Our guest today on Coffee with a Journalist is Casey Clark. She is a freelance writer for PEOPLE, Yahoo, InStyle, and others.
During the episode, Casey talks about how she finds interesting pitches in her inbox, her process for finding sources, a subject line that caught her attention and why, and lots more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
Her Inbox & Pitches
[00:03:29] BB: Okay. It’s working for you. Then how is your inbox, Casey? Lots of pitches, no pitches? You’re also pitching. So tell us how it looks in there.
[00:03:39] CC: My inbox is crazy. It wasn’t always this fuzzy. But as of lately, there are tons of pitches. I’d probably get around 200 to 300 a day.
“I have a chart where I write down like on a spreadsheet what brands have reached out to me and where I could see them for potential stories. So even though it’s not a fit at this exact moment, it could be in three to four months, if I’m working on something that’s a better match.”
[00:03:50] BB: A day. Wow. Okay.
[00:03:53] CC: And I send out probably like 100, like whether its responses or my own pitches or correspondence with editors and publicists. It really depends on what I’m working on and if I need commentary or anything like that. But it’s pretty wild, full of headlines and open me, click here, click there.
[00:08:01] BB: Yes, yes. Wow. Okay. So what’s an ideal expert for your pitch?
[00:08:10] CC: I think, obviously, like the person who’s in question, like whether it’s a doctor or dermatologist or whoever the expert is, followed by like their credentials, where they work. I think it’s really important for me as a commerce writer is if to be transparent if they’re affiliated with a brand. I think that can sometimes get lost in translation because I’m writing stories, and having a dermatologist associated with a skincare brand is a conflict of interest.
I wouldn’t necessarily be keen on including that in this particular round up but maybe for another general dermatology story, perhaps. So putting that upfront, that’s kind of like my standard guideline is going through them and seeing and also who responds first because if he responds first, I’m more apt to include because I’m kind of trying to work pretty quick.
Her Pitching Preferences
[00:04:14] BB: Got it. When people are pitching you, so I’m assuming publicists, what are your favorite type of pitches? Maybe what are the three components that you absolutely love or want in a pitch?
[00:04:28] CC: Sure. So I think the subject line is pretty important. I find caps lock stands out to my eyes when I’m looking at a glance because I have tons of emails, and I try to go through every one. Sometimes, I don’t have time. But if it’s bold and urgent, I’ll click on it and see. Usually, if there’s like a sample or expert commentary in that subject line, that can be very helpful, as I’m always looking. Like I do keyword searches through my inbox, okay, if I can find an expert so that kind of like streamlines the process for me.
[00:05:04] BB: Okay. So you like that in the headline or the subject line. Got it. By the way, you said caps, like all caps. You want an email and/or like the subject line in all caps.
“I like to go through the media kit, and like there’s a fact sheet and sometimes a one page. I can just go through and see what I need. If it could be a benefit for me for a story or something, I can keep on file for down the line.”
[00:05:11] CC: The first like maybe two or three words is like caps locked.
[00:05:14] BB: Yeah. Yeah. Enough. Yeah. Okay, good. Good to clarify.
[00:05:19] CC: Then like the name of the brand kind of following that, I think a lot of publicists forget like I don’t really know about the client they’re reaching out to me about. Some forget to link back to it, which is kind of a hassle on my end because that requires me to go on Google and look for the brand and do like kind of that back end research myself, which is okay, sometimes. But I’d prefer to have it hyperlinked in there. Then lastly, I like short and punchy. I don’t really need a whole bunch of like background about –
[00:05:50] BB: How’s it going? What did you do for Easter or Sunday or whatever the date is? Yeah, boom. You just want to start it. Okay.
[00:05:58] CC: Yeah. Normal banter is fine. I don’t mind like, “How have you been like since the last time I’ve seen you?” That’s fine. But like I don’t really need a history of the brand’s founders in every single pitch.
[00:06:08] BB: There we go. Okay. Ideally, how long is a pitch for you, sentence-wise?
[00:06:13] CC: Two to three.
[00:06:14] BB: Two to three sentences. That’s very short.
[00:06:16] CC: I won’t normally pass like, yeah, two to three, maybe five.
How to Build a Relationship with Her
[00:10:14] BB: Okay, very helpful. Do you ever look at exclusives or embargoes?
[00:10:19] CC: I wouldn’t say look at exclusives very much. Embargoes, yes. Normally, I go to it, just so I can see what’s coming and if it could be a potential story. I think as a freelancer, it’s a little hard to like say, “Oh, I could consider an exclusive or something under embargo,” because that’s normally going through like the magazine brand itself, versus me as a freelancer who pitches and gets assignments. I think it really varies based on the outlet.
[00:10:48] BB: Got you. What about for people who want to make relationships with you? I can see that being quite valuable because, oh, here’s Casey, who writes for various outlets, that can really help with various clients. How do people reach out and make relationships with you, if at all?
[00:11:04] CC: I’m like a big advocate for like social media, especially Instagram.
[00:11:08] BB: Oh, Instagram. Okay.
[00:11:11] CC: A lot of journalists I know use Twitter. I have a Twitter. I’m not active on it as I should be. When I go through, it’s like no journal requests and looking for sources that way. But on my Instagram, that’s kind of more where I post about my personal life and what I’m doing and probably last minute call outs for sources that I need day of for quick turnarounds. I’ll go there.
But also like getting familiar like with me, like liking my stories or like messaging me randomly, I find that very helpful. I’m not a writer who’s like, “Don’t DM me,” or like, “Only email me.” I don’t know. I’m not that way. I’m open to –
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