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Pitching Freelancers with Theresa Christine – Podcast Transcript

Meet the Media: Travel Writing, Pitching Freelancers with Theresa Christine

SPEAKERS

Theresa Christine, Lexie Smith

 

Lexie Smith

Hey guys Lexie here, travel enthusiast, lover of puns, pizza and wine kind of sewer and founder of the PR Bar, Inc. And you’re tuning in to the Pitching and Sipping Podcast. From behind the scenes interviews with the media to honest conversations with other PR pros to a look at inspiring brands and entrepreneurs that are rocking the world of PR. In this podcast, we talk tips while taking sips and talking about all the things that make those in the world of PR tick. Let’s get started. Today we’re talking with Theresa Christine, a freelance travel writer, podcast host and photographer based in Los Angeles, California, with by lines and outlets such as Lonely Planet, Forbes, LaPalme Magazine, Huffington Post, Insider and many others. Teresa writes about topics spanning from global women’s issues to interesting locals, couples travel, design festivals like Burning Man, entrepreneur and small business profiles and more. In short, Theresa helps national travel publications tell the lesser known, unexpected and touching stories of a given location. And the episode to follow Theresa gives us a candid look behind the curtain of the world of freelance journalism. She shares her pitching preferences, resources that have helped her land placements, why and how she got into writing in the first place and much, much more. Tune in and listen closely to ensure you’re remaining relevant when pitching. And of course, learn what cocktail Teresa prefers sippin.

 

Theresa Christine

Alright, let’s get started.

 

Lexie Smith

Freelance travel and design writer, photographer, romance writer podcast host. So basically, Theresa, you have the coolest jobs in the entire world. And we’re going to talk about all the above. But first, I’d love to hear a little bit more about who Theresa is outside of her byline, where his home base what’s an average Tuesday look like?, favorite place you’ve traveled basically whatever is coming to mind as I’m rattling on here.

 

Theresa Christine

Or Yeah, well, I’m based in Los Angeles. And I live here with my husband and my cat. And when I am not traveling for work, which obviously during COVID I’m not doing that, I love photography, I will sometimes bundle up photography with my assignments, but it’s also just a hobby. It’s something fun that I love to do. I enjoy cooking, and have gotten marginally better during quarantine. And I also am an avid cyclist like spin indoor spread, not outdoor, like not outdoor bicycling. So I actually have a peloton and so I am on that quite often. Um, but besides besides that also yoga, and I am the kind of person who believes that my work should be enjoyable. And that can be tricky, because then I’m feel sometimes like I want to work all the time because I am enjoying it. But yeah, so it sort of bleeds into things. But I do try at the end of the day to just stop and like, do something that’s just for myself.

 

Lexie Smith

I love that. So I have a mantra I live by which is I work to live I don’t live to work, but when that work becomes fun, I think that makes it kind of crossover a bit. So that’s awesome.

 

Theresa Christine

Yeah, it can be tricky, but I you know, I don’t know about your parents, but my parents are this kind of generation and mentality of work is what gets you money. Like it doesn’t have to be enjoyable. There’s a very good chance it’s going to actually be miserable. But it’s what puts food on the table and I just don’t buy into that.

 

Lexie Smith

Yeah, no, my father owns a construction company in Portland, Oregon, which is incredibly rainy. So quite literally. He is in rain and metal day so enjoyable would not be the word he would he would use so I hear you on that and what part of LA are you in by the way?

 

Theresa Christine

Great question. I’m in the I guess eastern part of LA like East Hollywood Los Phillies area.

 

Lexie Smith

Okay. Okay. So before Ventura, so I’m in Ventura. Now I was in the Santa Monica area, but I worked in Beverly Hills in Hollywood. For anyone listening not familiar with LA when you say you’re from LA, there’s a lot of different neighborhoods and cities and they kind of that you can be in so that’s why I was I was clarifying.

 

Theresa Christine

Yeah, like Santa Monica is is so far away from it’s another world

 

Lexie Smith

So far, and I’m probably it’s probably only about 10 miles. But that means an hour and a half with traffic. So

 

Theresa Christine

yeah.

 

Lexie Smith

Okay, so I love that now I want to focus in on your career. So please catch everyone up to speed, high level on some of the amazing different outlets and publications you’ve written for over the years and how you initially found your way into this line of work?

