Following my post a couple of weeks ago about reasons for starting a business, Natasha tweeted us to say she’d already done it. And successfully too.
Natasha Courtenay-Smith is the Director and Founder of her own press agency, Talk to the Press. In a two-part interview, we chatted about leaving the world of nationals behind to start a business, pensioners beating up armed gangs, and why entrepreneurial journalism is definitely for all aspiring journos.
How did you get into journalism originally?
I started my career on women’s magazines, and I got a job through work experience. I spent a week doing work experience at Health & Fitness magazine before moving to emap where I did work experience on various of their titles. Health & Fitness then phoned and offered me a job. From there I moved on to other women’s magazines and then the Daily Mail where I spent three and a half years as a feature writer. Whilst there, I pretty much always dealt with human interest stories and ordinary people making news headlines.
What did your career look like before starting Talk to the Press?
I left the Daily Mail in 2005 and went freelance, doing straight feature writing (largely still for the Daily Mail as well as women’s magazines).
How old were you when you started TTTP?
I started TTTP in the beginning of 2008 so I was just about to turn 31. We are a press agency and act as a bridge between ordinary people who want to see their story in print or those finding themselves being chased for their story by newspapers and magazines, and the publications that might end up running their story.
My website ranks very high on google for keywords such as ‘talk to the press’, ‘sell my story’ ‘advice on handling press’ and our job is to secure the individuals in question the best and right deals for their story, ensuring it ends up being told in the way they would like it to be told, in a manner which meets their goals, and that they are paid the best possible fee.
We are contacted by ordinary people every day who want help sharing their story and our clients appear in national newspapers, women’s magazines and on tv every week. This month, a Channel 4 documentary was shown called ‘Love Rat’ which featured the story of three of our clients – it was very exciting for us and them.
Talk to the Press also operates the journalists tool Case Study Link. It links commissioning editors to freelance journalists and press agencies. Commissioning editors and reporters on magazines, newspapers and TV use it to find stories, case studies or writers for particular articles. The freelance journalists who subscribe to the service receive the information of what commissioning editors are looking for as email alerts. If they can help, they get back directly. So the service is basically emailing out leads for work and is very popular.
Where did the idea for TTTP come from, and how did you start going about making it a reality?
It was more of a gradual realization than a big business idea. When I worked at the Daily Mail, I’d had a notion that one day I would have my own press agency but it was only once I left the safety of a job that I was able to begin to see how that could happen. I realized that my advantage over many other agencies would be that I had experience of being on staff at a national paper. I understand exactly what makes a good story and how to pitch a story from a newspaper’s point of view, and also how to make the experience of talking to the press easier and less stressful than it otherwise might be for the people sharing their stories, having had so many years of experience meeting people at that time in their life when they decide to speak publicly.
What was your motivation for leaving the nationals behind to start your own business? Were you not concerned you’d be throwing away all your hard work?
No – that thought didn’t even cross my mind! If you have that attitude you’d never get anywhere. People need to move on and grow. I’d been there for three and a half years which I felt was a good, solid amount of time. I’d had hundreds of articles published. I felt that I wanted to spread my wings. I never thought I’d be throwing away my hard work as I always knew I’d be able to get more work. To the contrary, I felt that thanks to all the hard work I’d done at the Daily Mail, I’d now have lots of opportunities opening themselves up to me.
Check back later this week for the final half of our interview with Natasha, where we talk about running a business and being an entrepreneur.