MediaNet Meets: Tobi Olujinmi

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We're thrilled to welcome a new trustee to the MediaNet this month, former lawyer now founder of entertainment and faith network The W Talk. We asked her a few questions to introduce herself to our wonderful community of fellow Christians in media!

Tobi, tell us about when you first became a Christian.

My Nan was a huge part of my life growing up. When I was 16 , she had a massive health scare and I challenged the God, I always heard my mum praying to. I asked him to miraculously heal my Nan and let me know it was him. Despite the close call, my Nan survived and I knew in my heart that it was a loving God who was ultimately responsible for her healing – he had kept his promise. Since then, I have never looked back and I have discovered that, everything I need is in him.

You qualified as an attorney in New York, what was that like and why there?

Yes, I qualified as an Attorney at Law in 2013, which was an adventure to say the least. I have always had an interest in media and entertainment and thought that the US would be where I would launch the commercial side of that career.

You worked for a London-based legal firm for three years, then you gave it all up. Tell us about that!

Apart from working in the legal field, I speak publicly, typically at Christian Conferences – I love it, and am humbled to be used by God in this way. There tends to be a moment of such joy and peace at Conferences, but I found myself asking – what’s happens next? Who occupies their minds next? Who has a major say in the climate of culture? Who controls trends? For me, the answer was media. I knew the time had come for me to attempt to use all that I had learnt commercially and learnt on the Christian and merge the two together. I am passionate about the stories of faith being in the global mainstream space.

How difficult was it to leave the law and begin something so very different?

It has been a steep learning curve, but it has been an exciting adventure and I look forward to what’s next.

Has your legal background helped you to set up this new venture?

It has assisted me with the commercial aspect connect to Intellectual Property. I have also been able to stay in contact with colleagues who have been a blessing to our Start Up and development of the app.

You speak at conferences across the world, who would you say is your primary audience?

At the moment, my primary audience tends to be women and reminded them of the power of their faith and God. It really is one of my favourite things to do, once I get passed the nerves.

What does the future hold for Tobi Olujinmi?

Right now, it is growing W TALK, the start-up that I run, our app launches soon and willcomprise of shows, podcasts, devotionals, and community discussion. I am really excited about how this will contribute to changing the global perspective on faith-based entertainment. I am also happy to now be a trustee at The MediaNet and getting stuck in there.

You can follow what Tobi's up to over on Twitter, and find out more about The W Talk on their website!

CIM Meets: Natalie Williams

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This week, we’re chatting with author and former journalist Natalie Williams,  who heads up community engagement, social action, and communication at King’s Church 1066 across all their four venues. Natalie is also co-author of The Myth of the Undeserving Poor (2014) and A Church for the Poor (2017).

You have had a fascinating career, including spending a year in China working for a state-owned newspaper. What was that like?

It was really fascinating in many ways – I was there when China joined the WTO and won the bid to host the Olympics in Beijing, but also when September 11 happened, the war in Afghanistan started, and tensions were high between the USA and China because of an incident with an American spy plane earlier that year. It was interesting to see how these events were reported by the Chinese State run press: there were certain things we weren’t allowed to report or were instructed to emphasise or water down. So trying to maintain your journalistic integrity while also doing as you were told was difficult. That made it hard. Also my Chinese colleagues weren’t well trained, so some of the basics were missing. Another thing that made it hard was that ‘foreign experts’, as we were called, were paid at least five times more than our Chinese colleagues, who often worked harder and longer hours.

How did you juggle your faith with working for a state-owned Chinese newspaper?

I had been struggling with my faith before I went to China. I was ‘backslidden’ and really wrestling. I actually came back to God and my faith was rekindled while I was in Beijing, which surprised me.

What took you to China?

For some reason I’d been interested in China since I was a small child. When I was studying postgrad journalism at City Uni in London, they mentioned internships with the China Daily Newspaper Group. I applied (initially for a three-month role) and said to God, “I want to come back to you, and that doesn’t seem likely to happen in China, but if I get this job I’m going so I’ll leave it to you as to what happens!”

