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Coffee With A Journalist: Josh Sternberg, Adweek

Coffee with a Journalist: Josh Sternberg, Adweek

Our latest guest on Coffee with a Journalist joins us from the Tech Editor’s desk at Adweek. Give a warm welcome to Josh Sternberg! Josh shares a little about his tendency to read EVERY pitch he receives, his vast experience covering tech over the past 17 years, and his past job as a…publicist.

Josh Sternberg has spent his fair share of time in the media industry, racking up almost 17 years of knowledge. He has been involved in numerous positions, including teaching media at two universities, working in public relations, and covering the industry as a media reporter at Digiday. In addition, he has written for impressive publications like Entrepreneur, The Atlantic, and Pacific Standard magazine, and built and led teams in branded content at the Washington Post and NBC News. His vast experience across the field has given him a wide array of perspectives and experiences from all points of the media industry: academic, newsroom, boardroom.

What He Loves About His Job

Josh: Right. I love my job. I love almost everything about it. I can’t quite grasp with the best of them, but there’s nowhere I’d rather be at this particular moment. That’s also a hedge knowing that something really big can come tomorrow, next week and a year from now. Um, I learned a long time ago that I need to do what’s in the best interest of me and first and foremost, and then my family. And if that means PR or journalism and it aligns with where my head is at at a particular moment. So be it.

Beck: What do you love most about your current job?

Josh: The culture. The people.

Beck: Does this include publicists?

Josh: Oh no, my people at Adweek.

Beck: Just a clarification.

Josh: Yeah, my team. Um, the newsroom, the broader organization. It’s, it’s just, it’s fun. No, definitely not publicists. We can talk about that.

His Thoughts on Bad PR Pitches

Beck: Let’s go into that because we have a lot of publicists who listen and for everybody who is listening. We just got a big shake of the head of like, no, no, no, no publicists. So what is it now, especially being a former publicist, I would think maybe you’re slightly empathetic to them?

Josh: That’s part of the problem.

Beck: Oh, okay. Let’s elaborate.

Josh: It’s that I do respond to emails and when you send the bad pitch, I tell you why it’s a bad pitch. And you would think that a PR person would take that into consideration the next time and they don’t and part of it is them, but part of it is also the system of public relations. When you are in, and this is primarily agency, when you are at an agency and you’re dictated by billable hours and you are a mid-level, ‘cause senior level people don’t pitch, and your mid-level, junior level person spraying and praying, your incentive is not to have a story. Your incentive is to get a client placed into media, which is why the AM radio spreadsheet existed because when I was in PR, I was not going to have to spray and pray to journalists that I respected. Even the ones I didn’t like, I wasn’t wasting their time because the goal is not to form a journalist’s perspective, is not to get your client mentioned. I get pitches, obviously every day, that are, “Hey Josh, hope all is well. I have a client, the, I think you would be great for you to talk with. She can talk about A, B, C and D” and I respond and I say “Thanks, but no, there’s nothing for me to talk about. What is the story?” Very rarely do they respond with a story. It’s here’s my client, this is why you should cover them. I think PR people forget that trade journalists are not PR people, that we are not writing what you tell us to write. If there’s an interesting story. Cool. Tell me what the interesting story is. Tell me what the trend is. Tell me what the fad is. Tell me what the point of view is and oh, by the way, I’ve got someone that you should connect with that can tell you some stuff about this, but this is not about my client. This is about a broader story idea. Wink, wink, my client knows what they’re talking about in this. That rarely happens because PR people aren’t thinking strategically. They are thinking tactically. They are thinking about the press hit, they’re not thinking about the story. Think about the story and it’ll go a long way with us.

His Inbox

Josh: I get a thousand emails a day. I get a thousand emails a day, easily. Um, and I read them all.

Beck: Do you? Okay, we need to talk about this. How do you manage this?

Josh: I’m an inbox zero guy because I can’t, like notifications give me anxiety. So, I read them and if it’s something that I am interested in, I will respond right away. If it’s something that I’m kind-of interested in, I’ll put it into my kind-of interested folder and I’ll come back to it at the end of the day when I’m on the bus ride going home. If I’m not interested, I don’t respond.

Beck: Okay. So you do read every single and then no response means you have read and you have passed.

Josh: No response is because I don’t have- I’m not responding to a press release that you sent out to your BCC distribution list.

Beck: Who does that though?

Josh: A lot of PR people.

Beck: It’s disappointing.

Josh: If you send me a pitch and it’s not a good pitch but I know that you sent it to me, I’ll respond, but if it’s a mass BCC pitch, I’m not responding which is uh, which is a majority of the pitches that I get.

Beck: Wow. And you get a thousand a day?

Josh: Well, I get a thousand emails. I don’t necessarily get a thousand pitches.

Beck: Wow. Okay. Then as you’re compiling and thinking, let’s just say your job is to write stories and get them posted up here and do good journalism, etc.

Josh: My job is to edit my team who writes good stories. I write from time to time.

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Thanks for listening to this week’s Coffee With A Journalist, featuring Josh Sternberg from Adweek. Be sure to subscribe to Coffee with a Journalist to catch the latest episodes every week!

If you’re a journalist who loves coffee or a publicist who loves this podcast, we’d love to hear from you. Head to onepitch.co to drop us a line. Until then, let’s end bad pitches and start great stories.

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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