Media Spotlight: Fred Lee

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Social columnist/Man-About-Town Fred Lee, regular contributor to the CBC, Vancouver Courier and Province Newspaper

Instagram and Twitter: @FredAboutTown

What do you love most about your job?

I have the best job. I get to cover and share with everyone all the good things that are happening in the Lower Mainland and around B.C - all the A-list happenings, red carpet parties, must-attend galas and fabulous fundraisers.

I meet the most passionate people - many volunteering their time -  doing incredible things for our community - building up and raising our community for the betterment of all. When they get excited about their projects, I get excited. And most often, it is the publicist or communications person that brings the cause and or event to my attention.

When is the best time to pitch to you?

In the mornings. I am less distracted. Will generally get through 25-50 emails before I get out of bed. And the earlier you can provide the information, the better.

In my world, it is all about planning, and timing. Those that know me know I have very little time to waste, when attempting to cover multiple events in a night. So I am always appreciative when they are appreciative of my time and have everyone/or things lined up when they say they are going to. 

Email ([email protected]) is by far the best method to reach me. As much as I appreciate the personal phone call, or text, I can file the email messages accordingly in my calendar. Be succinct and persistent. Rarely will I answer the phone. Please do not send anything through Facebook.

What do you look for in a story?

Something new, fresh, interesting; local; charitable, community-minded; for the betterment of all versus spotlighting a firm, business or company. Person(s) of interest doing amazing things. They do not need to be celebrities - but rather everyday people doing interesting things.

What’s your biggest bugbear when working with PRs?

As much as I love a good party (and I do), as concisely as you can, share with me why I should be there. Just sending me an invitation to a party is not enough. A press release is a good start, with all the pertinent info in the first paragraph.

Admittedly I don't read everything in its entirety. If it is interesting, I will file accordingly; otherwise I delete or move to the next email. Share with me three highlights. What is the cause. Don't presume I will know who to speak to or who to shoot or what the purpose of the event/party is. Feel free to suggest the key figures/players to speak with at the event.

If it is a new event I am unfamiliar with, not having someone meet me when I arrive is frustrating. I generally have a limited amount of time I can afford at each event and having to spend most of it looking for someone is frustrating.

Other things:

  • Folks who are not familiar with what I do or have not taken the time to understand my columns.

  • Publicists and their clients who are not familiar with their social media handles and hashtags. They want us to push/share/promote their events and activities to our audience and when we offer, they do not have any idea what their handles and hashtags are - please include in your releases. 

  • National or out of town firms who do not use local PR peeps; local agencies / publicists know the market so much better; a veteran can tell by who is and who is not in the room; it’s a shame for the client because in the end, they lose out. You only get one chance to make a first impression. 

  • I shoot my own photos for my columns; don't do cheque presentations; nor group shots of 4 or more people. 

  • Timeliness of information, when needed.

  • In the charitable scene, fundraisers that do not share what they have raised. Patrons/donors who attend and support your events have the right to know what was raised. And I always encourage attendees to ask.

What’s your average day like?

  • Wake up at 7am.  Check/respond to emails (generally receive some 200 a day, so be persistent if I missed yours…and I have missed many...and I won't be offended if you resend)

  • Off to UBC for work at 8:30am (Many are unaware I also have a day job working at alumni UBC as Director of Alumni Engagement at the University of British Columbia).

  • After 5pm, head to my first event. On an average day, attend/cover two-to-three events, if I am not emceeing or playing role of auctioneer at an event. The most events I have attended in one night: seven

  • Home by 11pm - in time for the news or taped news. I am a news junkie!

  • Respond and check emails and go to bed by 1pm. That's a good night. Thankfully, my body can still operate on 5-to-six hours sleep.

  • Sunday nights, I file my columns

  • Mondays -up at 6:45am; at the CBC studio for 8am; and at my UBC office for standing meeting at 9am.