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Coffee with a Journalist: 50 Tips to Pitch Journalists

Coffee With A Journalist: 50 Tips To Pitch Journalists

Are you looking for pitching tips & insights directly from journalists? As a follow-up to the release of our latest State of Pitching report, we’re releasing another roundup of pitching tips from guests 51-100 on the second season 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.

 

Steven Aquino, Forbes

  • Approach Steven with an understanding of his coverage. He said, “​​Well, from the PR person, I really want them to be human. Like I want them to say like, “Hey, Steven, I saw you on Forbes. I saw you on iMore,” wherever, and I thought of an idea, “Here’s a company or someone you should talk to.” Like I don’t want to see like just a generic like here’s a hearing aid.”

Erika Wheless, Ad Age (formerly Digiday)

  • When it comes to the content of your pitch, make sure it includes data if you’re reaching out to Erka. She said, “To all the pitch folks, I want to hear from you. I do open every pitch and at least glance at it. Yes. I try to be an inbox zero person, so I really am looking for any pitch with data in it.”

Simon Cohen, Digital Trends

  • Simon talks about embargoes and exclusives during his interview. Keep this quote in mind if you have a product worth pitching to him, “Yeah. It really depends on the nature of the piece. If it is a really fairly complex piece that’s under embargo, like let’s say we’re talking about some kind of brand new sound system that’s never been seen before, and there’s a lot of technical aspects to it, a longer embargo time is really appreciated.”

Brena Nath, HousingWire

  • Because Brenda covers such a wide range of topics and verticals keeping your pitch more generic does actually make a stronger impression. She said, “There’s a lot of different areas that I write on and work on, and maybe what you’re pitching doesn’t directly fit one area, but I could see you in another area of what I do. Maybe you pitch for a podcast, and really it might be a great source for a magazine piece that we’re working on. Maybe get a little bit more broad in your pitch, about what this person is an expert on, and then feel free to say, “This is what I think is an angle” or “This is my pitch.”

Jane Thier, Fortune (formerly CFO Dive)

  • While at CFO Dive, Jane was constantly wanting to speak with sources. She said this about interviewing CEOs, “​​One rule of thumb that I maintain for my own coverage is that if I don’t get to interview the CFO themselves, I won’t run the piece. Because there’s nothing insightful to our readers about me just rewording a press release. So when I get that pitch from PR rep, my mandatory response is going to be, “This looks great. Thanks for sending this. I love to speak with this person in a phone call, or an email Q&A and ask them what they want to tell our readers directly.” If they’re not available, I will likely pass.”

Jacob Bell, BioPharma Dive

  • For Jacob, relationships with sources are key to getting their emails read. Here’s what he had to say, “But what I will say is that, if I have a working relationship with someone, it’s unlikely that we’re going to write about it, but I know the kind of thing that person sends me. I’ll open up and read it. But beyond that, I get enough in a day where I kind of have to go off the subject line to a degree.”

Terry Stanley, Adweek

  • Exclusives and embargoes do not bode well if you’re pitching Terry. She said, “​​I get probably the majority of the pitches that come to me say exclusive and here’s my answer to that, “Probably not. No, it’s not. Don’t even pretend. No, it isn’t so shut up. It’s not exclusive.” That bugs the crap out of me.”

Victoria Song, The Verge (formerly Gizmodo)

  • Pitches that end up in Victoria’s inbox rarely turn into stories, however, the people involved in them might be worth consideration. Here’s what Victoria said about this, “​​But sometimes, a pitch will be like, “Do you want to talk to this expert?” I might bookmark the expert just in case, like I’m working on a time-sensitive thing and I need to reach out to someone who actually could respond in a quick manner. But like when it comes to actually pitching, like not quick hit news stories, I actually do best when I’m just talking with my teammates, or just my editors.”

Read: 6 Tips to Pitch Victoria Song

Ben Stegner, MakeUseOf

  • Ben said the team at MakeUseOf rarely writes about pitches but they do have a sponsored post section for this sort of thing. He said, “​​Well, in terms of actual PR pitches, MakeUseOf really doesn’t do too much with those. Because like I talked about earlier, we’re kind of like the tech side for people that don’t really know too much about the world of tech. Occasionally, the biggest one for pitches would be sponsored post. So if you have like a piece of software or sometimes even hardware, we have a workflow for that, that you think would make a good fit for our readers, I would send it on to the person that handle sponsored post and we an work out the terms for that.”

