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Tell me about your work and your blog?

Work-wise, I work as a Communities person for ITV, as part of the Online Engagement team – all two of us. It’s a new role for the company, so we’re still experimenting a lot, but it’s vital that ITV, as a broadcaster and a web portal, knows and understands its audience online and engages with the fans in the spaces they inhabit. It really is one of those jobs where you learn something new every day and there aren’t always right answers. It’s an enjoyable challenge though.

The blog is now on its third incarnation, and is really a collection of thoughts and essays on the media and similar issues; kind of a place to put forward thoughts and arguments that I don’t really have the time or space to elsewhere. It used to be almost a post a day, but it’s updated a lot less frequently these days. I’d rather not be somebody who blogs for the sake of having something to blog. If I’m writing something, there needs to be a purpose behind it.

I also do guest blogging for several football sites, including Soccerlens, Pitch Invasion, and twofootedtackle.com, where I co-host a weekly podcast on the beautiful game.

What was your first experience of blogging and social media?

That’s actually quite a difficult question. Social media’s probably been around for a lot longer than people would have you believe. I’ve been part of forums and mailing lists long before Facebook and Twitter arrived on the scene. They’re really just extensions of what we had before, and any further developments in this field will be just that.

In terms of blogging, my first blog was a site called Coffee and PC, which I started when still at university in the early part of this decade. It was a bit shouty and had a lot of crap on there, but it got me into the habit and discipline of blogging. It was quite funny that, when I was doing my journalism training, blogging was meant to be the future – I’d been doing it for about two years and was still one of about two people in a room of 30 at that stage who knew what blogging was.

What is the biggest tip you would give to a newbie in social media?

Remember that it isn’t the be all and end all – social media is a great connector, but it’s very easy to get caught up as if it’s the only thing. Take occasional steps back and realise there is a world beyond the internet, even if the net connects it all together.

Also, and this sounds hideously cliched, but be yourself online. Too many people try to use social media to be something they’re not and that quickly becomes apparent. There’s no need to try and go all out to impress people – they’ll always be far more impressed with the real you.

You used to work as a broadcast journalist, what was your favorite news item?

A few years ago, a cargo ship got into trouble and ended up being grounded off the coast of East Devon, which was my patch for the local commercial station I was working for at the time. For a couple of days, it was the biggest story in Britain and I was reporting on every step of it – it really was the biggest story to happen in our patch for God knows how long.

The scenes on Branscombe beach were incredible – it was like somebody had deposited a department store on the beach and it was a free for all. But once you got beyond the initial story, there was much more – the economic and environmental cost to the area, the damage to the tourism trade, the mudslinging that went with it all. Even though that bastard ship, as the MSC Napoli was affectionately known in the newsroom, took over my life for a good three months, I wouldn’t have swapped a moment of it. Even the 5am live broadcasts from a very cold and isolated part of Devon.

That said, I also loved all the sports stories I worked on, plus the silly ‘and finally stories’. Every journalist loves a good ‘and finally…’. It’s a chance to let off steam and put in all the bad jokes you’ve been storing up. I once reported on the world’s largest knitted garden. It had me in stitches.

What do PR People do that you wish they wouldn’t?

Oh God, where do I start? Probably by saying I know a lot of excellent PR people who have their profession down to a T, and are incredibly talented – these are the guys that get it right.

But then there’s the pushy PR people who won’t take no for an answer, and get upset when you won’t take the story, no matter how awful it is (surveys about cheesestrings and the like). Then there’s those who seem to take pride in annoying journalists. There was one PR we used to have to deal with on a regular basis and as soon as you rung him, he’d start getting shirty, asking where we got the story from, why we wanted to run it, and blocking us at every turn, even when often the stories came from his own office. Eventually we just stopped taking any stories from that place at all, or bypassed him completely, meaning the organisation got hardly any coverage, bar when the shit was really hitting the fan. Totally counter productive on his part.

How should PR people contact Gary Andrews?

Just drop me an email or DM me on Twitter. Please make it relevant though – as I don’t blog on my blog that regularly, I’m more likely to cover something if it’s really of interest to me. That said, sports stuff always stands a good chance of getting picked up by me, or one of the blogs I write for. I have no objection to being pitched, provided it’s done well (which, by and large, it is).

How to bribe Garry Andrews… You say on your blog you like tea and biscuits what are your favorites?

You do realise we could be here all day with this question – it’s one of my favourite topics of conversation. In a nutshell though, I’ll have a good, strong builder’s cuppa with milk, no sugar, plus Ginger Nuts for dunking. Always Ginger Nuts…

Where do you see growth in the social media field?

