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    Coffee with a Journalist: Ray Wong, Inverse

    Ray Wong is the deputy editor of reviews & guides at Inverse. Ray covers consumer technology including product reviews and investigating AI technology, with the aim to uncover the larger story. You can also follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

    During the episode, Ray talks about exclusives he writes related to products and people, why he prefers to work with sources he already knows, how you can model your pitch off an existing article he’s written, and more.

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


    CWJ View Transcription CTA



    Subject Line Etiquette

    [00:05:35] BB: I admire the discipline here. Quite unique. Quite unique. Okay. What is a subject line then that works for you? 

    [00:05:43] RW: Yeah. In my area of expertise, I'm Deputy Editor at Reviews and Guides at Inverse. I cover up consumer tech and we do a lot of reviews. We do a lot of guides. That means we work with a lot of PR agencies and brands on receiving products on loan for review. For me, it's just about cutting through noise and making sure that you get PR or brands get an opportunity to even like, for me to even like, take a look at their emails.

    I guess in the subject line, because I work in the area of reviews and guides, just putting review or review units in the subject line can make a big difference. It's a matter of seeing it or not seeing it.

    Seeing it or deleting it. I also like to write a lot of exclusives on products and people, the people behind the products. 

    [00:06:31] BB: Yeah. 

    [00:06:32] RW: Including exclusive inside of it, inside the subject line is really helpful. Then obviously we all attend and I personally attend a lot of events. So just put an upfront invite and what the details are, short description of what the details are, instead of having to go into the email, click it, open it, then like look through a wall of text and find what you're trying to tell me. 

    [00:06:55] BB: Yeah. 

    [00:06:55] RW: Just tell me upfront is really important. 

    [00:06:58] BB: Tell you upfront, be direct. Sounds like you definitely prefer the most direct succinct subject line. 

    [00:07:03] RW: Yeah. I mean, if it's like for example, a demo to say you're having a demo an event, just tell me that you're inviting me to an event. Like, let's not play games and let's not like be, try to be too cute with the subject line. You only get one chance and when I'm just pawing my way through my inbox with five fingers. 

    [00:07:22] BB: You got to pass the five fingers. 

    [00:07:24] RW: You got to pass the five-finger test. 


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    How to Build a Relationship 

    [00:14:28] BB: You mentioned a little earlier, Ray, with exclusives. Oh, if I have a relationship with you and that helps and so forth. Let's say, I don't have a relationship with you. I've never met you. How does one begin to build one with you? 

    [00:14:42] RW: Yeah. Like I said, definitely reaching out and with the understanding that you've done your homework, show that you've done your homework, you know what stories I've written before. I get a lot of emails where it says, “Hey, I saw that you wrote this and about this and this.” I'm like, “I've never written about that in my life.” 

    [00:14:58] BB: No. Wait. 

    [00:15:00] RW: I absolutely did not publish that story. 

    [00:15:02] BB: Oh, what a bomb. Oh, no. 

    [00:15:05] RW: It's just so obvious. This is a copy-paste job. 

    [00:15:08] BB: Oh, it's a copy-paste. Oh, God. Yeah.

    [00:15:10] RW: It's a copy-paste job and it's just the email blast and it just frustrates and disappoints me so much. I'm just like, well, that's a person that I'll probably will either never email again or their emails go straight to the trash, because you really didn't do the homework, right? To build that relationship, all you need to do is, I'm not saying to stock a journalist, that some journalists find that a little creepy. 

    I personally like it when a PR person or brand rep has seen the type of projects I've done, the types of stories I've done, even if it's from a competitor, and say, “Hey, look I saw what you did here. We have an opportunity to give you access to XYZ designer or engineer or product manager or leader. We think that you would be a great fit to tell our story.” Then it goes from there, right? Obviously, there are no promises, but that's a good way to start a conversation when you show that you're familiar with my work and the type of content I'm interested in making and you're not wasting my time.