You also worked in the political sector here in the UK for a while. What did you do and how different was it?

Before I get into the politics, I’d like to mention that when I returned to the UK and worked as a journalist, I realised that our ‘press’ isn’t really free either. It’s owned by such a small number of people, and what appears in it is dictated by that small number, not to mention the way things that do appear are framed. This came home to me particularly through studying for my Masters degree in Political Communication a few years ago. In terms of politics, after my MA I worked for an outstanding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC), writing blogs, press releases, speeches and leading on hustings prep. As a Christian, it was a privilege to get to work so closely with the PPC and have some influence in terms of discussing both character and policies.

Today, you work for the church, responsible for social action and community engagement. What does that involve?

Today the comms part of my job involves everything overseeing the website and app to drafting Sunday notices and tweeting. I’m responsible for all media, too. My social action role involves working on the strategy for care for the poor in the church – we run eight projects, and our building is run as a social enterprise, but we’re still working on getting a heart for the most vulnerable into the DNA of the church, with all members growing in mercy, compassion, kindness and generosity. I also work for a national Christian charity called Jubilee+, which helps churches across the country to more effectively support the poorest in their communities. Again I’m responsible for all media and communications, and I get to speak and write on poverty and justice issues, which is a great privilege.

How does your journalistic and communication skills help with this role?

In some very obvious ways, such as writing press releases and understanding the importance of effect communication about vision and events, as well as ‘spotting a story’ and being able to see where something might have wider reach than our local community. (For example, I’ve written recently for the New Statesman and Huffington Postwebsites about the massive increase in foodbank referrals we’ve seen.) But also in less obvious ways, such as having a particular passion for churches to find out what’s going on in their communities, what local decision-makers are concerned about, etc., and taking stats, anecdotes and perceptions from others to help them see the role they can most meaningfully play in their communities.

Would you see this as a calling?

Absolutely. I’m very aware of how God has used and continues to use me, my background, my skills, my experience. I see his hand at work in it all, shaping me, teaching me things, that I now get to equip others with some of what comes naturally to me.

And, what of the future?

I think that journalism needs more Christians and churches need more journalists. Despite the overwhelming amount of information we can get our hands on, it’s harder than ever to get to the truth. We need people working in the media who are full of integrity and committed to truthfulness. But we also need journalists who will teach church leaders, foodbank leaders, debt centre leaders, etc., etc., how to build positive relationships with the press and how to deal with difficult questions.

You can reach out to Natalie on Twitter and listen to her talks from King’s Church over on their website.

5 Traits of a Good Leader

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In your role within the media industry, you have the opportunity to be a trusted voice for God, glorifying Jesus in what you say and do. Below are five qualities that good leaders possess. Will you aspire to and work towards these?

1. You ask God what His vision is

Ask God what His hopes and plans are for you and your area of responsibility. If you’re leading a team, ask Him to guide you in your relationships with the people reporting to you. If you’re developing a new script, ask for creativity, imagination and divine inspiration.

Listen intently to the heartbeat of God. Remember that you can’t do everything, so commit to acting on specific things God speaks to you about, and pray that others will rise to lead in those areas of the media where you cannot reach

2. You listen and serve

Ask your team members what they think needs to be done and research your area of expertise. What processes should be maintained and what practices should be changed? Are there communities underrepresented in your newspaper? Are there workflow processes that are inhibiting, not aiding, your team’s ability to work?

See the need, understand the challenges, and do something about it. Don’t let goals and outcomes become so consuming that you forget to serve the people you lead.

3. You take responsibility

Servant leadership shouldn’t be a passive activity, waiting until someone else asks you to do something before you act. A good servant leader will be proactive, intentionally stepping into the gap and taking action where it is needed. They are not power-hungry, but nor do they wait for instructions; they use their initiative and act on behalf of those they lead, where others might walk away.

