Welcome to the HARO Limelight Series (HLS), where we will highlight either a reporter or source who has had success(es) with our service each week.
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 the HLS, We interviewed Tammy Mastroberte, founder, publisher and editorial director of Elevated Existence Magazine, and award-winning writer with more than 15 years of experience in the magazine industry.
1. What beats/topics do you normally write about? Why do these particular subjects interest you?
As the founder, publisher and editorial director of Elevated Existence Magazine, I write about anything in the new age, spiritual or self-help arena that can assist our readers in achieving a higher existence, uplift their consciousness and ultimately offer them tools to help them live a better and more inspired life. We cover conscious parenting, conscious business, the law of attraction, yoga and exercise, meditation, alternative healing methods, self-care, healthy eating, books, music, DVDs and more.
I first became interested in these subjects when my mother died suddenly in 1999 of a brain aneurysm. I was 22 years old, and it literally launched me on my own search for meaning, and eventually to start this magazine so I could share what I learned – and continue to learn – with others.
2. What is your favorite part about your job?
There are a lot of aspects I enjoy about my job, but I’ve always loved learning new things and then teaching them to other people. The magazine allows me to do that every day. I’m passionate about spirituality and self-help topics, so researching topics, interviewing authors and experts, and working with our writers and editors allows me to learn new things to help me improve my own life. Then I get to create articles that teach these things to our readers.
3. What is your least favorite part about your job?
I have covered many different industries in the magazine business, and I think my least favorite part is when you get someone on the phone to do an interview and they give you one-word answers, or very little detail. Luckily in the spiritual and self-help arena, everyone always has so much information to share that I don’t come across this much anymore.
4. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I have been lucky over my 15 plus years in magazine publishing to work for a number of companies in various editorial positions and was able to learn a lot about the industry. I was also lucky enough to land my first job as an Editorial Assistant for two trade magazines during my senior year of college. I believe my biggest challenge was leaving the comfort zone of a full-time job and salary to grow my own company. But I trusted my intuition, and haven’t had one regret!
5. How has the journalism field changed since you first started writing and what are you doing to adapt?
When I first started as an editorial assistant in 1998, I was writing for two trade magazines in N.J., and the company didn’t even have a website. The main focus was filling the pages of the magazine – not online news, blogs or social media. Today, the world of journalism is made up of so much more. It’s fast-paced, Internet-driven, and a lot easier to find sources and experts. Before we were operating without Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, YouTube … and there was no HARO! You called sources on the telephone and hoped they would pick up or return you call!
In order to adapt, journalists have to think beyond the pages of a magazine, newspaper or book. Today it’s about interactive websites, audio and video to accompany a story, search engine optimization, daily website content updates, and interacting with readers online.
6. When did you first learn of HARO and how has it changed your job?
I first discovered HARO about five years ago, and it has been great tool for me both as a reporter looking for sources, and as an expert who is a source for other reporters. We use it every year for our annual Editor’s Inspirational Gift Picks, and have found sources for stories that otherwise were leading us down dead ends. I have even won two Folio: Awards for articles I wrote using HARO sources. The site never fails me!
7. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to PR professionals pitching you a story?
I appreciate PR professionals pitching stories because many times they are representing experts or companies that I might not have found on my own. But I think my biggest pet peeve is when I get a pitch addressed to a different magazine or person (making it obvious they sent out the same email to everyone and forgot to change the name), or when they repeatedly send the same pitch over, and over, and over, and…you get it. The same goes for repeated phone calls.
8. What tips or pointers would you offer to PR professionals looking to pitch you a story?
The most important thing for me is the subject line of an email – that is what gets me to open it versus skipping it over. Be as specific as possible with the topic, author/expert name or book that would be relevant to the topics we cover. For example, a subject line that says “Relieve Stress and Live Happy,” versus “New Meditation App for Stress Relief.” The latter would grab my attention much faster!
Also, I prefer press releases to be in the body of the email versus attached because it’s much faster to review and access. For those that are attached, Word documents are better than a PDF because if we are pulling information from the document, copying and pasting is easier that way.
Lastly, those who send a pitch and are familiar with the magazine, what we cover and how their pitch fits in are at the top of my list. It shows they did their research, and makes my job a lot easier.
9. Does social media play a role in your job? If so, how big of a role?
It seems like social media and the role it plays in my job continues to grow all the time. There are constantly new social media outlets cropping up, and maintaining these sites is a daily job. Our editors are always checking Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to interact with followers, post new items and share information. We also launched a YouTube channel last month, and videos are going to start playing an even bigger role in our coverage.
10. Where can people find you in the social media sphere? Do you welcome people pitching you via social media?
Elevated Existence Magazine is on:
Also, I am on LinkedIn and Google Plus. I don’t mind pitches via Social Media, but prefer email.
11. What advice would you give someone who is looking to get started in the journalism field?
My advice for someone just getting started would be to understand the industry today is about a lot more than just writing a great article or blog post. Journalism is expanding and become more interactive every day. Whether it’s newspapers or magazines, a journalist may be required to understand social media marketing, search engine optimization, website content management systems, video and audio.
However, without solid writing skills and the ability to connect with readers, these other aspects will only get a journalist so far. One tip I always share with new writers and editors is no matter what topic you are covering – whether it’s how to lay tile on a bathroom floor, the latest technology to checkout at a retail store or the biggest trends in the toy industry, always approach the interview and reporting from your reader’s point of view. What do they need to know in order to help them understand an issue or solve a problem, and what is the best way to break down the information so they can understand it?
And of course, if the writer doesn’t fully understand the topic, it’s hard to translate it to the reader, so ask as many questions and interview as many people as necessary in order to become well versed in whatever topic it is you are covering. Believe me, it will be translated in the writing and your readers will thank you for it.
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.