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Coffee with a Journalist: Erika Wheless, Digiday

Coffee With A Journalist: Erika Wheless, Digiday

Today, on Coffee with a Journalist, we sit down with Erika Wheless of Digiday. At Digiday, Erika serves as the Commerce Reporter covering content and commerce, including stories about platform shopping experiences, e-commerce data privacy, and tech’s impact on e-commerce. During the interview, Erika tells us about her coffee upbringings, her fascination with social media platforms entering the e-commerce space, her proudest moments as a journalist, and more.

Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:

 

Her Work Inbox

BB: First off, Erika, how’s your inbox? We like to know. Is it crazy in there with pitches or what?

EW: That’s a good question. My inbox is – I’m not afraid of my inbox. I have enough good stuff come out of there, which is nice. I am a labeler. I don’t know if other people use this –

BB: It’s very rare. It’s very rare I hear labelers. Okay. So tell us how you organize.

EW: Mine can be – Sometimes, it’s as simple as like whatever company it’s dealing with. If I have somebody who – The Pinterest PR reaches out. I have that label but I also put labels for data if somebody sends me a pitch with like numbers in it or social, if it is related to campaigns on social platforms. I did a story like on Valentine’s Day, so I had like Valentine’s Day as one of my tags. They really grow. I think maybe once a week I’ll end up with a new one, but it’s just because I know like that’s how I’ll be able to find it later. I won’t remember the pitch. I won’t remember the name but I’ll be like, “Okay. There was something, and it had this label.”

I have that label but I also put labels for data if somebody sends me a pitch with like numbers in it or social, if it is related to campaigns on social platforms.

BB: There was a label. Okay. Then how many pitches do you get now? I know you’re newish in your role at Digiday since January, so you’re still like fresh.

EW: It’s been surprising. I’m going to say I get maybe 20 pitches a day.

BB: Okay. Not that crazy yet.

EW: Not that crazy, but I would say that maybe five of them are like kind of interesting. I think what’s weird is that I sometimes get book pitches.

 

Her Thoughts on Pitches

BB: Speaking of what you cover. Okay. So for people who don’t know, you are at Digiday. We can talk about that for a second, but content and commerce is your beat. Do you want to just have a little PSA on what that entails? Because maybe like that book picture person is like, “Oh, content. That’s a book.” I don’t know.

EW: 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. If you have any good like, “This grew year over year,” or like, “Revenue is up this much in the last six months.” Data, data, data is my friend. It is a great way to start. I think I would say there are kind of two things I’m really obsessed with lately. The first is Shoppable video like in any capacity.

I do like the bullet points of like here’s the exact and like here are like the three to five key things that they can talk about.

Beck then goes to ask, “what’s the perfect pitch?”

BB: Yeah. What’s the perfect pitch? 

EW: This is a good question. Yes. Data, for sure. I think most pitches have this. But typically, I do like the bullet points of like here’s the exact and like here are like the three to five key things that they can talk about. That’s a really quick way for me to hone in on like, “Okay, what is your like area of expertise? How does that fit into something I’m working on?” 

I think also I would say if there’s like a brand or like a client who is willing to maybe chat about that too, that would be great. So I guess what I’m saying, the example I’m thinking of is if you’re like a logistics company or something like that working on returns, and you have a client who would be willing to like talk on the record. Or I guess even on background but preferably on the record about like how has that service worked for them or what’s challenges they’re still facing.

So they’re pretty rare. I think I’ve only ever seen a handful of those, but data is the big one. Even bullet points to say like, “Here’s who we are, here’s who you could talk with, and here’s what you could cover.” Those are always good.

 

How She Writes Stories

EW: So things like that are really fascinating, and perhaps the more broad one that I am really digging into is like the social platforms 4A and e-commerce, so like Instagram shopping, Facebook shops. Really, really fascinated with how Snapchat is going to enter the e-commerce space and especially TikTok. If you’ve got TikTok insight, I want to hear from you. I don’t fully understand TikTok but I am fascinated by it and I know a lot of brands are keeping – It’s still kind of this experimental phase, but I think it really stands to gain some ground this year if they can like crack that commerce.

If you’ve got TikTok insight, I want to hear from you.

 

Audience Asks

BB: Okay. We have some audience asks, Erika. First one is from Joanna Clark-Simpson. She’s Head of Marketing called pissedconsumer.com. I don’t know what that’s about but – She says, “Do you use online reviews posted by real consumers to back up your news and research with quotes? Do you contact reviewers via online review platforms?” Interesting question. Do you ever look at those like third-party review sites for any of your stories?

A lot of my reporting is maybe like experts in the industry who like somebody who runs like a logistics company or talking to media buyers…

EW: Generally, no. A lot of my reporting is maybe like experts in the industry who like somebody who runs like a logistics company or talking to media buyers, talking to agencies or just going to brands themselves and saying, “What are you thinking?” The closest thing to reviews I think I have done is I wrote a piece about Reddit and how marketers could be using Reddit as part of the buying decision funnel. I think that’s a really good – I know several good friends, myself included. I definitely go on to Reddit to read reviews of something before I buy it. So that’s my closest was going through Reddit reviews.

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For Erika, data is an important element to include in the pitches you send to her. Check out the latest OnePItch eBook, The State of Pitching Volume 1, to learn what 50 other journalists think about pitches.

For more great 1:1 conversations with journalists from top-tier outlets, subscribe to the Coffee with a Journalist podcast to get the latest episode drops. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for other updates on our newest PR tips, tools, and best practices.

Jered Martin

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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