Victoria Song, a consumer tech reporter at Gizmodo, joined us on the Coffee with a…
Are you looking for pitching insights directly from journalists? As a follow-up to the State of Pitching report, we’re releasing a roundup of pitching tips from the first 50 guests on Season 2 of Coffee with a Journalist.
Learn what reporters and editors look for in pitches and what types of stories they cover based on their feedback below.
“So one relatively fertile place to look for ideas is in lots and lots of raw data, and I get sent reports from banks and investor groups and activist investors and all sorts of people. I love these because they provide really interesting looks into the world as it is. And these don’t tend to be particularly biased because they’re just big chunks of data that has been sliced and graphed in different ways.”
“A lot of it [pitching] can be from tips or coffee meetings I’m always having with people in the industry. Because of my beat, direct-to-consumer brands, I am in this Slack group with a bunch of people who are in the space, like founders, CMOs, et cetera. So, they’re always chatting about the industry and that’s a really good insight for me to see how they’re thinking about it, what positions they want to hire for next. And I think that really helps shape my thinking of, ‘okay, this thing happened, but what does the industry kind of think about it, what do they want to learn about it,’ that sort of thing.”
3. Alex Kantrowitz, Big Technology newsletter (formerly BuzzFeed news)
“I think the key is to be speaking with people all the time. Anyone who’s in this business and is shy is going to ultimately close themselves off for opportunities for good stories. Anyone who’s in this business and isn’t curious is going to close themselves off to opportunities for good stories. So since I’ve been doing this and I started out actually working in sales and marketing before moving into journalism.”
4. David Ingram, CNBC
“… Twitter DMs or something or LinkedIn messages. When I get those I’m thinking, ‘This is someone at a company who wants to go outside official channels and tell me something they’re not supposed to.’ That is vastly more useful than most of the pitches I get.”
“Yeah, so obviously if it’s something that I’m working on, features which I haven’t really obviously delved into too far because a lot of our long-form can also be pitched towards our magazine, which is quarterly. So it’s a little bit of an overlap.
I started out kind of trying to focus on either a couple day turnaround where I can just get like a couple of people on the phone. I mean if they reply to your requests, usually people are like happy to get on the phone and you can kind of just get everything you need and put it together and then submit a first draft, kind of see who else you can talk to. A lot of obvious resources are helpful.”
“Well, it [pitches] comes from everything. I mean, I think what it really boils down to is that it’s really kind of a mostly a relationships thing. I can count on zero fingers the number of times someone that I don’t know has called me and said, ‘I’ve got a great idea for you.’ That has never gone well.
I try to also, as much as I can like build and follow my own nose a little bit. So it’s working with people that I know kind of know things that can help put things together. It’s working with finding maybe finding sources of information that can confirm a hypothesis that kind of floats into my head. But it really, I mean in all those instances it’s in an ideal world, it’s about doing things with people that I’m familiar with. And thankfully having covered media for a couple of years, I feel like I know who to talk to and when and so on, but there’s always more people out there to learn from.”
“Yeah. I mean for those who aren’t familiar with The Information, we have actually a pretty unique approach. I mean, I don’t know how unique it is, but we have a very high bar for exclusive content and stories… We have another product called briefing that’s more of a daily kind of our take on the news of the day. So obviously, we don’t break all of that ourselves.
But for our stories, there’s a relatively high, either original info or original take or an exclusive interview or something kind of bar to meet. So that’s the starting point: is what I have either a scoop or an original smart take on something that no one has done, something that will make people, readers think differently about whatever the topic is? That’s really the starting point.
And then from there, it’s all the normal stuff that every journalist will tell you. Just is there tension? Is there an interesting character? For us usually, is there an interesting business angle or we do lighter stuff as well like, we had a great story today about etiquette in the age of Zoom, virtual hangouts and all the weird things people do and the weird snafus people get in on Zoom calls.”
8. Natasha Mascarenhas, TechCrunch (formerly Crunchbase News)
“I think coffee meetings have helped a ton to just take a second and remind myself that even if we’re talking for an upcoming funding around or a new job move, but then putting the notebook away and being like, ‘Okay, candidly, what do you feel is being under reported? Or what’s one thing you think is missing from the conversation right now?’ I think that’s when the gems always come up. I did the series for a while where I would talk to people in tech about everything other than tech. And that ended up, weirdly enough, leading itself into stories about loneliness and culture and stuff like that.”
