World Fixer is a new company which connects employers and trusted fixers or facilitators around the world. Its 2,000 members are already working with media outlets around the world to improve their coverage of events. However, as former broadcast producer Mike Garrod explains, World Fixer can also help NGOs, governments and corporate entities improve their public information outreach through access to its special skills.
The term ‘fixer’ means different things to different industries but within media it describes the one indispensable element of any overseas project – local knowledge. (Please also see article in the Columbia Journalism Review on the increasingly vital but often thankless role of fixers today). It is a contentious moniker, banding together a wide and varied knowledge base under a title which at best is vague and at worst suggestive of handy men or general assistants. However, for those of us who use it on a daily basis it is greatly revered.
Despite being commonplace in our industry, we knew the site had to define exactly what a fixer is to other audiences and we settled on the following statements which serve to drive what we do:
Without fixers, thousands of TV and film productions throughout the world would be impossible every year, tens of thousands of articles and books would never be written and the myriad of corporate activities would never see the light of day.
Simply put, a fixer is your temporary local knowledge when working overseas. They are your ears on the ground before you arrive, your overseas bureau, your airport pickup, your staffer, your security advisor, your translator, local producer or first aider. They are the guide by your side that knows where everything is and how to get it.
In some circles this describes a ‘Social Concierge’, or in the travel industry, a guide or tour leader but to be a good media fixer you must encompass their skills and more. He or she will be able to research your area of interest (sometimes undercover), organise visas and permits, arrange accommodation, pick you up from the airport, negotiate rates for your camera equipment, handle the diplomacy when you point it somewhere you shouldn’t and get you to a restaurant in time for your booking which won’t cause any gastric nuisance. They can be connected at government level yet a familiar face in the slums, speak multiple languages and have a solid grasp of the editorial narrative used in western media.
They are routinely pushed to the limit of their capabilities in an industry which doesn’t tolerate the word no. They are expected to be able to facilitate the impossible at a moments notice and as such will take pride in an extended network they can tap to get the job done. I’ve had references for someone working on a well known car programme who had to build a raft and float a vehicle down river to location after a bridge washed away – he didn’t know how to do this of course, but quickly found a man who did. Another was asked to pave the way for a groundbreaking interview with a disillusioned founding member of Al Qaeda, through his contacts he completed this within a week.
Finding fixers has largely been via word of mouth in the past, or through social media. This system has served well but is ultimately flawed. Often people are hired simply because they are the only option and connections have regularly proved unsatisfactory. World Fixer is designed to help solve this problem by creating a platform where fixers can promote themselves, list their experience and be found whilst clients can build up a network of people they’re interested in working with. We carry out background checks on those who sign up and indicate our findings on the site. We are always on hand to carry out further research for our clients on request.
We believe that you can’t fully automate a people business like this and maintaining a hands on approach is vital. You can login and search the site openly but we do recommend you conduct your own due diligence before hiring someone. At the very least the site will introduce you to the most recommended people out there and provide you with the one thing most other methods can’t… choice.
We also offer a more tailored agency service for those who prefer us to do the leg work for them. We can find the right person for the right project through our members and extended network and are extremely active in sourcing a range of skill sets and backgrounds to help meet the diverse demands of our clients. We have over 2000 members currently and have used them recently to source ‘difficult access’ and ‘speciality skill set’ fixers for BBC, Vice Media, RTL, The Times and Channel 4 in the UK. Another recent request was from a medical insurance company who wanted a network of fixers on the ground throughout those areas of Syria still accessible should prospective clients need assistance – through trusted security sources this took us about ten days to arrange.
So who are these ‘fixers’? They range from media crew to ex government ministers, university professors to locums but all with a common desire, and the relevant experience to assist foreign elements coming to work in their country. It is our hope that our members can reach out beyond the media world we currently operate in and bring value to all kinds of entities who would appreciate their dynamic knowledge base.