 

Theresa Christine

That’s a great question. So, right now I’m writing for publications like Lonely Planet feautres. I love this one publication called LaPalme magazine, they’re based in Florida, and they’re like, luxury lifestyle. And I got into this, I got into trouble writing, because I wanted to start a travel blog. And I didn’t really feel like I traveled enough at the time to start it, but my friend was like, you should do it. So I started a travel blog, and pretty quickly was like, this is fun, I think I should get paid for this. And at that point, I started doing a little bit of just free work for you know, small publications that I don’t even think exist anymore. And after that point, after a couple of those, and I had, you know, a couple of clips that I could send to other folks, it was like, alright, I definitely should be paid for this. And I, I use some resources, Gabby Logan is a really valuable resource. She has this website called Dream of Travel Writing, and the Travel Magazine database. And basically she, she breaks down how pitchers work, she breaks down, you know, how reaching out to editors works, the different types of articles. And that was kind of where I started to understand things. Because I don’t come from a journalism background. That’s not what I studied in school. And so really, the first thing for me was understanding publications and figure, who do I contact at this publication? What can I pitch them, because there’s certain parts of a publication that are just for people who are on staff. So I’m not, I can’t pitch that. So I need to know, which accepts which sections accept freelancers and the types of things that they’ll publish. And so that was really like, the first step into it was sort of doing some classes with her. And really, like, I am proof that you don’t, you don’t need to have a journalism background to do some of this work, like, what you do need to have his skill at writing and skill at pitching. And if you can catch an editor’s attention with pitching, then they’re they’re going to work with you. If it’s a good story, they’ll work with you.

 

Lexie Smith

You kind of teed up my next question perfectly there and you started to answer it. You’ve been looking through your portfolio, you’ve landed some incredible buy lines. So and you started to talk about the process. And you mentioned you have to as the writer, pitch and editor. So how do you go about as a freelance journalist landing these placements? Or does the reach a point where they eventually reach out to you kind of talk us through a little more details of what that looks like when you’re getting payment? Because I know there’s you can pitch five ways to Sunday for free content. But I think it’s even more of a mystery if you’re actually going to receive compensation for such.

 

Theresa Christine

I think having a community of people, you know, talking to folks and looking online, there’s a website called We Pay Writers, I believe it is where you can find out, you know how much compensation you can expect from a certain publication, because it is really frustrating when you pitch a place. And then they say, we can’t pay you for this. And it’s like, well, you’re a huge publication, and you’re not going to offer me anything. So that is that can be tricky. If, you know if you’re strictly looking for publications that pay there are certainly some good resources online. But like I said, like We Pay Writers is a good place to start. And so with pitching, the first thing is, well, there’s two different sides to it. There’s having the ideas of what you want to pitch and then also the publications. So you know there’s Travel and Leisure in the travel space. There’s Travel and Leisure. There’s a far like people know these big ones, but there are also really great well paying regional publications as well. Like I mentioned earlier, LaPalme magazine is not regional. It’s an international publication, but it’s not one that people know of as well. Let’s Travel and Leisure. But it’s a great like they pay me well. And I love working with them. So, you know, you want to look for these particular publications, and then you basically become a reader of the publication and you look through and are looking to see the kinds of things that they publish. And you will also then and this is something that I cannot credit myself for this is something I learned from Gabby Logan, with the dream of travel writing, where you’ll kind of compare that to what you see in the masthead. And if you see, every article in this publication is written by someone who is like a staff member, they might not accept freelance pitches, but then, of course, you’re going to find that there are certain parts that they will accept freelance pitches or, and this is, you know, this isn’t even considering digital digital is, I think, a lot more opened to freelance pitches as well. And then you you want to basically find the editor that you need to pitch for the particular vertical. And especially with a first time pitch to an editor, I will really rely heavily on the previous things that they’ve published. So if it’s, you know, best places to eat in Los Angeles, you know, that’s, that’s a very basic premise. But let’s say that, you know, they published something like that before, but they haven’t published something like that for Atlanta. And I know some of the best places to eat in Atlanta, I could pitch something that’s like that. And I know that it’s immediately going to be interesting to them, because it’s similar to something that they’ve already pitched. So it’s, it’s really, you know, there are sometimes these general ideas that I’ll have, for a hotel that I’ve been to, or a city that I visited or an experience. And I’ll I’ll be like, I want to pitch something related to that. But you do tailor each pitch to what the publication is and and what the editor is looking for.

 

Lexie Smith

Yeah, and you know what, it sounds very similar, if not borderline, I won’t say exact, the exact same way that those in PR go about figuring out their pitches, right. So it’s super interesting to hear that because the PR person might be pitching a freelance writer, but then the freelance writer then has to go and pitch the outlet. So in a way, it’s there’s a lot of crossovers, that exists there, kind of. So on that note, I have to assume you do get pitched because you are a writer? How do you go about selecting your sources? Or the companies that you want to feature? Or maybe not companies, but profiles, whatever, or locations, right? How do you decide and choose? Or do you have a trusted set of PR firms you only listen to? Are you going to Haro or what’s your process look like?