“So it can be long or it can be short depending on it. I do try to rely on pitches a lot because I feel like in my role I try to keep an eye on all things tech, which is a large industry. So if we get a really cool pitch, if we forgot about the anniversary of something, like an App Store anniversary or like 10 years of the iPhone, let’s say, it’s nice to kind of segment it off of there.
But it’s also great with a lot of stuff we do at tech is we get to play with gadgets a lot. If we get pitched and I see we got four different pitches about new earbuds, maybe it’s time to go update the best true wireless earbuds. But we get it from pitches, story ideas. I work with a wonderful team over at Underscore or from SEO we do a lot with. But I’d say from there with the product testing we call a lot of it in. So I get the wonderful job of opening a hundred or a lot of cardboard boxes if you get a lot of stuff.”
“I do rely on pitches a lot, especially for the smaller companies that I normally wouldn’t find just browsing through different other publications or even just social media and stuff. It’s always nice to be able to get pitched something that falls under my category in terms of tech, something I don’t have to squeeze in in a weird way that sort of relates but doesn’t, so I always appreciate the pitches that are like, ‘Okay, this connects to your phone, this is a tech product,’ and it falls under my beat, which is either a phone or a wearable or anything fitness-related.
Yeah, I mean, it gets a little difficult because there are always tons of major products coming out that it gets hard to be able to take a break and cover more niche products, but every now and then, there’s a bit of a lull in the review cycle and we get to jump on things that we weren’t able to.”
11. Adam Popescu, Contributor
“…I am really into story and by that I mean I want to hear something that I haven’t seen before. And if I’m going to cover a topic, there’s that old adage that everything has been covered and everything has been written about or filmed. There’s no real original ideas. And to a degree, it’s true… There’s only so many stories. There’s stories about loss, stories about growing up, stories about love, stories about death, when you really break down the archetypes of what there is and the narratives.
But given that, my approach, when I tackle a subject or a source, I want to show an audience either an element of that person that they may not have seen, or to share a moment in that person’s life that was transformational, that brought them to where they are, or just really be immersive and be visual with the writing so that a reader feels like they’re there, because we have to compete against every other media platform, of whether it be film, podcasts, everything.”
12. Sara Jerde, Digiday (formerly Adweek)
“When everyone’s comfortable with you, something that they may throw away at the end of the conversation led to some really good story ideas. And I’ve tried to kind of approach my beat now in the same way. I have people that I talk to everyday just to check in and see how they’re doing. And sometimes what they’ll say at the end of the conversation turns into a full blown story idea. And then once that story idea kind of bubbles up, then I’ll pitch it to my editor who oversees a team of us and I’ll go from there.”
13. Alana Hope Levinson (formerly MEL Magazine)
“…it has to be original in the sense that, sure, it’s from the Internet, but it hasn’t been covered a bunch. If it has been covered by a Conde Nast publication, I’ll probably say, ‘Well, it’s already been done, so we can’t do it.’
But I think MEL is a very editor-forward publication in that the editors do a lot of pitching and also set the tone for how the pitching works. So I think a lot of them are either looking on the Internet, as I do, Reddit, Twitter, all that stuff, Facebook, or they’re bringing stuff from their own lives, too.”
“Nine out of 10, it’s Amazon related, but it doesn’t always have to be an exclusive or a scoop. I think if it’s a unique data point about Amazon’s marketplace, there’s a very good chance I could write about it.”
“I think having been doing this for a very long time, I know most of the marketing and PR people in the industry, and they’re pretty aware of what isn’t our scope of coverage.
It does come up that I tell someone politely that that isn’t an area that we cover. But for the most part, it’s the typical thing, product reviews, product info, maybe questions about market trends or something similar. But for the most part, I have a really good working relationship with the PR and marketing people in the electronics industry.”