Sandra Gutierrez, Popular Science

  • Sandra said spending time reading DIY content is one of the best ways to get a grasp for how to pitch her. Here’s more from her, “I feel most of the time, people who pitch me especially from PR agencies, don’t under fully understand what we do at DIY. I’m not even talking about what I do as a journalist, because DIY is very – especially how we treat it at PopSci. DIY is a very tricky concept. DIY in Popular Science is this very magical, weird place in which service journalism, meets science, meets projects, meets School and sometimes just weird stuff.”

Manasa Gogineni, VentureBeat

  • Pitches in length, detail, by industry and rarely does one include everything a journalist needs to know. Manasa shared this about the types of pitches she receives, “Some pitches are very comprehensive in that there’s a very clear story. And it’s very timely, and it’s important, and it’s interesting, all those good things. And then some pitches are just not really going to do anything, like they don’t really have any purpose. And in the middle, there’s some that are like they have something that’s important or interesting, but not everything I need for a story.”

Read: 6 Tips to Pitch Manasa Gogineni

Issie Lapowsky, Protocol

  • Issie’s work involves more than just companies and spokespeople, make sure you have inside knowledge if you’re considering pitching her, “Yeah. I mean, it’s mostly talking to people. It’s mostly — that’s where I get my best stories, is talking to people who are in this line of work or studying it, or have some insider knowledge and I can report out a story that are telling me, hopefully for the first time.”

Ashley Carman, Bloomberg (formerly The Verge)

  • Ashley says, “I’ll admit that I really don’t use – When people email me expert sources, I typically don’t really take advantage of them because oftentimes, because of what I’m writing about is so specific.” An intro to the CEO or another higher up is preferable from her perspective.

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Vice

  • Lorenzo sheds light on pitches that are truly relevant to his beat, “​​In terms of like PR pitches, the most interesting ones are those from cybersecurity companies that are doing research. By that, I mean, maybe they’re studying a particular device or technology, and they found a vulnerability. Or more often, it’s a company that has found new malware or computer virus or some sort of cyber espionage campaign. Those are interesting for us because they are more relevant to our audience.”

John Timmer, Ars Technica

  • Being a science writer means John work with an entirely different kind of “publicist” day in and day out. Regardless, his top tip for pitching is, “Know who you’re pitching. If you look at the last, even just glance down the titles of less 20 articles I’ve written, you’ll have some sense what interest me, what I write about, what areas I cover. If you’re on target, you’re more likely to get a response even if it’s, “I’m too busy for this now.” But the ones that look interesting, I don’t throw away in case it’s a subject I come back to. I can always search my email.”

Kendall Baker, Axios

  • While we have only had one sports writer on the podcast it was fun to see how much different their role, and media relations process, is compared to other journalists. Kendall had some great advice for readers (not pitchers),” But I’ve always been very committed to replying to my readers because I think it’s just such a great experience on their end to respond to a newsletter and then the author gets back to you. Every time, people are like, “Oh my gosh! Thanks for replying.” I really try to make that a priority and if I didn’t have this, those would kind of get lost and I wouldn’t be able to maintain those relationships and that’s important to me.”

Dan Bova, Entrepreneur

  • A helpful reminder from Dan about how the team at Entrepreneur approaches stories they publish, “What we’re not looking for is someone to say. “This is my company and all the great things we do.” We’re always looking at it from our readers perspective. We want content on our site that’s either going to inspire, inform or entertain people. That’s what we look for in the pitch, something that’s unique, something I haven’t heard before or something that’s maybe it’s not the most unique thing in it in the world, but it’s really taught me a lot. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Holden Page, HW Media (formerly FinLedger)

  • Although Holden doesn’t write currently, he did have some really interesting guidance and perspective on his role working with sources. He said, “Things do come from pitches, but I’m pretty selective. What I like to do and given my job title, like I no longer do like on the ground reporting day in and day out, but I do make a point to make sure I’m talking to really interesting people.”

Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch

  • While you might not receive an immediate response from Rebeca, she does have a system for filing emails. Here’s what she said about featured stories she works on, “​​I have a lot on the back burner for Extra Crunch or just like more in depth features that obviously, I have to cover a lot of breaking news and funding announcements and things like that. When I have more time, I can go into them.”

Read: 13 Tips to Pitch Rebecca Bellan

Shannen Balogh, Rho (formerly Insider)

  • Shannen is no longer a journalist but her preference for pitches she received was very simple. She said, “…I really don’t like long pitches. I like when people bold the important stuff, all of that is helpful to me, but subject line is pretty big.”

Nathan Ingraham, Engadget

  • Nathan provided a great response to a fill-in-the-blank question about what his favorite always do. He said, “When I say respect my time, I mean, not going on for too long about something, getting the meat of the information to me as quickly as possible so we can do something with it. And then the best sources are ones who can kind of be available to go back and forth as needed. Be that once or 10 times. It’s finding that balance of camaraderie almost as well as brevity.”

