Our purpose with this series is to educate readers on how to more effectively pitch reporters and garner media hits.
We hope you find this series useful. Please leave any comments or questions below!
In this edition of HLS, we interviewed Terri Huggins, a freelance journalist who has been published in magazines such as Bridal Guide, Sister 2 Sister, Caribbean Travel + Life, and Redbook.
1. What beats/topics do you normally write about? Why do these particular subjects interest you?
I’ve written stories about education, motivation/success, volunteering, business, weddings, beauty, fashion, culture, and travel. However, my favorites tend to be about weddings and motivation/success. Writing about weddings particularly interests me because it is an amazing feeling to be a part of one of the biggest moments of a person’s life even if it is just through my byline. I also enjoy writing about motivation because there is nothing better than inspiring someone to do the impossible.
2. What is your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part of being a freelance writer is having the opportunity to learn something new and connect with different people everyday. With every article I write, I get the chance to expand my horizons and devour new information about different subjects. It has allowed me to become more worldly and educated. It doesn’t get any better than that!
3. What is your least favorite part about your job?
Having to do everything! When working at a magazine, you have the luxury of letting people handle all the ins and outs of running the business, so you can focus on writing. As a freelance professional, it’s all on me. I have to do everything from the marketing to the accounting. It’s not all about the writing, although I wish it was.
4. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I started freelance writing without having a full-time job at a publication, so it was a bit challenging at first to catch the attention of journalism professionals and actually become a respected member of the industry. Being dedicated to getting my name out there, building relationships with other professionals and blogging to establish myself as an expert has definitely been an asset in launching my freelance career and overcoming that hurdle. After years of hard work, I’m now being called upon to write stories for national publications thanks to my ability to promote myself adequately and build effective relationships with editors and sources.
5. How has the journalism field changed since you first started writing and what are you doing to adapt?
In the past six years, journalism has certainly changed a lot. It’s no longer just about writing. It’s about understanding SEO, formatting, some web analytics and knowing how to market yourself. I’ve also noticed that social media plays a much bigger role in journalism than it did just a few years ago. Depending on the market and publication, engaging in social media may be essential part of the assignment.
6. When did you first learn of HARO and how has it changed your job?
I learned of HARO about three years ago at a press event. HARO has definitely assisted me in creating a rolodex of reliable sources. It’s also assisted me in creating topics for my blog.
7. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to PR professionals pitching you a story?
I can’t stand PR professionals who don’t pitch on topic or don’t answer the question. If my query says I need to speak with young entrepreneurs between the ages of 20 and 25 don’t pitch me your client who is 27. I know it’s close, but if there is wiggle room I wouldn’t have included the age bracket. Queries are specific for a reason.
8. What tips or pointers would you offer to PR professionals looking to pitch you a story?
Don’t be too vague. Depending on the topic of my query, I can get 20+ pitches. Stand out by giving a but more detail in a few sentences. Also, don’t ask me questions in your pitches. Chances are you aren’t going to get a response. Don’t say, “My client is an expert on your topic, but I need to know if it will also be online before I give you the contact information,” or some variation of that. Either you are pitching me and telling me who your client is or you’re not. Don’t waste time by being vague and secretive. Also, try to be one of the first to reply to queries on HARO. there have been times that I’ve contacted the person from the very first pitch I receive.
Lastly, take a look at my website (www.terrificwords.com) and blog (www.TERRIficWords.wordpress.com) to get an idea of what my beats are BEFORE sending me a pitch. Actually do your research. If you haven’t seen anything about NASCAR or biology on my site, chances are I don’t cover it, so don’t bother sending me an email about it.
9. Does social media play a role in your job? If so, how big of a role?
At first I was reluctant to get into social media. However, it definitely plays a big role in my career. Twitter has been extremely helpful when creating angles for stories by helping me stay abreast of what people are talking about. Many of my articles have been inspired by a conversation on social media. Social media has also been very helpful when needing to find sources when I’m under a tight deadline. Lastly, it has become the main way that I market recent stories and blog posts.
10. Where can people find you in the social media universe? Do you welcome people pitching you via social media?
Pitches via social media are definitely acceptable. In fact, it may actually be a better way to get my attention considering the amount of email pitches I get.
11. What advice would you give someone who is looking to get started in the journalism field?
I would advise aspiring journalists to always be willing to adapt. The journalism field is always changing and a good journalist is expected to change with it. Stay on your toes and keep track of new developments in the field. And don’t be afraid to let people know about your knowledge of these new developments. In terms of networking, I always say, “It’s not who you know. It’s what who you know knows you know.” Lastly and perhaps most importantly, don’t wait for someone to give you a chance. You have to go out and make it happen. If you want to write about education,don’t wait for someone to give you that opportunity. Just start writing about it. Your success is dependent on you and no one else. Why wait for someone to open a door for you when you can open it yourself?
If you’d like to be featured in the HARO Limelight series as a member of the media or a source, email: laura(at)helpareporter(dot)com.