    Rapid Fire Pitching Preferences

    [00:18:04] BB: Video or phone interview? 

    • [00:18:06] RW: I prefer a video and mainly because I see enthusiasm or emotion. For a phone interview, it's usually a last resort if there are no other options like there's no in-person, there's no on-camera or a video call. I'll do the phone interview, especially if it's someone really prominent or someone essential for my story. Otherwise, I want to know that you're a human being and also like understand why you care about this product or this story. Why should I care, right? Make me care. 

    [00:19:04] BB: Bullet points or long pitches? 

    • [00:19:07] RW: I think, I love like a good mixture. Give me the bullets, but also give me the depth after. It's really no offense if like I just don't accept your pitch. I think using every possibility to give you a succinct, this succinct pitch on what you're trying to communicate to me and then also giving me that additional depth without me having to ask for it is a good medium. 

    [00:19:32] BB: Short or long pitches. 

    • [00:19:34] RW: I mean, a short pitch is good. Get right to the point, especially if you're on point with the subject line. Then in the email body, you're just like, “Okay, here's what I'm trying to pitch you on.” I actually brought an example today of a good pitch that just completely gets straight to a point, doesn't waste my time, and provides all the details. This is one that I responded back to, because I was like, okay. They gave me everything I need to know. I didn't have to go back and forth responding to get additional details. Something as simple as, 

      “Hey, Ray. I hope you're doing well. I want to reach out to run a feature idea by you. I'm going to redact this company, right, gearing up to launch the next evolution of their flagship redaction. We'd love to work with you on an exclusive interview/deep dive on a proxy.” 

      This person clearly has seen that I've done exclusives recently. 

      I am very interested in deep dives. They gave me an example and linked out to that piece, which is by another brand for another brand. They also gave me additional details on like when this embargo is lifting, why they think that this product is important, and why I should specifically cover it because I've covered similar products in the past, the embargo at lift time. Then here's the part that's really important to me, details on who I would be talking to and what like, access I would get, right? 

      Oftentimes I get a lot of emails saying, “Okay, I've got an exclusive for you.” But then it's like two or three emails back and forth to find out who they're going to give me access to and when. I just don't have the time for that. Nobody wants to be sending emails back and forth and you're, one email of hundreds that are incoming every day. So just getting straight to a point and tell me, “Hey, it's this guy, Charlie. He's head of industrial design. He's worked on this product line for X, Y, Z years and you've done reviews on X, Y, and Z.” 

    [00:22:16] BB: How about images attached or Dropbox zip file? 

    • [00:22:19] RW: I've no preference either or is fine. Just as long as you include it.

    [00:22:22] BB: Pitches in the morning or at night or it doesn't matter?

    • [00:22:25] RW: Mornings or afternoons. Nobody wants to be looking at their emails. I mean, I'm a lunatic. I am looking at my inbox at night. Yeah, I would say if you send an email at night, expect the email response in the morning or after the next day afternoon. I won't be responding unless it's something killer.

    [00:22:42] BB: Email or Twitter DM?

    • [00:22:44] RW: Definitely, email. You can just say more in an email. Also, Twitter is like, I know a lot of people use Twitter as a professional outlet, myself included. 

    [00:23:02] BB: One follow-up or multiple?

    •  [00:23:08] RW: I put down one follow-up every two to three days or one per week. Ultimately, it really depends on whether I've replied to this email. If I have not given you a response in a week and you haven't gone back and wondered why I haven't responded, maybe because you pitched me on say, enterprise, right? Then please don't respond and bump it up a million times, because it's just like, especially email that says, “Hey, have you seen my email?” No. Yeah, I have seen your email and I deleted it.  

    [00:23:41] BB: Direct or creative subject lines?

    • [00:23:45] RW: Yeah. Direct subject lines. Let's save everybody some time. 

    [00:23:49] BB: Then press release, or media kit?

    • [00:23:55] RW: I have no preference. I prefer both. If you have both and include the media kit, that works just as well.




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