Sasha Lekach, Mashable

  • Something we’ve heard many journalists mention on the podcast which was reiterated by Sasha, “​​Follow up and dig in for more. It’s always going to be the little weird detail that you just mentioned offhand that I’m going to be like, “Oh, that’s the story.” You really pick the stories about a profile about an executive or somebody on the team. And I’m like, “No, it’s not about them. But it’s about the really cool whatever app they developed. We’ll focus on that.” It might be something related, but it’s going to be usually not exactly what pitch.”

Carlo Versano, Robinhood (formerly Cheddar)

  • Carlo, former Cheddar writer and podcast host, had great insight into how his team at Cheddar looks for sources. He said, “​​One of the things you look for as a Booker, as a producer, especially for television, and especially for a business news operation like Cheddar, is who’s available to talk about this pitch? Is it the CEO? It’s the CEO, who these networks want to hear from, regardless of whether you’re talking about Google, or whether you’re talking about some tiny little – some startup.”

Jill Wagner, Cheddar

  • As one of our first broadcast anchors, Jill shared her piece of advice for pitching stories to her and others on the Cheddar newsdesk. She said, “My biggest piece of advice is that, I don’t want to work to read your pitch. Give it to me on a silver platter. Tell me everything that I need to know. A lot of times, I wind up just forwarding the pitch. I’m the middleman, so I have figure out which producer is getting it. If I have to work to understand the story, or understand the relevance, or figure out why it’s timely, it’s not going anywhere.”

Megan Leonhardt, Fortune

  • Megan’s coverage revolves around regulations and how they impact consumers and businesses. Her tip for pitches that convert was, “But I do think there are certain trends that I cover on a fairly regular basis, things around consumer protection, things around consumer finances, economics, economic trends, all of those kinds of things. If you can give me an expert that is pretty broad-based and can talk a bit about a lot of things, I think that can be really helpful and I will save that email.”

Alex Knapp, Forbes

  • For Alex, talking to sources is super important and helpful, however, there is a right way and a wrong way to pitch them. He said, “​​Hooking it to the specific news and saying I’ve got an expert available. That’s the best way, because even if I don’t use them for a story I’m doing, because I do have sources I may have already contacted, I’ll have another idea of someone that I can reach out and talk to related to that issue.”

Shayla Love, Vice

  • Curious how you can turn a “trend” or industry-related theme into something valuable? Shayla said, “​​For me, I can synthesize a bunch of different events where patents are being challenged, where people are asking questions about patents all into one story that has an overarching theme. So for me, it’s always about finding that overarching theme, and like that narrative within a bunch of events that are happening out in the world. That’s how I think about the framework for a story that I’m going to approach.”

Scott Nover, Quartz

  • For Scott and so many others, he’s looking to speak directly with people from companies. He said, “​​And so yeah, I mean, I think the pitches that are successful are ones that bring something to my attention that I wasn’t thinking about, or they provide some sort of access to an interesting person, or they have an interesting website that I might not be aware of and they just want to like set up an introductory call with the CEO or something.”

Watch: Scott Nover’s Pitch Tips

Becca Szkutak, Forbes

  • Becca talks about how subject lines aren’t as important to her as the lede within the email. She said, “If things seem interesting, I try to reply right then and there so I don’t lose it just to see if I can get more information. Or I’ll make notes in my agenda to follow up with people if stuff sounds interesting, and maybe not right now, or things I want to take more time to go through”

Rebecca Jennings, Vox

  • Press releases as pitches are rarely helpful and some writers don’t use them at all. Rebecca said, “​​I think what I’m most interested in is like how normal people are using the technology that’s available to them and what effect that like influencers and famous people and subcultures are having on those decisions. So these are very like mushy kinds of concepts. So as you can imagine, it’s like a press release isn’t going to help me much with that, because normally what I’m looking for is like interesting ways that like regular people.”

Katie Notopoulos, BuzzFeed News

  • For Katie and many others, going back to sources and pitches later happens often. She said, “I will say, that some of the things that I do find useful that come in as pitches are, I do end up finding people – when people pitch a client as a subject matter expert, I may not be using them right then, but I may come back to them at some point in the future when I am writing something where I think they can be helpful.”