If a colleague in your production crew or social media team falls ill, can you offer to temporarily take over their workload? Refuse to give in to the idea that it is always someone else’s problem – if you leave it to someone else you’ll be left following their vision instead of God’s.

4. You never stop learning

Good leaders learn from people who have gone before them, from those at the chalk face who they are leading, and from their own experiences, good and bad. Is there an experienced press officer, photographer or producer who you could ask to be your mentor? Everything won’t go right all at once; be humble enough to acknowledge areas for growth and then build your competency in that area.

Learn and grow by doing. Hebrews 11 is a list of ‘heroes’ of faith – scared people who felt unprepared and had made bad decisions in the past. But they trusted God enough to step out in faith and begin doing what He had called them to do. If you have the opportunity to work on a new project outside of your comfort zone, ask God if this is an opportunity for you to learn and grow.

5. You speak out

When something needs to be said, step up to the microphone. This applies to those who have an external audience, such as journalists and presenters, as well as those who don’t, for example sound technicians, camera operators, and the like. Has your documentary work given you a heart for a social justice issue you could champion? Is there an internal matter, perhaps a damaged relationship in your team, where you could play a role of reconciliation and peace?

You serve under the authority of God and are committed to speaking with that authority into the place to which God has called you. But make sure you speak with wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and not rashly or in anger (Proverbs 13:3, James 1:19).

Earn the right to lead and speak by establishing credibility: work hard, know the facts, and demonstrate your commitment.

Abi Jarvis is Public Leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance. Find out more at thepublicleader.com, @PublicLeaderUK on Facebookand Twitter, or email hello@thepublicleader.com

How To: Crack the Media Job Hunt

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Applying for your first or even fourteenth job in the media is never easy. Be it in PR, journalism, production or digital, our industry is notoriously competitive and ever-evolving, with an abundance of talent on tap.

So how can you increase your chances of being given a chance?

We’ve put together a checklist for those looking for their first job or a new opportunity.

The CV

Keep your CV visually clean and simple, with space between each section so it feels like a relief from the rest of the clutter on a recruiter’s computer screen, experts advise.

Younger applicants tend to throw in too much detail, leading to a dense document cluttered with irrelevancies. It’s better to have a lean, one-page CV than two pages of filler for a recruiter to struggle through.

Media applicants also tend to have chequered careers, Gavin Ricketts recently wrote in The Guardian, changing jobs regularly as they move between projects and working in a variety of roles.

“A compelling personal statement at the top of a CV that brings all this experience into a coherent description of you and your career aspirations, often works well,” he writes.

“The first sentence should introduce the role you’re looking for or the vacancy, if you’re responding to a specific advert. Next describe what experience you’ve gained to help you in that role, and finally write a sentence to show that you’re quietly confident, responsible, alert and willing to take on whatever task the job requires.

“Finish with a little about your ambitions, remembering to be clear that you don’t expect to get there at lightning speed. For instance: “I eventually want to be a producer, so I’m looking for production assistant roles to lay down a good foundation of experience first.”

“You need to communicate that you can work well with others, but don’t rely on simply stating: “I can work as part of a team” – a cliché long overdue for retirement.”

Ricketts advises job seekers instead to demonstrate where they’ve worked in a team, even if it was in part-time work while studying. For example: “I was one of seven shop floor staff, we worked as a team to make sure all customers were given the help they needed”.

The covering letter

“When you write your covering letter, you should never claim to be the perfect candidate,” Ricketts advises. “For me, that is the kiss of death. Being the perfect candidate is not just about ticking all the requirement boxes, it’s also about how you fit into the company.

“So instead of saying you’re the best person for the job, try this subtly different, more modest opening line: “I am excited to be applying for this role. Not only do the requirements match my skills and experience, but I am confident that this is a job I would really enjoy.”

“This way, you’re saying you have the right skills, but you’ve left it to the employer to decide whether you’re right for the team.

