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    Coffee with a Journalist: Jill Duffy, PCMag

    Jill Duffy is a columnist and deputy managing editor at PCMag. She’s been contributing to PCMag since 2011 and currently writes about work life, productivity, and software with an emphasis on apps for productivity and collaboration.

    During the episode, Jill talks about PCMag’s approach to vetting and reviewing products, her low-touch recommendation for building and sustaining a working relationship, why everyone should have a business mentor, and more.

     Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

    Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:

    CWJ View Transcription CTA


    How to Pitch Her

    [00:02:42] JD: I do have freelancers pitch me from time to time. 

    [00:02:45] BB: Yes, because you're in the other seat. Yes. 

    [00:02:48] JD: For the majority of the things that we do, it's really important at PC Magazine that when we cover a product, it's something that we have found in an unbiased way that we feel excited about or we think people should know about. Or we've heard it's getting some buzz, and we're like, “Okay, people are hearing about this product. We should do a hands-on testing session with them and tell them what's what.” 

    The reason I don't like to take a whole lot of pitches there is because I don't want the companies telling me I should review their product. I want my writers and the other editors saying we are making independent editorial decisions about what we think are the products we should be reviewing. 

    Now, that said, there's always an opportunity for there to be an undiscovered gem, and that's what everybody thinks they have, right? Everybody wants to pitch me their undiscovered gem, their amazing fitness apps. I get so many pitches for fitness apps. 

    [00:03:41] BB: Really, still?

    [00:03:42] JD: So many people have fitness apps. Yes. I get it. You know what? From time to time, I will look at them. I will look at them quietly. I'll say, “Does this seem like it merits, warrants any coverage? Is it interesting? Is it doing something different? Is it a really good value? Is there a reason people should know about it?” Often, this is the thing about the Internet now. If people should know about it, they'll find it. They'll find it before I find it. They'll find about it before I hear about it, so yes. 

    That’s why like companies coming to me with their products that I've never heard of before is not really that helpful. The big companies, the Adobes, the Googles, the Microsofts, when they come to me, it's usually, “We have some information for you. It's under NDA. This is when it's going to release.” That is helpful because if something new is coming out in Photoshop, and we can arrange to get coverage on the day that it's released, like that's great. That's helpful. 

    But those are usually long-standing relationships with PR teams or PR houses, not even individuals most of the time. They're just messaging everybody in the technology sector at that point.


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    Story Building 101

    [00:07:09] BB: Are there any subject lines, Jill, that you have seen or received where you actually were like, “Oh, that's intriguing. Tell me more.”?

    [00:07:23] JD: Yes. So I can tell you what I like, and I can tell you also what I don't like. 

    [00:07:28] BB: Let's do it. 

    [00:07:29] JD: Let me start with what I don't like. What I don't like is my product is the new Fitbit of X. My product is the new Kindle of Y. Your product is your own product. Don't try to tell me it is the hot new thing from six years ago in another space. Just tell me what you have. Don't tell me a buzzword that I've heard before. 

    I think that those subject lines are always trying to trick people into thinking like, “Oh, this is an email from somebody at the Fitbit brand.” It doesn't help. It doesn't win you any favors because when that surprise wears off, and you discover the reality in the body of the message, people are annoyed. So don't do that. 

    I do like a subject line that tells me what's in the message. If it's a pitch from a freelancer, give me the headline. Tell me the headline of the article you want to write. If it's a good headline, that is always going to be the thing that hooks an editor, right? If you can write that headline in a compelling way. So just put that in the subject line and say article pitch: your headline. 

    [00:08:31] BB: There you go. Okay. Ooh, that's good for freelancers hopefully hearing on this sheet because, yes, they must be – they got to pitch editors to get their story, so all the good stuff. Okay, very good. Now, any other tips you would advise on subject lines.

    [00:08:47] JD: If it's an NDA, tell me that in the subject line. Maybe keep it short. Keep it concise. I feel like more it's about having that relationship. So I'm more apt to open an email from somebody if I know them already, right? So establishing the relationship is what matters. 

    I also really appreciate not just the subject line, but when the body says, “Hey, I have X for you. Are you interested?” You don't have to paste the whole thing to me now if I'm not even sure if it's going to be interesting to me. I get how that that like will save you time, but I feel like I'm more likely to respect the person who says, “Hey, we have a relationship. Before I tell you more, let me just feel you out.” Because 85% of the time, I'm going to be like, “No, that's not for me.” I will have more respect for you if you just treat me like I'm somebody you know, and we've met before, which we have, hopefully, by crafting your email that way. 


    Rapid Fire Pitching Preferences

    [00:18:41] BB: Video, phone interview, or in-person interview?

    [00:18:45] JD: Video, 100%. 

    [00:18:47] BB: A hundred percent. Meetings in the morning or the afternoon?

    [00:18:50] JD: You don't know where I am. you don't know what time zone I'm in. 

    [00:18:53] BB: That's right, yes. 

    [00:18:55] JD: Just tell me when you're available. We'll work it out. 

    [00:18:57] BB: Perfect. Coffee or drinks?

    [00:19:00] JD: Oh, coffee. 

    [00:19:01] BB: Amazing. Yes, yes. Bullet points or paragraphs in pitches?

    [00:19:04] JD: Bullets. 

    [00:19:05] BB: Images attached or Dropbox zip file?

    [00:19:08] JD: Either way but not embedded in the document. 

    [00:19:13] BB: In the document, like in the pitch?

    [00:19:15] JD: Yes. 

    [00:19:16] BB: Yes. Why would people do that? I don't know. 

    [00:19:18] JD: It's like a PDF, and I'm reading it, and it's supposed to be like a beautiful display. I get it. But if you want me to use those images, yes, you got to make them accessible as like already cropped and nice for me. 

    [00:19:30] BB: Agreed. Email or Twitter DM?

    [00:19:32] JD: Email. 

    [00:19:33] BB: One follow-up or multiple, if at all?

    [00:19:36] JD: One is good. 

    [00:19:37] BB: Yes. Direct or creative subject lines?

    [00:19:40] JD: Ooh, both. 

    [00:19:42] BB: Both, okay. 

    [00:19:43] JD: Oh, yes. Be direct but show me what you got. 

    [00:19:47] BB: Get my attention. Get my attention. Okay. Press release or media kit?

    [00:19:51] JD: I think I want the press release first and the option to download the media kit.  




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