biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: Building Relationships with Editors

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post is from Amy Flurry, a writer, editor and stylist for 18 years with work featured in InStyle, Conde Nast Traveler, Paste, House Beautiful, O at Home, County Living and Daily Candy. Amy has also authored a new DIY publicity book, Recipe for Press: Pitch Your Story Like the Pros & Create a Buzz. Flurry now travels the country giving her popular DIY publicity workshop that serves to strengthen relationships between editors and entrepreneurs. Today Amy is contributing her knowledge on how to establish positive and ongoing relationships with editors to help pitch and promote. Thanks, Amy, for this great post! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

As a freelance writer of 18 years, I’ve long understood the importance of cultivating relationships with editors. Among the ways I gained their confidence (and assignments) was by studying the magazines before I pitched, turning articles in on time and never balking at revisions. I also made a few trips a year to New York to meet my editors. If they couldn’t break for lunch then I’d bring them a coffee. This went a long way toward building a professional rapport, and more than a few friendships. Placing a priority on relationships, alongside solid work, landed me features and even editorships at some of the top magazines in the country.

In many ways, when I’m consulting people on how to work with editors and get press attention for their product or business, it doesn’t get any more complicated than that. One longtime editor and friend said it best: “No one should forget that the ‘R’ in PR stands for ‘relations’ . . . relationships are everything in the world, and the smaller the world (fashion, food, shelter), the more important it is for the PR person to develop relationships that really matter.”

In what specific ways might you go about building relationships with editors and writers? There are so many that I was moved to write a book to serve as a communications manual about it! But here are the most neglected methods and those that can take immediate effect toward improving placement potential!

Respond quickly.

The single most important thing you can do to create a positive relationship with editors and writers is to return their calls or emails right away. Editorial staffs function on a series of production deadlines, so when one editor holds up the page, they hold up three other editors behind them. Deadlines in the digital world are even tighter, and there are fewer people to help you meet them.

Respond to every editor’s request with creativity, courtesy, quality, and lightning speed. Over time, you’ll become a “go-to” source and the first person that editor will reach out to the next time there is an opportunity or even a last-minute spot to fill.

Do your homework.

Read the magazine or blog you want to be part of before you pitch an idea. Your pitch doesn’t have to be long (believe it or not, one concise paragraph and a great picture is preferred and enough for an editor to know if they are interested in moving forward). But those few sentences should demonstrate that you have a clear sense of the type of story or product the writer cares about. For example, “I’ve been following your First Bites page and know that you scout the very best artisanal food in the South,” is an introduction that suggests someone well versed in the specific pages of an assistant food editor and someone who might merit that editor’s time and attention. Additionally, an editor knows it takes work to connect these dots and will likely give the pitch real consideration. By contrast, a non-personalized pitch sent in a mass or blanket email is the first to be deleted.

Remember to follow up.

A good publicist always follows up on a pitch. Once. But when you follow up three to four times on ideas that have been responded to with limited interest, you’ll stand out in all the wrong ways. There’s a difference between persistence and pushiness. When someone acts like they’re entitled to coverage or wants control over what I write, I want to drop the subject altogether.

Be understanding when things go wrong.

Because more than one editor is involved in the final decision about what goes on a page, there’s always the chance that a product or story may be approved by one editor and nixed by the next. So often cuts are beyond your editor’s control. It’s ok to express disappointment if it got close but was cut in the final edits, but do so in a positive and polite way, being sure to thank your editor for their efforts. Believe me, the editor was rooting for your story and feels badly, too, and will work extra hard to remember your brand at the very next opportunity.

Book a “deskside.”

Often, the best stories stem from visits with editors, one-on-one time at the desk. Informal in nature, a deskside is time with an editor to make a face-to-face connection and deepen an existing rapport. When a publicist or brand representative takes the time to come to me with a brief presentation of what’s new or to ask how they can help me, it shows a real commitment to relationship.

Remember the Golden Rule of Publicity.

The editor/PR relationship is about mutual respect, just like any other important and lasting relationship. People who treat others as tools or “outlets” are missing the message that will help them get their message to the greatest audience.

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  • I LOVE the Biz Ladies section of your site, it’s so informative and helpful to me as a young jewelry business owner. And I really respect how generous your contributors are, it’s wonderful to see women be so supportive to each other.

  • Great post Amy and I love your book! I met you at the Haven Conference a couple weeks ago where I purchased your book. I have only been blogging for almost a year and it is a hobby at the moment. I found the book fascinating and really a fun read. How cool to learn about the behind the scene stuff with magazines ect. I would highly recommend it ! Nicely done :) Hope you guys have a great holiday!

  • Great article! I must agree with Lisette Fee, all of the contributors for the Biz Ladies section are so generous with their knowledge and hard earned experience. Their wisdom and insight is much appreciated!

  • I enjoyed writing this! Having spent so many years as an editor-at-large (visiting the studios of designers, jewelers, small business owners) I saw a need for this type of information from someone who has been on the other side of the desk, on the receiving side of so many pitches, so that you could go about sharing your beautiful work with confidence!

  • Thank you for this article!

    I’m just starting to try putting more of my time into doing my own PR and have been feeling a little intimidated and unsure of what tone to take, and just what is protocol. For so long, I’ve just sort of crossed my fingers and hoped…which never seemed like *quite* the right attitude to take. This post is really helpful.

    Amy – I’m also going to be buying your book- asap! It sounds like a great resource.


  • This is wonderful! I’m currently working with one editor and trying to woo another, so it’s great to step back and remember to put my best face forward. Especially, as you mention, when faced with setbacks and rejections.

  • I love the emphasis on relationships and how important it is to cultivate businesredo facts as you would a friendship. While my business contacts aren’t often in-person friends, I look forward to interacting with the great ones like I do my friends!

    This isn’t a subject that I would have sought out, but this article is so interesting, I now want to read the book!

  • Always good to have advice from someone experienced and knowledgeable. As a small business owner learning how to establish good relationships with editors, I do find this article helpful. So thank you Amy.

  • As an editor, I found this post spot on. The best writers are those who make the effort to have face to face meetings and respond quickly to assignments. The only thing I would add is how important social media follow-up is. Writers that involve their online community are such an asset because they help get the word out. Thank you, Amy–I’m sharing this…

  • I am fresh out of University and new to the working world of P.R. I found this post super helpful in breaking down the complicated relationship between a journalist and P.R practitioner and teaching the everyday skills that every practitioner needs to know. It is amazing how often these skills are neglected in University.
    Thanks Amy.

  • Great article! I highly recommend Amy’s book. I had the privilege of meeting Amy recently and buying her book. It’s a great read if you are serious about wanting to successfully reach editors.

  • I feel the same about the Biz Ladies section. What a wonderful resource and one I often recommend at workshops. It’s straight talk from experts who practice what they teach and who care about the success of others too.

  • I work as a morning show news assignment editor and urge anyone who ever pitches anything to read this article. Nothing is more impressive than someone who calls up and who has actually watched our show and done their homework to offer something that might really offer value to our viewers.

  • Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I don’t have a product to sell but am a blogger and an aspiring freelance feature writer so this was eye opening. I feel extremely uncomfortable with approach and self promotion so some sort of gauge of what is too much or too little is helpful.

  • I hear you, Tania. I have pitched and subsequently penned hundreds of articles and the pitch for a writer is very similar to someone pitching their product or story. The most important thing is that you read and research the publication before you pitch to know if they even cover products or the type of story or profile you are bringing to them! Publications have a formula that works for them. You want to be able to plug your good idea into their style and delivery.

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