On Season 2, Episode 109 of Coffee with a Journalist we spoke with Ben Frumin, the editor-in-chief at Wirecutter.
Ben has been in an editorial position for most of his career spanning over the last 10+ years. He’s worked at TheWeek.com, Talking Points Memo, and Reuters along with juggling a faculty position at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
Reference the 4 tips below directly from Ben about the best way to work with him and pitch his team at Wirecutter effectively. You can also watch Ben’s videos on the OnePitch YouTube to loaded with insights about his pitching preferences, his advice for building relationships with sources, and more.
Pitch ONLY Premier Products
For those that know Wirecutter, it makes sense to understand this perspective. As an offshoot of The New York Times, the sister publication produces in-depth reviews and analyses on the best of the best products consumers are looking to purchase. So, naturally, when a product makes it onto a Wirecutter list it’s been rigorously tested and vetted by a team of professionals.
In Ben’s words:
“The way that we make these picks is strictly and entirely through or editorially independent and journalistically rigorous process. But I understand that lots of companies would love to have their products reviewed by Wirecutter.”
Don’t Expect an Immediate Response
Ben, like many other journalists, isn’t actively replying to pitches on a daily basis but he is checking the ones that meet his and his team’s criteria. Also, because of Ben’s role, he’s not the person writing the stories or testing the products but he’s making sure anything that is published holds the standard of excellence readers have come to expect with Wirecutter.
The good news is that Ben does share products and pitches with his team and I can assume there is a reason for that.
“Or in rare cases where it is really excellent pitch, I’ll follow up with one of our journalists to see if they have this product on their radar, if they want me to make the connection for them, etc.”
It’s also extremely important to remember Ben A) is not writing stories himself, and B) that he has a TON of other work required of him within his current role. On a given day he’s reviewing stories, checking reader engagement, and even looking over the team’s budget.
Understand the Who, What, Why
While this might seem incredibly easy (or extremely difficult) it’s vital that anyone pitching Ben and the team at Wirecutter understand who the publication is, what they write about, and how they approach stories.
“We’re in the business of helping people solve problems through making the right purchasing decisions, making sure that they’re going to buy something. It’s something that makes their life better, easier, happier, more peaceful, more efficient, and isn’t just some sort of hyper-consumerist, disposable plastic garbage that’s going to end up in a landfill.”
Ben shared this tidbit that he also feels is lacking in the many pitches he receives, “Another category of bad pitch to me is something that fails to look at things from the reader’s point of view. Everything that we do is in service of the reader.” He says far too many pitches are about companies and have very little to do with the end user.
It’s not about overselling the product and/or the company, be straightforward and show how the product truly does impact consumers in a positive way.
Existing PR Helps
When asked about how he and his team are deciding what types of products to cover or review, Ben shared a unique answer that most PR professionals would glean over.
“So we have all sorts of tools where we can try to identify what people are interested in right now, what people are hoping to learn about right now. We look at search volume. We look at various social metrics, trying to understand like what are emerging categories that people might be interested in.”
While this might be obvious to some, to put it plain the proof is in the pudding. If people are actively talking about products and there’s genuine interest from a consumer perspective then chances are it can make it to Wirecutter if it hasn’t already.
Just another reason why PR is so important and valuable in this day and age.
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