With so many publications increasingly relying on freelancers to pen stories for both print and digital platforms, it’s increasingly important to build relationships with these writers. Diana Vilibert is the former Web Editor at Marie Claire, and is a freelance writer, copywriter, and cat lady living in Brooklyn. With experience writing for publications like Cosmpolitan and Nylon Guys, Diana has a keen editorial prescriptive and a great sense of what makes a great pitch.
Name: Diana Vilibert
Title: Freelance Editor and Copywriter
Outlet: Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Today.com, Manhattan, ReadyMade, Nylon Guys, TheHairpin.com, Care2.com, Business on Tapp, and others.
Twitter: @dianavilibert // Instagram: @dianavilibert
How do you prefer to receive pitches?
Email and only email.
How far in advance do you work?
I’ve gone from idea to published post in as short as three days, but it completely depends on the piece. If it’s timely and there’s a news hook, it’s important to work fast. If I’m working on a pitch for a print magazine, it’s important to think far ahead, since those editors are finalizing their lineups months ahead of when the issue will be out.
What is the best time to receive pitches?
I’m less likely to miss a pitch if it comes in on a weekday during (or just outside of) normal business hours. That’s not to say I don’t do plenty of freelance work on evenings and weekends—but if I’m hustling to finish a piece on Sunday afternoon, the last thing I want to do after I complete it is to start sifting through my inbox. Monday morning isn’t great, either—it’s when I’m catching up on email and therefore more likely to go a little delete crazy.
What types pitches are you always looking for?
I’ve covered everything from the newest condoms and the best whiskeys to evergreen health advice and marketing tips for small businesses. The great thing about being a freelancer is that I feel free to jump on any interesting idea, even if it’s a new-to-me topic. And since I don’t really write to a very specific audience or stick to a narrow topic, I’m happy to get all kinds of pitches. I’m open to it all, even if it’s not a subject I’ve written about it before, as long as the pitch makes it clear why I might be interested in the idea.
The great thing about being a freelancer is that I feel free to jump on any interesting idea, even if it’s a new-to-me topic.
What email subject lines capture your attention?
I’m a lot more likely to open (and reply to) an email that conveys that the publicist did their research. I love seeing a subject line that sums up the pitch in a few words and suggests which of my outlets it could be good for (even I don’t end up thinking it’s a good fit for that outlet).
One publicist emailed me with “From one cat lady to another, and a [publication] pitch” in the subject line—I’ve never scrambled to open a pitch email that fast in my life. It was brilliant—anyone who takes a minute to browse my Twitter or Instagram can see I’m a cat lady, so I appreciated that she took the time. Plus, it created an instant connection and was both cute and informative (she told me which of my outlets she had in mind). She even included photos of her cats in the email. Favorite pitch email ever, hands down. We weren’t able to work together on what she pitched that time, but you can bet I’ll never delete an email she sends me in the future.
I love seeing a subject line that sums up the pitch in a few words and suggests which of my outlets it could be good for.
What makes a great pitch?
To me, a great pitch is personalized, short, and factual. Personalized so I feel like there’s another human being on the other end who took some time to look at what I’ve written/might be likely to write about. Short enough that I can tell in 30 seconds whether it’s a definite yes, a definite no, or a “tell me more.” If you have a lot of additional info, wait until I ask for it, tell me what else you’d like to send me, or attach or paste it below a concise intro. And factual—don’t tell me your client is the best or the first at something if that’s not 100% true. It’ll only waste both of our time.
What drives you nuts about pitching?
I understand that people make mistakes, but I can’t get excited about working with someone who completely botches my name or who I write for. I constantly get pitches addressing me as the web editor at Marie Claire…which I was, but not since 2010! And it’s not hard to verify that through my LinkedIn profile or website. I usually write back to those to let them know I haven’t worked there in years, and I’m surprised at how many responses I get for the current editor’s name/contact info….which is also easily found via a quick Google search.
How can a publicist make your life easier?
1. Give your image files a descriptive name. If I’ve asked five different publicists for images for a story, getting files named image1.jpg drives me crazy and wastes time.
2. Keep the conversation in one email thread. It helps me stay organized if I don’t have to track down multiple emails for the press kit, photos, press release, and so on.
3. Feel free to ask about lead times, but be understanding if things don’t move as fast as you’d like. Sometimes an editor says a story will be up in two weeks and it’ll be up in two weeks. Sometimes it gets pushed back for months. Following up every 24 hours won’t make it happen faster.
What do you wish more PR folks understood about your job?
Please don’t take it personally if I don’t reply at all. As a freelancer, I know it’s frustrating to get radio silence after sending a pitch, but if I replied to everyone who pitched something that wasn’t a good fit, I’d feel like setting my keyboard on fire.