“Think of the application process as the beginning of a conversation between you and the employer. Creative organisations tend to be informal in the way they talk to each other, so if your CV and covering letter have a friendly but professional tone of voice – as though you’d just met your next boss in person – your application will come to life.

“The more human and approachable your application, the more they’ll want to meet you in person.”

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Preparing for the interview

Aside from making sure you look professional, and you are on time – two things you must do – you want to make sure you’ve studied the right topics to ensure the interviewer doesn’t stump you on any questions, Rachel Deahl in thebalancecareers.com advises.

“Although you shouldn’t think of an interview as an antagonistic situation — most interviewers aren’t trying to test you or catch you off-guard — you don’t want to draw a blank when you’re asked a question. For this reason, you should study up on a few things, and come up with answers to potential questions, before the big day,” she writes.

“One of the biggest pet peeves you will hear editors and hiring managers complain about, when it comes to interviewing, is talking to candidates who don’t know their company or their publication,” she advises.

For example, candidates seeking a job on a magazine should be prepared for questions such as: If you were going to write a story for us tomorrow, what would it be about?’ That requires knowing the publication inside out, Deahl says.

“It won’t do to simply know that Sports Illustrated simply covers sports or that Entertainment Weekly covers entertainment. You need to know specific stories the magazine published recently and you need to know the recurring sections of the magazine.”

How to Make Sure You Have the Right Answers

“The best way to prepare for a media interview is to study your potential employer,” Deahl advises. “If you’re interviewing for an editorial spot at a magazine, grab a bunch of back issues and go over them. Decide what you might change –  if you had the chance – by figuring out the sections you like and decide why you like them. Find stories you like and take note of them.

“Pay particular attention to getting things straight in your head. One thing that notoriously drives editors and others in the field crazy is mistaking them for their competition.”

Keep your cool

At the end of the day remember it’s just an interview. “If you can try to keep things in perspective, and not put too much pressure on yourself, it’s often easier to stay calm,” Deahl recommends. “Go in confident and calm. If you believe in yourself, and speak with confidence, employers will pick up on it”.

Dispel the myths

The Guardian recently published six myths about getting a career in the TV and media industry which are worth noting.

  • You’ll spend all of your time partying with celebrities– For every music or film festival you attend, there will always be plenty of accompanying strategy meetings to ensure the event goes without a hitch. Expect to work hard. The good news is that all the hard work is worth it
     
  • You’ll spend years in unpaid positions making the tea – Companies are increasingly recognising how integral upcoming talent is to their success. Rather than wasting the fresh insight and perspective new talent can bring, media firms are offering the chance for those without a great deal of direct work experience to get involved with exciting projects
     
  • It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know – Knowing the right people is likely to prove useful in any industry and media is no exception. Despite this, it’s a very outdated to view access to the industry as something predominately decided by nepotism
     
  • You need a media degree from a top university – Media is a hugely diverse industry with many types of roles but only some normally require a degree for a new entrant. While a higher level qualification is a very valuable tool to demonstrate willingness to work hard, commitment to a given task and potentially, a genuine interest in a given sector of the media, there are other ways to exhibit these things
  • To progress, you’ll need to bombard companies with CVs – The CV is one way to get on to a potential employer’s radar, but this should always form part of a broader strategy. The media business is powered by creativity and innovation and if you can show this through the way you search and apply for new roles, all the better. Be prepared to send examples of work – showcase things like your photography and design efforts, on Instagram and or Tumblr, and tweet links to articles you’ve written
  • You have a lot to learn and nothing to offer – People sometimes say something is only a cliche because it’s true, but in this case, the constant advice given to young people entering the media world – that they have a lot to learn and should spend their time soaking up as much information as possible – is only partly true. Of course, young people entering the media industry do have a lot to learn and the early period of their careers will involve them spending time gaining vital skills. However, the media industry doesn’t stand still and it is only through the contribution of upcoming young talent – digital natives who often possess real flair for things like social media – that companies are able to stay ahead of the curve