“So I have a confession to make that I’m so bad with remembering people who are pitching me. Sometimes I get emails saying we worked together on this story once. They’re like, don’t you remember me? I feel so terrible about it. But it’s really the subject line. I mean, I think I do get a lot of spam, they’ve sent it to a thousand people, kind of pitches, and those are deleted pretty quick. I do try to respond and at least say this isn’t a fit or whatever…”
“Being a shopping editor, I feel those PR relationships are some of the most important relationships I have in editorial. So, I work with PR a lot on product releases, if they’re going to give me some really good intel about something before it drops, if they work with great brands that I trust, I’ve definitely developed some great relationships over the years, and those are the PR people that I’m keeping an eye out for. And also I like their pitches because they really know what I’m going to write about. They understand the brand and they’re not going to pitch me crazy stuff.”
18. Joshua Pinkay, Obvious Magazine
“So OBVIOUS Magazine is definitely, for the most part, it’s been very fashion-focused. But then it also touches on lifestyle, beauty and when I was appointed senior editor, I really wanted to amp up the human interest aspect…
I really wanted to not just highlight people in the fashion industry and beauty and all of that, but I really wanted to look at the social impact component of what individuals like them are doing.”
“I do remember going back and using some things that were pitched to me within a story I was writing already. In the past, when I’ve done that, it’s usually an editor who has gotten in with someone that… It’s been pitched to someone who is more on the beat. And so they say, this is good. I cover this topic and this is a good thing. I don’t have the bandwidth to do it. Or this seems like it could be trendy and it gets passed back to the Now side of things.
So a lot of times that’ll be studies or survey kinds of things. I remember doing several of those where a business will do a survey that’s often newsy. And then we’ll cover that in some way. That’s the one I can remember.”
“I’m grateful for a lot of the different advocacy groups that are reaching out and saying like, ‘This is how COVID is affecting our lives. This is what we are concerned about for X, Y, and Z.’ And I’m even more grateful for the statements from scientists who do have time to talk.
I think something we’ve noticed is a lot of the people that we want to get information from are really, really busy just treating everybody, which is totally understandable.”
“It is very frustrating to receive a PR pitch where people don’t explain in the first line who they are and what their kind of perspective is because you just think, ‘Well, this might be a good story, but if I don’t know where it’s coming from if I don’t have any sort of perspective or context around it, then how am I supposed to really make a decision?’
It’s like when you don’t know someone it’s hard to trust them, you know? So I think almost as important as the pitch itself is to really clarify what your credentials are and what your perspective is. What are you trying to sell? What are you trying to do? Nothing more annoying than having to go to the seventh paragraph to find out what the story is really about or where it’s coming from or what the motivation is for the story.”
“Sometimes I do go down a rabbit hole and I want to include everything in the story, basically. I just can’t. Oftentimes, if I just keep looking for things to include, I’ll just keep including them and it just gets too long.
…When I write about social media and things that are happening, I’m focused on trends a lot. So any pitches that have recent examples of brands and what they’re doing on social media, if it’s part of a trend, those are the really helpful pitches that often become stories.”
“I at least read it [a pitch]. If it’s obvious spam, then I’ll delete it. If it’s off topic, if it’s from some group that I know is not queued into the same reality that I’m in, there are all sorts of advocacy groups out there. I’ll look at the subject line, and then just move onto the next thing.
But yeah, I try to read everything, and at least think about it. Not in the sense of am I going to write about this week, but could this fit into a story I know I’ll do a week or two from now? Does this company have a subject matter expert I might need later on? That’s another thing where I make a note of it, and then hopefully I will get back to the company involved.”
“There’s also plenty of times too where some other outlet will do a story, like I don’t know, for example maybe The Wall Street Journal has a great story on whatever’s going on with Apple right now, and we read the story and an editor flags it and then we come up with, ‘Okay, so what’s our angle here? How can we kind of… What are the sources that we know that are knowledgeable about this that can kind of spin this in a fresh light?’
It was based on another outlet’s original reporting, but it still is ours in the sense that we’re bringing something else to that kind of evolving story, if that makes sense.”
25. Mary Ann Azevedo, TechCrunch (formerly FinLedger)
“I do open probably a lot more of my emails than other journalists, which is probably one of the reasons why I’m just constantly so busy. Because I hear my other peers joke about how they never open their emails and things like that. I probably open too many of them, honestly.
