Robert Mayes is a news production executive on the Irish Mail on Sunday with responsibility for the review/travel pages. His remit includes editing, production, commissioning and writing content across the newspaper’s ‘back of the book’, and towards the end of the week, managing the news production team, from backbench to downtable sub editors.
Robert was born and grew up in South Africa – with English, Italian and Irish roots – and has been living and working in Ireland for six years. He has worked with the Independent group in South Africa, and for the Independent, Times and Sunday Times in London.
Robert gives us the scoop on good and bad PR habits, this year’s hottest travel destinations and who he’s following in the social media space.
As a native of South Africa, what was your draw to come and work in Ireland?
I moved to London in 2000, to cut my teeth in so-called Fleet Street, and was freelancing for a couple of nationals in 2004 when a job opportunity came up in Ireland. Everything I’d heard about Dublin was positive, so I thought ‘why not?’ Plus, it’s nice to live in a first-world European city where you can get around the place with less than a military strategy. (Oh, yes, and I have an Irish granny.)
How do you prefer a PR company approach you with a pitch? Does this vary between news stories and travel news?
A phone call after an email is generally welcome, so I can see in front of me what they’re proposing. It’s even better if they know who they’re calling, rather than the old cold-call to reception asking who the ‘travel editor’ is. News stories you take however they come – as long as they’re news.
With the number of press releases you get each day, what makes an email standout in a good way?
A fresh/surprising/eye-catching tag line in the email subject helps. Journalists are a bit dim – they like to be led by the nose. For travel deals, highlighting what’s particularly good about your latest set of deals is a huge help. This goes for the usual package round-ups as well. If there’s nothing particular to be said, then something’s wrong.
And in a bad way, that makes you want to bin it?
The quickest way to kill interest in a press release is grammatical errors. Not knowing the difference between it’s and its tells the journalist more than you think. Otherwise, brevity is a boon. Word attachments with the relevant info tend to be a pain. If you can, include the info in the body of the email.
What are your top pet hates in terms of dealing with PR people?
Those that are too keen, and those that aren’t keen enough. It depends on the subject, but it’s always nice to meet a PR you’re likely to deal with regularly, so five minutes for coffee is time well spent. And occasional check-ins or reminders are to be expected by phone.
As Travel Editor, how do you decide which travel locations/topics you are going to cover each week?
By what’s topical, seasonal, and interesting. Staycation is the new mainstay, leavened with some exotic dream destinations.
How far in advance is your travel section planned?
A couple of months or so, depending.
Have you caught the social media bug? Do you follow any bloggers or Tweeters, in the industry or otherwise, that you think is worth keeping an eye on?
Twitter is where it’s at these days, from news to travel deals updates, though not all the operators are using it yet. It’s particularly good for updates from airlines and hotel chains. There are a few websites which offer interesting bits n pieces, like Hotel Chatter and travelsupermarket.com
How do you think the Irish are regarded abroad as holidaymakers?
With affection, though possibly less so in certain corners of Alicante or Santa Ponsa. Everyone loves a song and a story.
Where do you think is going to be the hottest holiday destination this year?
There’s a lot of interest in north Africa i.e. Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, and Turkey, as they’re relatively good value – and all rather warm. And then of course, home! It’s easy to forget how great Ireland is when the sun shines.
Do you have any holidays planned for yourself this year?
I was in South Africa for the World Cup, and I’m planning to do a bit of diving in the Red Sea.
What is the most memorable holiday you have ever been on, and why?
Almost a dead heat between Japan and Botswana, but Botswana just shades it. Took my dad on safari to the Okavango Delta, the most pristine, exciting wilderness I’ve experienced, in sheer luxury, with leopards and lions and elephants and hippo around every next tree. I think safari is still the best family experience available.
Ryanair recently revealed that 31% of people voted for have Dublin airport renamed to Jedward Airport! If you could rename the airport anything, what would you name it?
It should be named after a political icon, perhaps Connolly or Parnell. Though it might as well be called O’Leary these days.
Our client lastminute.com revealed that 75% of travellers are packing lighter this summer to avoid airline baggage fees. Have you ever been caught out having to pay for unexpected excess baggage?
Nothing wrong with packing lighter. I’ve become more practical too in my packing. I’ve paid for excess baggage once, in the early days of Ryanair. Never again.