubt it helps them look more impressive to their clients or bosses. The concern for journalists, of course, is that PR departments may use the details they collate on journalists to filter out those who they think may be critical. Indeed, news has reached Dr D of PR companies which keep league tables of specialist journalist, ranked in order of “friendliness” of the copy they produce. However, the best approach tends to be polite co-operation. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about telling brief details about yourself, and an indication of your line of questioning could well be helpful for both parties, although best to make it clear that this doesn’t mean other areas are off limits. Dr D would be interested to hear other views on this – particularly from those in civil service PR departments.

Dear Doctor Deadline,

How often should a freelance send ideas to a particular publication? I’ve had a couple of recent successes with one commissioning editor, but I don’t want to push my luck and annoy her by being overzealous – even though I’ve got loads of great ideas for the magazine.

At the risk of sounding like Swiss Toni, the used car salesman from the BBC comedy programme The Fast Show, pitching to an editor is very much like making love to a beautiful woman. Well… not exactly. But there is an element of flirtation in the process. Try too hard, and you run the risk of looking too keen. Too stand-offish, and someone else nips in with an idea you know you could have done better. Sadly, as with romance, there’s no formula. But in the Doc’s experience, great ideas – like true love – always win through in the end. One tip, though: never send roses.

Dr Deadline returns in two weeks

Next week: Cross Head

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