In this team member profile we meet with Alistair Harris, Online Copywriter, to get his take on online PR and content creation, the rapid change in journalism, and  which Sam Mendes film floats his boat.

Who are you? – Alistair Harris, Online Copywriter at ClickThrough.

When did you start at ClickThrough? – Start of June 2011.

What will you be doing at ClickThrough? – I look after our news, content and copy service for clients. We write unique news and content for a range of clients, which is either distributed through online news networks and RSS feeds, or hosted on clients’ own websites. We can also provide social media integration – something we’re hoping to expand on, along with more traditional PR and copywriting services.

What were you doing before you arrived at ClickThrough? Where did you work? – I’m a fully-qualified senior journalist – I started my career at the Lichfield Mercury in 2002, before moving to the Nottingham Evening Post in 2004. I went freelance in 2008, and have spent the last few years in a variety of in-house and freelance public relations and press office roles.

What accounts/clients have you worked on before? – I’ve worked for a wide range of organisations, from the UK’s largest conservation charity to local NHS bodies. I’ve written news stories, features, reviews and blogs on really diverse subjects, from interviewing Slash from Guns ‘n Roses to producing a series of front page features on anorexia, special education, court cases, murders and manhunts. PR clients I’ve written for include TV Hits, the BBC, Environment Agency, NHS, Driving Standards Agency, Aggregate Industries, healthcounter.com, Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts and the Independent on Sunday.

What are you most proud of in your career to date? – Winning the Newspaper Society’s Reporter of the Year 2002 Award, in my first year as a journalist.

What do you love about your job? – I love being creative. I really enjoy writing, and I’m very passionate about effective, meaningful communications. Working for ClickThrough provides the opportunity to think creatively for clients, to provide content that has value for their business and their customers, and, although it can be a challenge, it’s always interesting.

What do you think is the number one thing for online journalists to watch out for in the next year? – Traditional journalists have seen their industry absolutely cut apart by the internet. Some news organisations have kept up – such as the Guardian – but others are still missing a lot of opportunities to grasp the global potential of the internet. The written word will survive – it always has, in the face of radio and TV.

But journalism is evolving – content remains king, but journalists now have to think more creatively about how to present news in an engaging way. The old letters pages – usually a staple of a newspaper – have been replaced by instantaneous comments, which allow journalists to react more quickly to major issues. But they are competing against social media, YouTube, and a worldwide network of industry insiders and bloggers, which all carry relevant and interesting content.

The media is therefore becoming more homogenous. The internet provides the opportunity for news to be presented in a more convergent manner – and the biggest challenge for journalists is to find new and unique ways to provide video, audio and written content that has a purpose and meaning for readers.

What is your favourite book? – I absolutely adore Roald Dahl. I know that might sound immature – and I haven’t read many of his books for the last 20 years! – but his writing style, ability to manipulate words and language, and sheer inventiveness for plot and character has inspired my sense of humour and my own writing since I was very young. More contemporarily, I really like Robert Rankin. If you haven’t read any of his books, I’d recommend ‘The Fandom of the Operator’. It’s absolutely brilliant.

What is your favourite film? – American Beauty. It’s almost perfect. The writing is gobsmackingly good – I truly believe if the script had been written back in Shakespeare’s day, we’d have all been made to study it at school. I love the fact it’s basically a murder mystery, but you almost forget that until the final 20 minutes of the film. Sam Mendes’ direction is absolutely incredible, too. I love the running theme of red, the music and all the actors’ performances are amazing. I must give special mention to Mulholland Drive and most Charlie Kaufman films too, though.

Name your top three songs? – 1. Videotape – Radiohead. Beautiful, haunting, Radiohead at their best. Amazing piano, amazing lyrics. Amazing. 2. When Good Dogs Do Bad Things – Dillinger Escape Plan. When I first heard this song, it turned my head inside out. Dillinger is my favourite band – they’re technical, aggressive and difficult to get into, but it’s some of the most rewarding music I’ve ever heard. 3. Tenderfoot – Lemonheads. I don’t really like Evan Dando, but Tenderfoot, from Car, Button, Cloth, is a heartwarming little ditty and once which I used to cover regularly at open mic nights. The closing lyric: “It’s irrelevant, I’m an elephant, she’s a mouse” is a brilliant metaphor.

What do you like doing in your spare time? – I play guitar, but not as often as I used to. I’m really into online games, I play a variety of time-wasting silly games on both PC and Xbox, usually as part of a team. I’ve recently taken up freestyle Frisbee, which, it turns out, is really difficult. You have to keep the disc spinning on the tip of your finger, and build in an array of throws, catches and ‘tricks’. The pros – if you can call them that – can spin it on their teeth. It’s quite impressive. I’ve only just mastered getting the spin right though, so I’m some way off from showing off my skills in public!

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About the author:

John Newton has 14 years of strategic marketing experience across Online Display, Search Marketing and TV and Outdoor Advertising, in companies which include Yahoo!, ITV and TNS Global. John has written on blog monetisation for Web Designer magazine and was the editor of ClickThrough’s two books. John is a CIM Chartered Marketer.