But subject lines are important, and I think people that are pitching should really put a lot of effort into making them enticing because a good subject line is really going to get the journalist to open it up. Once you open it up, I think the more customized your pitch is, I mean, it’s just common sense, the more likely a journalist is going to want to read it. I still get pitches from people who think I’m still at Crunchbase, for example. It’s not that hard to research a little bit.”
“Yeah. I can’t think of many cases where I’ve written a story…off the back of a press release recently. That’s not to say I haven’t done it in the past. But in this current role, most of the stories that I work on are not necessarily the stories that comms professionals want me to be writing.
But having said that, there are times when comms people in industries that are doing research or analysis or are familiar with some interesting shenanigans within their industry when they might not themselves be involved in those shenanigans have brought something to my attention or brought a kind of consumer issue to my attention that has warranted further digging.”
“Maybe if it’s just a really good subject line. It’s hard to think of what those would be. I mean, if it mentions a venture capital firm, I will definitely open it. I see there’s one in my inbox and it says DCVC partner. I’ve heard of that firm, so I’d probably click it.
It’s hard right now because The Information, we just don’t do embargoes. We just don’t do that kind of stuff. Sometimes I agree to embargo just because I’m curious, but I’m not going to write about it, which maybe that’s annoying or frustrating for VR, but I like to stay up-to-date with stuff. But yeah, we just really don’t do that kind of coverage. So it’s definitely a lot different. A different ball game from when I was at TechCrunch.”
“We’ll cover most things that impact marketers. But we have a very servicey model. Like I said earlier, we want to make sure the stakeholders in our industry are getting the news that matters to them and thinking about actionable takeaways they could have on it. If I get something that’s like, ‘TikTok could be acquired by Microsoft or Walmart,’ the broad landscape stuff that’s, first of all, going to be covered everywhere, but it also doesn’t serve as much value to our readers.
But if you can come to me and say, ‘We have an agency expert who works in social media and knows how this will affect our marketer’s strategies,’ like a day of when it happens.”
“I don’t really get pitches. I don’t get stories from pitches anymore. It’s just because, unless it’s like some kind of new gadget, right? Unless it’s just something small, but, if I’m writing something, I want to write something with some teeth. So I’m trying to figure out who I can talk to.
I’ll work with my editors here. Just trying to figure out what is top of mind for them. We do a lot of science and ecology stories. That’s something that I’ve never really focused on, but it’s something that the site focuses on. And if I see something on Twitter or whatever that passes through the transom of my mind, then I’ll give it to them.”
“I think one thing that’s really gotten better over the years, from my point of view as a reporter is, pitches are getting a little more sophisticated around other news events. Sometimes people have an expert who can comment. Today, there was big news about the electronic vehicle maker in China, NEO, hooking up with GM. I got some interesting pitches that were sort of like, ‘Here’s our expert’s take on this thing.’ So that’s a thing that comes in my inbox that I kind of like, even when I don’t always…quote those, but they’re very informative for me, and it’s giving me good vibes about from the sender and from the expert.
And they’re offering something that helps me, that’s useful, that’s engaging me, as opposed to just the straight in-your-face pitch, which I get plenty of those, too, as well. I write a fair bit about 5G, the new next generation of wireless. Obviously there are a lot of people out there pitching 5G, whether it’s just the phone companies themselves, or companies with products or services that are somehow a play on 5G or experts or statistics or research reports.”
31. Maya Shwayder, Contributor
“Actually one of the last stories I wrote for Digital Trends, this person did a really good job targeting this story. I had written a bit previously about native Americans living on reservations, who were struggling with internet connectivity at a time when that is our lifeline. Everyone needs the internet and everyone needs a fast, reliable internet.
And that is just not a thing that many people in this country have access to, especially if you’re living out on the Navajo reservation, a three hour drive from the nearest big city. So I had done some reporting on this and then this person who I’d never met them before, but they ended up in my inbox and the subject line was something along the lines of, the American library association is proud to announce that these native libraries on these reservations had banded together to create a local broadband network.
And I read that. I was like, Oh man, that is my shit. That is exactly what I want to be writing about. And it was just, it was a little story. It took like one day to report and it certainly is nothing like life-changing, is not going to win me any awards, but it was the type of story that I really enjoy writing about. This person I asked her how she found me and she said, ‘Oh, I was doing research about who had written about this previously, and I found you, so I decided to take a chance.’ I’m like, good job. You did the right thing.”