Watch: Katie Notopoulos's Pitch Tips

Emmy Liederman, Adweek

  • Simple things like getting a reporter’s name right and not bombarding them with pitches are standard practice. Emmy, unfortunately, sees both of these mistakes in her inbox, “It’s kind of frustrating when people pitch to me, and follow up a bunch of times, and say my name, or spell my name wrong, because it’s just annoying. Sometimes people were like, forward me the same pitch, like without any words, just like forward me the stuff from below and it’s like, are you just –”

Angela Moscaritolo, PCMag

  • As an analyst, Angela is constantly testing products (w/ a tech component) in her everyday life. Here’s what she said about her latest reviews during the time of her interview, “So I’ve done one of them for smart home gym, and then smart air purifiers. And now we’re starting to break it out where we have enough for even like the smart stationary bikes, and then the smart rowing machines. So we start going from there.”

Jeff Benson, Decrypt

  • Jeff and the team at Decrypt have to sift through a lot of fluff on a daily basis. He said name recognition is a big factor and mentions, “I mean, not to get too much in the weeds, but I see some pitches that are very sort of general sort of cryptocurrency whatever. But since we’re a cryptocurrency site, we’re looking for something a little bit more specific. So if I can imagine a headline that includes Bitcoin, Ethereum, Salona, Dogecoin, Shiba Inu, any sort of cryptocurrency that has brand name recognition, I’m really interested in that.”

Read: 5 Tips to Pitch Jeff Benson

Kayleigh Barber, Digiday

  • Kayleigh mentioned Digiday is a trade publication that covers media and marketing. As for what she specifically covers, she said, “The type of pitch I do not want is one that is very off base. So, as I mentioned, Digiday covers media and marketing. That can really run the gamut. My beat is pretty squarely settled in the media side of the company. I have started a new beat that is in the blockchain kind of realm, so how blockchain applies to the industries we cover.”

Emma Sandler, Glossy

  • Emma shared this tip about pitches that might turn into trends that she can eventually write a broader story about, “​​But I will also say that depending on the product that’s being pitched to me, it might not be worth this story in and of itself. But if I end up seeing a lot of that similar product coming through, or maybe it’s a new category for a brand, or it’s a new approach to a category that a brand is doing, then I will save it, and I will wait for the other shoe to drop and see if a trend comes through.”

Caroline O’Donovan, BuzzFeed News

  • A dream “pitch” for Caroline is as simple as a tip from an employee. She said, “​​It’s that email that’s just like – Like someone emailed me yesterday. I genuinely have no idea who this person is. And I don’t know if they’ll ever respond to me again. But I got an email from this sort of like anonymous email address that was like, “Hi, I’m a worker. I’m having issues in my workplace. And I thought you might be the person I wanted to talk to about that.” Like, “Boom!” That’s the dream, right? Because I don’t know what the company is going to”

Emily Tate, EdSurge

  • Emily mentioned that she does occasionally convert pitches into stories. She also talked about working on stories outside of pitches. She said, “There’s a lot of autonomy in what we pursue for stories. And I think we’re not so much the day-in and day-out covering every movement of every education issue. We kind of prefer more explanatory, or analytical, or feature journalism. And so I think the stories that get me really excited are the ones that are like this nexus of education, and equity, and innovation, which sounds super amorphous, I realized.”

Alexandra Levine, Forbes (formerly Politico)

  • While at Politico, Alexandra was working closely with sources. She said this about timing, “Usually, I get the inspiration from those [feature stories] in passing conversations with people about something else. One of my rules of thumb is like if you want to know what’s going on in a certain space that you’re interested in, speak to people who are in that space at a time that is not breaking news.”

Angel Au-Yeung, The Wall St. Journal (formerly Forbes)

  • If you’re considering pitching Angel, you might want to be aware of her thoughts on exclusives & embargoes. She said, “Yeah, I prefer exclusives over embargo. And I think every journalist respond with that. Embargoes, I’m fine with respecting them. But I go into it knowing that it’s obviously not going to be exclusive, and that there’s going to be five other stories that are the same exact story is the one that I would write about this.”

Watch: Angel Au-Yeung on Building Relationships with Sources

Ryan Barwick, Morning Brew

  • For Ryan, and virtually every journalist, having close relationships with sources is far more helpful than working with sources he doesn’t know or hasn’t fully vetted. He said, “Every once in a while, something will come through, if I have a relationship with a specific company, something will happen. But if I don’t know you, and it says exclusive in the subject line, my eyes are going to roll pretty hard. However, I will probably still read it. I’m not going to think too hard about it.”

Watch: Ryan Barwick on Building Relationships with Sources

Michelle Lewis, 9to5Mac

  • While we do not condone stuffing pitches with keywords there are opportunities to include them meaningfully. Michelle said this about the topic, “But if there are certain keywords that grab my interest, I mean, if it’s keywords in a kind of common noun sense, like solar, wind, or like Tesla or Ford, then I’ll open it. But usually I will open most things to kind of give it a quick look.”

