Be personal, clear and concise…Pitching tips from Endgadget’s Dana Wollman

Dana Wollman has been covering the tech industry for a decade. As the Executive Editor of Endgadget and a regular guest on several major news outlets, she’s revered as an industry expert. In this interview with TST, she shares what makes her read a pitch, why she loves covering tech, and why you shouldn’t always offer an exclusive.

Dana Wollman Profile:

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Years as a journalist: 10

Number of pitches you get per day: 30+

Number of stories you write weekly: varies

TST: What do you love about being a journalist?

DW:  I’m more in love with the process. I’ve always enjoyed reporting and asking questions, getting to know the subject matter better. Having the skills to learn about things that I didn’t know to begin with. Ultimately, I love that no two assignments are the same. Every day brings a different challenge and a different opportunity.  It’s gratifying to report on a story and finish the day knowing that you’ve learned something and accurately conveyed those messages to readers.

TST: What are your thoughts on the value of a press release?

DW: It can’t hurt.  It’s useful information to have and it makes fact checking a bit easier. It’s never ideal to write a whole story off on a press release. The problem of sharing draft releases is that journalists want to get a jump on their stories.

I typically look at press releases in an email or follow a link to someone’s press site. I’m not usually looking on the wire. We have a group of news editors watch the wire feeds and they’ll send over anything that is interesting. If you can do both wire and individual emails that’s idea.

TST: What makes you open a pitch?

DW: Usually, if an email’s subject line doesn’t grab my attention I delete it without even having to open. Connections I’ve made throughout the year and subject lines that are clear, concise and to the point usually get a read. Anything that feels remotely personal, showing that the person has researched what I do or what Engadget covers closely get my attention, too.

For example, “We see you wrote about mobile payments, maybe you’ll write about our mobile payment.”

“Hey Dana, I notice that you tweet about running, you may be interested in these fitness gadgets.
“We know that Engadget covers entertainment, but also virtual reality, maybe this XX would be in your wheelhouse”

I can easily tell when I’m part of an email blast or when the pitch is a bit of a stretch.

TST: What’s a common mistake that people should avoid when pitching you?

DW: Timing plays a key factor -if you know there’s a big keynote going on and you know that’s our job to cover it or pay attention, it isn’t the best time. I’m more likely to delete pitches and unnecessary emails  at that time. For reporters covering the events, it tends to be a high-stress situation.

Also, it’s best to put a pitch in someone’s inbox first thing in the morning. Journalists begin culling our inbox as soon as we wake up. News most often breaks mid-morning, so avoid sending pitches between 10 am – 11 am EST.

TST: Does an exclusive make a difference?

DW: Usually, If it’s not a good fit it’s not a good fit. Sometimes people offer un-newsworthy material as an exclusive. Therefore, tech writers have become sensitive about exclusives. For example, if you have an exclusive interview with Intel’s CEO, over something that isn’t a big deal it isn’t really much help to us. Make it high profile.

Exclusives however, do spark interest when gazing over our emails. We are usually more likely to open those. An exclusive means that you have an opportunity that other don’t.

TST: What is one thing you wish every person who pitched you did?

DW: I wish every person could take “no” for an answer. Sometimes we reply and say, “no” but other times we don’t have the luxury to do so. Don’t take it personally. I get upwards of 30 pitches a day – if I tried to respond to them all I’d end up paying less attention to the important stories.

Key Takeaways for Your Business:

  1. Research before you reach out. Know what beat your journalist covers and what their interests are. Personalized pitches are more likely to get a journalist’s attention.
  2. Pitch the idea, not the entire story. It’s the journalist’s job to write the article. Include the necessary facts and quotes in your pitch but leave the storytelling to the journalist.
  3. Save exclusives for your most important content. An exclusive should be high-profile and high-value for a journalist. If it’s not both of those, it’s not worth offering an exclusive.
  4. Watch the clock. Time your pitches so they hit a journalist’s inbox first thing in the morning and give them time to get through the mid-morning rush. If you need to follow up, reach out mid-afternoon.
  5. Don’t take it personally. Not every pitch will result in a story. Learn when to ask for a second look, when to move to a different journalist, and when to accept “no” for an answer.
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