“I look at the subject lines and the first couple of sentences. I feel like most people who pitch me don’t make an effort to understand what it is that I do at CNBC. I think that there’s just a lot of people who just send blanket pitches, because they have my email in there. They don’t think, ‘Okay, this is a business network. She covers these kinds of companies. Here’s how it might fit for her.’
So many people who pitch me have never watched CNBC once, and it’s just not helpful. I’m always looking for new ideas. I’m always open to pitches. But I think the key thing is really to make sure that the pitch includes some knowledge of what it is that I’m doing, what kinds of stories I generally do. If you’re going to pitch me on some random entertainment event that has no business story, or some celebrity thing of a celebrity endorsement of something, we just don’t do that kind of story on CNBC.”
“I tend to look in a lot of different places. Obviously, the news and what’s happening, what is trending among entrepreneurship or what industries are doing well, what companies are coming up, that’s all stuff that I’ll consider. But I’m also looking for the breakout stars or the people who are just proving really, really successful business strategies that they can explain how they did it. And then that way, other entrepreneurs can replicate that. They’re providing replicable success, so that’s really important.
And I think there are so many different businesses and ideas and founders out there that to me, the most important thing is, can you prove your success? And can you give us some really helpful tips and advice that other entrepreneurs or even aspiring entrepreneurs can utilize? And actually, it’s not just a success story of I did this from one to a hundred in a year, but there’s nothing to back that up. There’s no tactic, it’s a lofty like, ‘Oh, I just did my best, or I dreamt it up.’
That’s not the kind of stuff that’s helpful. So we try to be helpful. And that means we need to really vet entrepreneurs and look for the most interesting information, and even data behind their success.”
“A lot of the pitches that come through, especially if I know the PR person and we’ve got a bit of a liaison or an understanding of one another, I’ll give it a bit of extra weight. It might even be a product announcement or something about a client that they’re representing. And they’ll sort of say, ‘Look, we know you probably won’t cover this, but just so you know, this is what’s happening.’ I always quite appreciate that. Because sometimes if I look across my inbox over a week and I get three emails from different companies and they’re all launching similar products or announcing similar news, it might prompt me to think, ‘Well hey, there’s a trend here,’ or there’s something going on that speaks to a broader issue that could warrant a potential story.
That’s often what I’ll say. But I’ll often have my eye caught if it starts off with an exclusive pitch, and where you have the exclusive jump on a funding round or a CEO leaving. In one case, I had a company give me the exclusive that they were shutting down.”
“I guess I look at the emails that interest me. And there isn’t really a particular hard and fast rule for what that means, because what I cover evolves.
I am often covering things related to privacy. I’m often covering things related to contact tracing and apps and all these things. So pitches aren’t really the main way that I’m doing reporting. I am listening to what my sources in the field are saying, and I’m listening to what people are talking about. Every so often, I’ll come across an email that has something to do with that. That’s sort of what catches my attention.”
“Well, a lot of it’s reporter instincts. But also, to tell you the truth, a lot of it’s like anything else in relationships, of course I’m more likely [to open] if I know someone and I’ve dealt with them in the past and they’ve given me good ideas, or I’ve met them, or it’s a company that I cover, obviously I’m going to open those, for sure.
But general ones, you’re going to get my attention more if it seems like it knows what I cover and why, and it also knows what The AP’s interested in. You can kind of tell from that line where, ‘Oh, it’s peaked my interest.’ Or again, if it’s someone I know, I’m always going to open it, right?”
“I definitely keep ones that seem interesting based on the subject, like if it’s a funding that has the amount in the subject or it’s a company that has the firm in the subject. I mean, generally most funding announcements I will archive sometimes without reading it but just to have it in my inbox so that way, if it happens that I’m writing a very specific story and I need to find some examples of start-ups that are doing X or Y, I can quickly search through my inbox and say, ‘Okay, at least I know how to get in touch with this company,’ so I’ll respond. Generally, it’s like the PR firm is no longer working with them and that strategy doesn’t really work that well.
