The Power of a Strong Pitch – Interview with journalist Hannah Wales

With journalists receiving often hundreds of pitches a week, it is important for PRs to understand the media and the titles that they are pitching for in order to ensure their client receives maximum opportunities.

We spoke to Hannah Wales, award-winning journalist and current senior writer at Cover Media, to find out more about good vs bad PR pitches, how to secure client coverage in Cover Media titles and advice for aspiring journalists.

1. How did you start in the journalism industry?

I finished my degree in Multimedia Journalism at Bournemouth University in 2011. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a journalism job straight away, so I worked full-time in shop (go Boots!) while spending my free time writing my own showbiz, celebrity and movies blog, which I still run to this day. Eventually, over two years later, my blog got me my first paid job – as an evenings and weekends freelance writer for the showbiz website Entertainmentwise. After a few months of working two jobs, I finally got a full-time journalism job at the showbiz news agency WENN in January 2014. While there, I wrote showbiz and entertainment news and attended red carpet events to get exclusives. I started at Cover Media in June last year and am currently their senior writer, movies editor, and film critic.

I could be wrong, but I think many PRs assume I’m solely a beauty writer, but I write about many different topics. I only write one or two beauty stories a week so I can’t cover everybody’s press releases. Beauty probably counts for 5% of my writing output and about 60% of my inbox.

 

2. Can you explain to a new PR, services like Cover Media and what your title looks for content wise?

Cover Media is a content agency and a wire service, so the content we write is delivered to our paying subscribers via email. Some subscribers may also have a deal with us to have our content automatically uploaded onto their websites. In our case, a lot of our stories appear on MSN.

We generally work with PRs on content for our beauty and health/fitness/wellbeing feeds and our scope of what we cover within those subject areas is quite broad. It’s also worth noting that because we are a wire service, we can’t put hyperlinks into our stories. I get asked that a lot.

 

3. What separates a good and bad PR pitch?

This is a tough one to put into words as it’s based on instinct – I can usually decide whether a pitch falls under our remit, if it works for us, or if it’s something I can or want to write about as I’m reading it.

A good pitch is one that knows the company and what content we put out and an even better pitch is knowing the writer well enough to know if they’ll like a certain story or set of quotes. I personally like getting expert commentary or advice-based quotes because I find these the most interesting and very easy to work with. I will occasionally do product round-up pieces, but that’s not often. My colleagues have different preferences for the types of stories they like to cover.

In my eyes, a bad pitch is one that’s just something like “here’s our product, please cover it”. Cover Media don’t write advertorial pieces or write beauty stories about a single product launch. The best way to promote that product is to offer it up with expert advice so we can lead on the advice and mention the product within the feature. We need a more interesting angle than “here’s a new product”.

Also, it’s worth noting that it’s best to find a new angle on a popular theme, if possible. For example, around this Halloween, I have received a lot of pumpkin-related articles and I can only run that feature once. I will likely go with the first one I get and then the subsequent ones I receive can’t be used. Same with the start of the pandemic, I got so many releases about looking after your hands and I had to turn so many PRs down as it had been covered already.

 

4. Any advice for aspiring journalists?

Keeping writing and don’t give up. It’s really hard to get a journalism job – I experienced it for myself – but the perseverance does usually pay off eventually. I would also suggest writing a blog to help advertise your writing style and tone of voice and to show off your knowledge and passion about a particular subject area. Also try to pitch stories to publications – that would be the way to kickstart your freelance career.

 

5. What has been your favourite article or trend to write about this year so far?

I have personally enjoyed writing content about how to keep fit during the pandemic, how to ease back pain if you’re working from home, and how to stay positive during these tough times. In terms of beauty, I liked writing “how to do X, Y, and Z by yourself at home” stories.