“I’m excited to get up every day and be in my office,” says freelance journalist Karen Asp. “If I won a million dollars, I’d still do what I’m doing.” Asp chose to specialize in the topics she loves: fitness, health, nutrition, travel and pets. And this zeal regularly earns her bylines in many consumer publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, SELF, USA Today, Runner’s World, Woman’s Day, as well as cover stories in Shape and Real Simple.
When she’s not busy writing, pitching to editors, co-authoring books with Harvard doctors, and living on the front lines of modern health and fitness developments, Asp is answering emails… lots of emails. Among the hundreds of messages a day flooding her inbox are pitches from PR pros hoping she’ll run with their story.
Below, Asp shares her tips for standing out in a crowded inbox, and pitching the angles and sources that enable her to keep doing what she loves.
What should PR professionals know before pitching you?
PR professionals don’t have to know me in detail, but they should know what I cover and what magazines I write for (it’s why I have a web site!). So many PR people send me a pitch and the first thing they ask is, “Who do you write for?” Don’t ask me that. Do your homework. Something that will get my attention even more? Make the pitch personal by saying something like, “I read your article in Health Magazine.
I get so many pitches that are not relevant so I focus on building great relationships with PR people who know my specialties. These are the pros who hook me up with great people, like experts, authors, and sources who are newsworthy and relevant to my interests. In fact, something PR people might not know is that I’m open to just receiving sources. You don’t necessarily need a hard pitch. Send me the source’s bio, not just the news angle, and I’ll add them to my file of experts.
What do you look for in a story?
Is there a new study that came out on a particular health threat? Or a new product that will interest readers? Do you have a fresh angle? Is the story relevant right now? Tell me why your study, product, or story is important today. For example, it helps if the story is tied to a disease awareness month.
But a story doesn’t have to be pegged to something completely new. If there’s a hot market for a particular story, I’ll cover it more than once. For example, a good pitch would be: “We saw the article you wrote on posture in Real Simple magazine. We have a new product to improve your posture.”
Who is your ideal source?
You may think that the most highly credentialed person would be my best source but only if that person can talk to a consumer audience. I prefer speaking with experts who are conversational and can convey a practical take-home message from their study or talk about how readers can apply new information to their daily lives.
It also helps if someone understands that I’ll have follow up questions and is willing to take the time to answer them. If they can work with me after the interview, if they’re there when I email questions (I try not to bug them on the phone) and can get back to me in a timely manner, it makes my job much easier.
What should PR pros do when they haven’t received a response to a pitch?
I very much value PR people and have some great relationships with pros who I’ve worked with for years. But remember, I’m inundated with hundreds of emails a day. I’ve read that for every one journalist, there are four PR people. And these things can take time, so I may be genuinely interested, but the pitch may remain in my files – or my editor’s files — for months before I move on it or even have a home for it.
Be realistic about your follow up. I’ll get an email with a press release at 10am and by 2pm I get a follow up call saying, “Karen I haven’t heard from you yet.” I won’t respond any more if a PR person stalks me. I rarely answer my phone. Your best bet is to give me all the info you can in the pitch. If I’m interested, I’ll ask for more info.