I often do more pulled back kind of trend stories that are not… They’re not going to be your funding announcement that has the headline of Company X raised y but a lot of times if I’m doing kind of a market story, I’m going to have four or five companies in that story talking about like, ‘Okay, it was really hard to raise our funding because of these macro trends that are happening,’ or, ‘Oh my god, there’s so much money around, I had 10 investors coming at me, outbidding each other.’ And so when I’m working on a story like that, and those pitches come in, I’m always thinking like, ‘Okay, would this company be willing? Will they fit into what I’m working on, and would they be willing to talk to me?’
Not necessarily just about whatever is in their press release, but about certain aspects of their funding. So, I definitely keep those things around for that.”
“Just something that’s extremely to the point, hard to break it [pitches] down to a formula though. Honestly, the amount of pitches that have turned into actual stories.
I mean, the last time I could think of one is when I got a press release from Mobilewalla about a report that they did where they basically tried to estimate the demographic profiles of people at Black Lives Matter protests using cellular data being collected. And for some reason, no one had reported on it. It was an interesting story, obviously, because these people who were marching didn’t know that their data was going to be used in this way, but no one had reported on this study and then it just landed in my inbox. So I guess that shows the importance of reading your emails.”
“I don’t open every single one [pitches], but I do look for obviously my name. I do read…if it has my name on it, I do open it up and read the whole thing. There’s a lot of those. And a lot of times lately, it seems like it’s emails for another colleague, so I just happily forward it on. But yeah, I do try to respond to each email that comes to me that has my name on it, just because I think that’s a good way to foster relationships with people.
I might not cover it now, but come back to me. You know I read my emails.”
“About two years ago, I got a pitch from a PR that I had no contact with. It was a first time outreach. She pitched me this very interesting idea of a startup in Michigan that’s working on a technology that freezes your STEM cells. So for example, if you’re 50 and you’re worried that your knee is going to fall apart in 10 years, you can extract some STEM cells from that part and freeze that with the company. They charge you a fee. It’s kind of similar to egg freezing service, but the technology is less mature in that specific area of science. So they are pioneering that, and just started offering those services around the country.
I was heading to a tech event. I believe it was TechCrunch Disrupt in September, and the founder would be there. So we just arranged an in-person interview in San Francisco. And we chatted about like, what technology is, how it works, and some ethical questions. Like, if you have like a 50-year-old knee in this fridge for 10 years and you get it back, you get a new knee when you turn 60, how old are you exactly? What if it’s not a knee, it’s like a more essential organ or something else? So there’s a lot of interesting questions.”
“I mean I pick and choose based off what sounds interesting. What happens to dovetail with what I was thinking about writing that week? Because I work in a fairly short turnaround. I’ll sometimes have things working for longer periods of time, but in reality, when you’re doing this twice a week, that’s amounts to almost like 4,000 words. You need to just sort of like,’Okay, what am I doing?’ Making sure there’s something in the newsletter every two or three days. And so I sort of do focus on like, ‘Okay, I have a sense that there’s something in the news’ or there’s something that’s been piquing my interest or I want to just know about the pandemic or I want to do something about AI.
When it comes to pitches, like ‘okay, who’s been reaching out around different sectors’ and then sort of select the ones I think we’ll use or work for that… It’s always great to have those introductory conversations because then that can lead both to maybe a story or even just someone that you can then sort of call on later on when you’re looking for some support within a piece or a sort of a gut check or what have you.”
“If you can connect me with people, not companies, but people who are experienced in an area that my website cares about, it’s that easy. I got a guy that I’m representing his company and he just has so many thoughts on how CMO should work with CIOs. I see that you’ve done that story before. Are you planning to refresh that story, because he or she would be a great source? That would win me over.”
43. Brit Morse, Inc.
“I open a lot of pitches, obviously stuff that’s related to what I’m covering right now. So, right now, I’ve been looking at a lot of stuff related to vaccines and the workplace and COVID, and workplace safety and covering things related to the stimulus package. So, that’s kind of been top of mind. But I also just look at stuff that could be like potential profile stories, or anything about founders or co-founders running interesting companies. I rarely actually write upon them, but I’ve gotten maybe a handful of pitches in the last couple years that have actually turned into pretty fun profiles. So, I usually keep my eye out for that as well.
