When Julien Brault of Les Affaires wrote an open letter to PR professionals, we seized the opportunity to interview him for our Meet the Press series. So here’s Julien, sharing his likes with us.
What is your main goal as a journalist at Les Affaires?
No-one goes into journalism for the money. So my goal is a little selfish: I want to learn something new every day. Being paid to satisfy one’s curiosity full-time, while learning from top experts in their field, is somewhat of a rare privilege. My motives may be somewhat selfish, but I believe this approach helps me keep my readers better informed about how technology is transforming the economy. I’m passionate about it in fact – and this impels me to explore things more deeply, without keeping track of how much time I put into what I’m doing. That said, however, I’m aware of my role in society as a journalist. My other goal is therefore to get the truth out and, while I see myself as accommodating, I’m not willing to compromise on this.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is different, but I would say that a typical one involves spending 8-9 hours in the office, writing and doing phone interviews. I try to do in-person interviews on a regular basis, but I don’t do as many as I would like to, essentially because I’m short on time. I often spend my evenings at events related to entrepreneurialism and technology, just to cultivate my sources and watch for what’s happening on the Montreal start-up scene.
In what ways have social media changed the field of journalism?
Social media have transformed every aspect of our business – from gathering data to publishing our work, not to mention the form it takes. Journalists are all writing catchier headlines and sharing their articles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (although the last one is lagging behind). There really isn’t any secret to it. What’s less well-known is how much social media have transformed the way we find stories. Quora, a Q&A site, is the secret weapon in my social media toolbox. I use this site extensively – asking targeted questions – to find sources that are hard to identify. I also reach out to everyone on Facebook and Twitter, of course, to find people who’ve experienced a certain situation or who do business in a sector I want to write about. LinkedIn is also a fantastic tool for writing about the business world, since a job posting or a connection between two businessmen can be more revealing than any press release.
Three tips for communications people?
- Before you contact a journalist, read his or her articles and most recent updates on social media.
- Be creative! If your assignment seems doomed to put journalists to sleep, suggest an alternative mandate. You’ll be amazed at what you can pull off with a limited budget, in 2016.
- Don’t try to cloak bad news, like a blunder, in a sea of euphemisms. The more direct your communications, the more quickly the misstep will be dropped from the news.
What’s the best way to reach you?
If I answer the question, that “best way” would quickly become the worst way to reach me. I can tell you one thing, though: Email is the worst way to reach me, since I get so many of them.
How do you find topics for your articles?
Most often, through casual conversations with people who are well connected. When someone is talking enthusiastically about a company, some kind of technology or an issue they don’t have a personal stake in, I see it as a strong signal that there’s something interesting there. Social media, especially Facebook and LinkedIn, are also good ways for me to identify potential news stories. I also get a number of requests from entrepreneurs and PR agents – by email and on social media – to which I sometimes reply favourably.
Which news stories have you enjoyed doing the most?
I prefer creating news, by doing in-depth research or shedding fresh light on a new trend, rather than handling actual news stories. If I had to answer that question, though, I would say that I greatly enjoyed covering a robot competition at the Canadian Space Agency: I had a chance to get behind the wheel of a driverless car (driverless being a good thing, since I don’t have a licence) that’s programmed to drive without a map.
And a story you’d like to cover?
There’s a ton of them. But if it could happen, I would like to be the first journalist to accompany a group of astronauts onto the International Space Station. As far as I know, there’s never been one – but I wouldn’t be the first. A Japanese journalist was onboard the Mir space station, along with the cosmonauts.
First website you load in the morning?
Coffee or beer?
Red Bull. And no, I’ve never been paid by that Austrian company – just the opposite, in fact.