That’s quite a question. It’s nigh-on impossible to tell. A few years ago, nobody had heard of Facebook or Twitter, MySpace was king and blogging was still something perceived to be confined to bearded weirdos in their bedroom. Now we have mass adaption and it’s easier than ever for your average person to get into social media. Something like Posterous, for example, is such an easy tool and requires minimum of effort.

If I had to take a stab, it’d be niche networks and the like – there’s only so many people who can join Facebook and play Farmville. Sooner or later they’re going to want to start looking for social networking around their passions, and I can see well run specialist sites taking off in a big way. Things like Goalpostr are already trying to do this for the football community.

What do you do to improve the world?

Me? Oh God. Ha. Er, give up my seat on the tube for old ladies?

What do you do that is green?

I recycle. A lot. I also compost all my food waste and am attempting to grow my own veg in my back garden, attempting being the key word here.

What is one thing about you that not many people know?

I’ve won three awards for journalism. I gave away one of the prizes – free flights – as I’m terrified of flying.

What’s your favorite book?

The Beautiful Game? Searching For the Soul of Football by David Conn. It’s one of the best books about football ever written and goes behind the scenes into some of the murky dealings of football boardrooms. There’s a lot in the book to get angry about and it makes you realise football is about so much more than 22 men kicking a ball around.

What are your contact details (email, company, blog, Facebook, MySpace, forums, etc)?

Email: gary@(NOSPAM>garyandrews.net (personal) take out the (NOSPAM>
gary.andrews@(NOSPAM>itv.com (work) take out the (NOSPAM>
Blog(s): www.garyandrews.net
Twitter: @garyandrews
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/garyllewellynandrews

What events do you go to?

When I can make it, the London Bloggers’ Meetup is a must – I’ve met so many great people and good friends through there, and it’s a great night out. Also, the various Tweet ups are good fun. Plus, there’s now a football bloggers meetup – Socrates. We had our first event earlier this month and it was a great evening. The next one is on December 9th – all football bloggers welcome.

How do you prefer to communicate?

Email or Twitter are usually the best ways, although you still can’t beat real life. Preferably over a pint, or lunch, or both.

Who would you recommend, and why?

Is it too cheeky to plug Chris Nee, editor of the twofootedtackle.com blog network? I got to know Chris through work, and he really knows his social media and his football. Doing the podcast with him is one of the highlights of my week.

Also, Ahmed Bilal of Football Media, which is the parent blog of Soccerlens. He’s worked really hard to build up the network and Soccerlens goes from strength to strength.

Also on the football side, Chris Oakley, Terry Duffelen and Graham Sibley, who make up the Some People Are On The Pitch and The Onion Bag teams are a cracking set of blokes with great blogs. Terry is the driving force behind Socrates and the three of them are great bloggers and even more fun as drinking companions.

Finally, for football, Ian King’s Twohundredpercent is one of the best football blogs out there. His level of knowledge and detail of all levels of the game is astonishing. It’s the first blog I read every day.

Outside of the beautiful game, Darika Ahrens, who runs Grapevine Consulting, is an absolute star in every sense of the word. Every time I talk to her about social media, I learn something new. Seriously, you ever need somebody for social media solutions or PR, hire her. She is amazing.

Speaking of amazing people, Alex Sheppard is also great. She’s relatively new to blogging and just starting out in the working world, so it’s interesting to see her learn as she’s going along. She’s funny, smart and very talented and will go far, of that I’m sure.

Joanna Geary of The Times is another social media superstar. She organises the Brand New event and is absolutely brimming with ideas. I can’t remember how we got to know each other, but she really is leading her field. If journalism is going to be saved, she’s one of the people who’ll be saving it.

Adam Tinworth is also one of those I’d put in the same category as Joanna. His blog is endlessly fascinating and I share a lot of his views on social media. You often get the feeling Adam’s fighting a lonely battle in his corner for the social media side of journalism, but I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s been proved right.

Becky McMichael is one of those PRs who does really get it. She’s bloody good at what she does and when she speaks, it’s worth listening to. Unless it’s a suggestion to have another drink – I still wince at my hangover the next day from that bloggers’ meetup.

I’m a big fan of the team at We Are Social – they’re a rare agency who get social PR and can deliver for very big clients.

Jon Block, the guy behind Goalpostr, is a complete and utter genius. He can come up with a brilliant idea one day and the next day he’ll have practically built it. Scarily intelligent and great at what he does.

Finally, my old boss Jon Cartwright never goes anywhere without his camera and his Flickr stream is seriously impressive. He’s been the official snapper for the last two Twestivals and I’d recommend him for any kind of photographic job – one of the best photographers I know.

What is one thing people can do for you?

Make me a cup of tea.

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