Anytime we see any kind of like, growth stats or anything in a headline, I mean, that’s kind of like Inc. Magazine’s bread and butter is, how much are you making in revenue or sales? Or how much are you growing in the last few years?”
“Honestly, I’m actually pretty good – relatively good about responding [to pitches] if it’s something that’s actually in my wheelhouse. Some editors let a lot of stuff go by and miss a lot of things. I had people who work for me who did that, which I was not happy about. I’m pretty quick at identifying stuff that could be interesting. I go from there. Then ask a few questions sometimes to see maybe a price point or sometimes the product isn’t necessarily available in the US. That could be an issue. We’re more geared towards facilitating commerce so that the thing is actually available for sale.
I don’t do as much rewriting press releases and saying a product has been announced. I’d rather have some hands-on with it and be able to say something about, that there are exceptions. Say for instance, just before I got on with you, Bose came out with new open-ear earbuds.”
“And actually it’s getting a little bit more complicated because up until around this week or next week I was more on sort of tech and sort of my beat was artificial intelligence generally, but that’s a pretty difficult beat to cover as we found through the course of the past eight months because artificial intelligence is kind of everything and also nothing at this point because every single other beat, whether it’s politics, whether it’s commerce, economics like takes a bite out of that.
So we were finding that it was difficult to find niche areas where you’re not stepping on other people’s toes within that beat. So I’ve actually been moved over. I’m going to start writing articles on GreenTech starting this week.”
“I think emails that very clearly show that the person making the pitch has actually read my work and knows what I do is a good place to start. A suggestion for a person to connect with who knows something about a story that I’ve written, or an area that I’m really interested in, and can add value to that reporting.
The people who are able to dial right into that very quickly and very succinctly with few words, those are the types of pitches that I’ll engage with and often respond to. The ones that are just like, ‘I have to have a great story for you.’ Well, that’s not how good journalist is generally done. Those would probably be passed over.”
“But what I’m trying to kind of encourage startup founders to do, which I know is hard and I’m not sure how it relates to their bottom line, but from a content perspective I’m always trying to get them to share the lessons they’ve learned. Try to talk about something that isn’t your product and I think it will still pay off in the end. I think a lot of people want coverage that says, ‘Okay, wow. This startup’s app is amazing. I wish millions of people used it.’
The people that I feature on Growth Quarters, because we have a contributors platform where people can pitch, it’s a slow process and can be a harsh one…If you come to Growth Quarters, it’s not where you’re talking to possible consumers in a sense. You’re giving advice, you’re helping out other startups, and you’re not reporting numbers that are necessarily for investors. You’re trying to like be a positive force in that scene.”
“But there are subject lines that say like, ‘This entrepreneur did this and this.’ That’s going to get me to click because I’m curious. I’m a curious person, probably in the nature of being a journalist but why I want to read more.
The more detail, the better, especially if it has entrepreneur in that subject line or small business owner, I’m definitely going to click on it. If the pitch is really catered to me, like this person did their homework and they see what I cover, generally speaking, I’m going to respond and say like, ‘This isn’t right for me at the moment, but I’ll keep you in mind or this person in mind.’ I like to save those emails because I find that this inbox can just kind of be a catalog for story ideas, for sources.”
“I tend to look for the subject line which may catch my interest. That said, I’m not a fan of somebody writing time-sensitive in all caps, although I do understand that that is often a thing.
I am often not a breaking news reporter, so that is really not much of a thing for me. I tend to do longer pieces. What I do pay attention to on the time-sensitive front though is in my role as contributing editor at Fast Company, I do a lot of work with outside contributors. So if someone has a hot take on a news item, then that may be time-sensitive, so there’s the caveat there.”
“I was thinking about this, and to be honest there have been some cold pitches out of the blue from a new startup that normally I would just ignore or not deal with. But occasionally, I do get them from the CEO or founder who says, ‘Hey. I have this new startup. We’re doing X, and I thought you might be interested. Here’s one sentence about or two sentences about it.’ Sometimes, on top of that, it’s, ‘Oh, this VC suggested I reach out to you.’ That sometimes works.”
If you’re looking for more insights about pitching directly from journalists check out The State of Pitching: Volume 1. This report dives into pitching preferences, coverage, and more from our first 50 guests of Coffee with a Journalist.
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