Publicity Club of New York (PCNY) hosted a luncheon earlier this month, featuring a panel of five lifestyle editors who discussed how they like to be pitched. Check out comments about it on Twitter via #PCNY.
Peter Himler (@PeterHimler), president of PCNY, kicked off the dialogue by telling the crowd that these days, “publicists outnumber journalists 3 to 1.” Sharpening your pitching technique is more important than ever if you’re looking to land press coverage.
Each panelist spoke for about 10 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of general Q&A, moderated by Edelman Worldwide’s Lisa Kovitz (@lisakovitz):
New York Daily News: Life & Style Editor/Producer Lindsay Goldwert
- Goldwert looks for stories with a “women’s magazine-type feel,” including topics like body positivity and food, as well as “feel good” themes.
- She notes that article pitches must be as current as possible and relevant to “right now.” She needs subject-matter experts who can talk right away.
- Stories on celebrities with health problems (and relevant experts) are especially pitch-worthy, e.g., when Paula Deen announced she had diabetes.
- Pictures are great and the most important part of a pitch!
- No time for desksides.
- Contact: @lindsaygoldwertor firstname.lastname@example.org
WNYW-TV “Good Day New York”: Executive Producer Jason Hartelius
- Hartelius receives hundreds of emails daily — sometimes even a thousand or more. Be concise, don’t overpitch (i.e., don’t send the same email every day) and don’t use bait-and-switch tactics.
- Pitches can be as simple as: “Hey, I got this idea — what do you think?” Put relevant information at the top; don’t be longwinded.
- Subject lines should be catchy. If you write “Attention Jason Hartelius: [Topic]” he will very likely read it.
- Stories must be local. And no promotional material — the segment should be about the story, not selling. “Know the show!”
- There is one slot per day for a fun or remote piece. Recent examples include local firemen washing circus elephants and an anchor taking a ride in a monster truck.
- The show generally has no interest in featuring a guest who has recently appeared or will soon appear on a competitor’s show (no “same day” bookings). The only exception might be if it’s an extremely famous celebrity.
- Contact: @jasonhartelius or email@example.com or GDNYpitches@gmail.com
The Huffington Post: Women’s Editor Margaret Wheeler Johnson
- HuffPost Women typically features news items and original reporting, essays from “ordinary” women, body image, women’s health and compelling stories.
- Do not pitch off-topic ideas about dieting and nutrition, parenting and fashion and style. Wheeler Johnson is not interested in any stories that include the words “your man.”
- If you’re a woman, ask yourself: “Would you want to read this story?”
- No product pitches.
- Images are great! Nice images can be turned into a slideshow. This is a great option for book publicists in particular.
- To know what types of topics to pitch, read the front page! And watch out for cross-posting (e.g., sometimes fashion stories are reposted from HuffPost Style).
- She looks for fresh perspectives from subject-matter experts.
- Experts must have links to back up their statements. Quotes from health experts in particular will be checked.
- Wheeler Johnson doesn’t usually leave the office to cover events, since Huffington Post has a national audience.
- She doesn’t understand the concept of a deskside; the pitch should be engaging and well-crafted enough that a deskside isn’t necessary. If she’s looking for a fresh quote, she’ll call you on the phone.
- Typos in article submissions are a big no-no; the editorial department is busy enough already.
- Contact: @mwjohnso or firstname.lastname@example.org
WPLJ-FM “The Big Show With Scott & Todd”: Producer Joe Pardavila
- Radio in general has a large reach for suburbanites, particularly in the New York area, which has lots of commuters (i.e., “bridge and tunnel”).
- This morning radio show targets women ages 25-54 in the New York area in particular. The crowd includes college-educated women, soccer-mom types and even teeny boppers (since they’re in the car with Mom). This audience might not want to listen to Justin Bieber, but they certainly know who he is.
- Press releases and pitches don’t need to be longer than one paragraph. If Padavila isn’t interested in the idea, extra paragraphs won’t help.
- Have fun with a pitch. Pardavila is not interested in anything morose, depressing, technical or “high brow.” Simple stories are best!
- People say: “I want to wake up and laugh.” Keep that in mind.
- Contact: @joepardavila or email@example.com
BuzzFeed Shift: Editor Amy Odell
- BuzzFeed wants every single article they post to go viral. Most traffic on the site comes from Facebook. Think about what people want to click on.
- Common topics cover style, beauty, health, fitness, food, grooming, powerful women, career, celebrities, relationships, hipsters. Anything funny!
- Fashion pitches in particular must be funny or relatable; high-fashion pieces are not appropriate.
- Odell says press releases are basically never funny, and she hardly ever finds story ideas from them. She might open a press release if the idea sounds really bizarre.
- What does Odell want from PR pros? Exclusive access to experts or celebrities.
- She can’t use content if it’s posted on other sites — original material is a must.
- She prefers to use stories immediately; there’s not much lead time, unless it’s an interview a celebrity that has to be planned in advance, for example.
- Odell typically doesn’t cover events, but she might send reporters to an interesting event so they can live tweet from it (to draw in new followers). But it most likely will never become an article.
- No desksides.
- Contact: @amyodell or firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on the free social networking site ProfNet Connect.