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    Coffee with a Journalist: Russell Contreras, Axios

    Russell Contreras is the senior race and justice reporter at Axios, where he covers the policies and agencies at the heart of the administration of justice and how it impacts people of color.

    During the episode, Russell talks about practicing brevity in pitches, how and what to pitch when it comes to embargoes and exclusives, why you shouldn’t pitch him local news, and more.

     Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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

    CWJ View Transcription CTA


    Pitches That Land

    [0:05:35] BB: What I'm hearing, though, is you open every pitch.

    [0:05:38] RC: Exactly. I look through every one. I open up. In Axios, we really pride ourselves on the smart brevity.

    "I wish that a lot of PR professionals would read a book by our founders called Smart Brevity, and it's by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, where they talk about ways how Axios writes in smart brevity, but how you as a business, you as a communicator can use smart brevity to get your message across faster."

    If I get a pitch with a long anecdote before with the pitch buried deep in, more likely, that's going to get deleted.

    If I get a pitch where it immediately tells me, “Oh, this is the pitch. This is what about. This is why it's in your coverage area,” 80% more likely to consider it and read through it. If it's a long thing – if I have to scroll through your pitch at least twice, more likely, I'm going to delete it, because it’s too many words.


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    Pitching Pet Peeves 

    [0:14:30] BB: What's your ultimate pet peeve?

    [0:14:43] RC: The font one is the ultimate one.

    [0:14:44] BB: That's up there. Yeah.

    [0:14:45] RC: Yeah. Where they obviously change your name. Or they say, “Hello, Russell.Contreras.”

    [0:14:52] BB: Oh, boy.

    [0:14:52] RC: With basic from your email, right? Or, “Hello, Russell&C,” right? Where they obviously have picked your name from somewhere else, or they misspell your name, which is fine. I mean, that happens. I misspell names, too, but it's not on purpose. It's just the way we – we’re in a busy world. The others have long giant pitches that take four minutes or five minutes, or 10 minutes to read.

    [0:15:15] BB: Yeah. You can't do that.

    [0:15:16] RC: Yeah. I'm not reading it. You wasted your time. You're wasting my time. You don't waste my time much, because I just see that it's a long pitch and I see it's a lot of text and I just push the delete button. Those are pet peeves. Those that will call, the worst one is I get a pitch, it hits my inbox, and 30 seconds later, I get a call. “Did you see my pitch?” Right?


    Rapid Fire Pitching Preferences

    [0:20:23] BB: Okay, Russell, we have a quick little quick fire. I'll give you the question, and you just give us the quick answer. Here we go. Video or phone interview?

    • [0:20:43] RC: Phone interviews are quick, fast.

    [0:20:45] BB: Love it. Bullet points or paragraphs? I know we covered this, but just so.

    • [0:20:49] RC: Bullet points.

    [0:20:50] BB: Yes. Bullet points. Images attached, or Dropbox zip file?

    • [0:20:55] RC: Images attached.

    [0:20:56] BB: Pitches in the morning, or at night, or it doesn't matter?

    • [0:20:59] RC: Doesn't matter, but more than likely in the morning.

    [0:21:01] BB: Okay. Keep in mind, New Mexico time. Great. Email, or Twitter DM?

    • [0:21:06] RC: Email.

    [0:21:07] BB: One follow-up or multiple?

    • [0:21:09] RC: One.

    [0:21:10] BB: Direct or creative subject lines?

    • [0:21:13] RC: Direct.

    [0:21:14] BB: Press release or media kit?

    • [0:21:16] RC: Press release. We can always ask for the media kit later.




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