Elisabeth Buchwald, USA Today (formerly MarketWatch)

  • Subject lines are important to some journalists and they can make or break your chances of a journalist reading your email let alone responding. Elisabeth said this about subject lines, “​​So it started that my inbox was not that extreme at all, but I think, and it’s probably the case for a lot of journalists, that your subject line or the subject line you receive is valuable real estate. You don’t want to waste that with words that are taking up space that aren’t helping you understand precisely what the person is pitching about.”

Watch: Elisabeth Buchwald's Pitch Tips

Carleton English, Barron’s

  • Sometimes if you’re email is not responded to it doesn’t mean the journalist has lost interest. Carleton said this about pitches and emails sitting in her inbox, “​​I’m a terrible responder. I mean, I’m terrible at responding to every single pitch. But they do stay kind of archived or I kind of keep a note for myself, “Oh, yeah, that was an interesting idea. I can’t do anything with that yet. But that’s something I want to read into more or think about later.”

Christie Moffat, S&P Global

  • While news pitches don’t often land with Christie, sources are certainly worthy of her attention. He said, “I do. I do get a lot of random cold pitches, and often those pitches are not really useful to me. It’s pretty rare for me to write a new story based on a pitch that I get. My focus usually involves writing longer analytical pieces with multiple sources and data. But I definitely do find sources through pitches.”

Stephanie Talmadge, Bustle

  • Stephanie shared that she’s pitched by both publicists and journalists making her inbox busier than usual. She mentioned what kinds of pitches from publicists she does enjoy receiving, “But I love from publicists specifically, I love anything that is going to let me know, right from go that they have data to share, or there’s a new feature to share. Anything that is directly relevant to the beat that has a newsie hook is probably going to get an open from me got it.”

Meghan Walbert, Lifehacker

  • Keep in mind that Meghan isn’t writing as often for the Lifehacker team and next time you pitch her, consider this, “Because I’m the Managing Editor at Lifehacker now, I’m not writing on a daily basis anymore, but I’m often feeding topics and pitches to our writers.” She goes on to say, “What I like is pitch me a source. Say I’ve got a child psychologist who is an expert in anxiety and children five and younger.”

Gili Malinsky, Grow

  • Journalists are major critics of subject lines, especially ones that are long or deceiving, Gili had this to say about her perspective on subject lines, “I often decide whether or not this is an appropriate pitch for me, like from the subject line. I might skim the email, because again, like this came up a little bit earlier, but like I – or when we were chatting a little bit, when we’re chatting. But a lot of the pitches that I get are like really this wall of text, right?”

Watch: Gili Malinsky on Building Relationships with Sources

Terry Collins, USA Today

  • Terry mentioned that he receives upwards of 100 pitches a day yet he still manages to respond to ones that catch his eye. Here’s his approach for analyzing pitches, “If there’s a pitch I get that I have to ask more than about five questions, I usually get a handful, then it’s something that isn’t probably going to work out. I just say, “Come back to me maybe in about a month or so, a couple months. Or let me know what’s happening,” because you might get pitches that kind of like something that’s coming or just in a very infancy stage…”

Watch: Terry Collins's Pitch Tips

Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

  • A common theme we’ve noticed throughout the last 50 episodes is the emphasis on relationships with sources. For Adrienne, it’s no different. She said, “​​I guess, it’s more likely, I think it comes down to relationships, I would say, because people who know the kinds of things that you work on will pitch you more effectively, because they understand what you’re interested in.”

Lisa Lacy, Adweek

  • Lisa said her list of sources come in handy but she doesn’t want to always call on them. She said, “I mean, there are times when I need sources. I need somebody to comment on something. I have my sort of established stable of people who I know I can reach out to who are going to get back to me, who are going to speak in plain English and not just shoot a bunch of jargon at me. I mean, I’m certainly – I don’t want to keep going to that same pool of people all the time.”

 

________

 

The tips to pitch journalists on this list will come in handy for each person individually as well as collectively. Common themes we found include the preference journalists have for working closely with sources they know and trust as well as limiting the length of your pitch and only including the most important details.

To stay up to date on new episodes and journalist tips, subscribe to our weekly podcast newsletter. And be sure to watch our journalist spotlight video series including Scott Nover, Katie Notopoulos, Carleton English, Terry Collins, and others!

Jered is the co-founder, COO and support manager at OnePitch. He handles operations for OnePitch; along with strategy, support, business development and hiring. He studied Communications with an emphasis in marketing at Cal State University Long Beach. In his free time, he enjoys surfing, eating cheap street food, cooking, and exploring the outdoors.

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