 

Theresa Christine

I do use Haro and I do get pitched a lot like every day. So much, unfortunately, that I’m not able to respond to every single email that I get. But I do and I think I’ve heard this from other writers as well, I do see those emails and like I do stash them away. And there have been instances where it’s been months later. And I think this would be really good for this article. And then I’m able to include them, which is really exciting. I don’t I do have some publicists that I love to work with. And if I have a story that has some needs, then I might ping them and just be like, Hey, I’m working on a story about this, like, do you have any clients who might be appropriate. But other times, you know, obviously, I’m just getting a certain amount of emails every day, and I’m looking through them. I think the ones that stand out, well, first of all, have my name in them. Or you know, my correct name, I it kind of boggles my mind that people will email me and get my name incorrect, or they have copied and pasted and someone else’s name is in there. Another thing that helps is that it’s something sort of similar, like you were saying, It’s similar to stuff that I’ve written about before. So when people send me stuff that’s like about children or family travel, it’s just not applicable. Like I don’t have kids. It’s not something that I write about, I’ve never written about it. So that to me, it tells me not only like this is just not a good story for me, but also this publicist is really just not paying attention to my content that I or the things that I’m writing. You know, I think honestly having a more specific and niche has been really helpful in the recent in like my recent times, so I have shifted my gears a bit towards like women’s issues in relation to travel and Focusing on the Art Center and things like, sort of underground things that that folks are is it’s not necessarily the like, universally palatable content. And I think that really helps as a journalist to have those direct niches because then it’s a lot easier to say this just this might be a good story, but it’s just not for me, rather than feeling overwhelmed by all these emails and saying, well, these could all be good stories, and like, I could pitch a bunch of different publications, but it’s my heart really in it. So, you know, focusing on some of those more specific things inside of travel has been especially helpful. And then I know like, you know, journalists are always looking at like the hook, like you want it to be in some way newsworthy. And I think, I think bottom line is just like, existing isn’t enough. So if it’s just like a general update, if it’s, you know, I get sometimes people will send me like, Oh, this hotel is having a special deal that’s running for a certain amount of time. Like, I don’t know, these things aren’t new or exciting or interesting. So and, you know, just existing is never sufficient. And I’m always looking for like, what is the? What is a more interesting story beyond that?

 

Lexie Smith

Yeah, I think those are, that’s all great feedback and insight. So thank you so much for sharing that. So candidly, one of the questions that I get asked a lot, from usually smaller companies or founders is, does it look bad for them to be pitching their company or product? Do they need to have a PR firm? From where you’re sitting as a writer? Does it really matter? Who that pitch is coming from assuming the content is strong?

 

Theresa Christine

That’s a really good question. I’ve not actually thought of that. But I have had both. I think I’ve had more experience with publicists emailing me, rather than just direct companies through Haro, especially when I put out horror requests, I will often get more people just directly messaging, I’m assuming that the email they send is good. I can see myself being interested in both of them equally. I think the problem is like, when people are sending directly from their company. I mean, obviously, like they’re being promotional, but it almost feels like too promotional. Like they’re not seeing the bigger picture. And so like, I guess a good example might be, you know, someone might be pitching me their company. And, Okay, great, it’s wonderful your company exists, it might be good for like, around up, but it might not be great for like, the big feature that you’re envisioning. And so, you know, I think that a publicist, when I get emails from publicists, it feels like they have a better grasp on kind of the long game, and sort of the different types of coverage. And and like I get it, you know, getting coverage is just like publicity on top of running a company is such a complicated and more like a whole other world that you have to, to manage. But I do think that, especially when you have journalists who are like I love this publicists, and I will message them anytime I have a story that can really be beneficial.

 

Lexie Smith

Yeah, I think that’s you brought up some interesting points against I mentioned, I get asked that a lot and how I usually answer and tell me if you disagree, because and you don’t know much about my background, but I worked in PR firms than I was in house. And now I’m a coach, and I do writing here and there. So my opinion on the matter is that more so than the at x pr from.com or x x company.com. It’s the understanding of the content and then being able to be objective, if they’ve done their research, what have you. Because at the end, that’s why I was curious on your own opinion, because I know it’s just that it’s an opinion, right? I’m sure from one journalist to another, they feel differently. Sometimes I get pitched from PR firms who just send me a bucket of clients. Whereas a small founder will really take in kind of the heart and soul to make it count but but it could be the complete opposite as well. Right? They can not know it all they can send me a 500 word pitch and kind of go out the door. So yeah, anyways, just I just wanted to kind of go comment on that. And for those listening just, it’s an interesting thing to think about it. No, not everyone can afford a PR firm, right?

 

Theresa Christine

It’s true. And I think if you can’t afford a PR firm, really, truly, like 30 minutes, just chatting with a publicist, you know, like paying for their time to consult you and give you some guidance. It’s a tricky, weird business that, you know, honestly, from what I hear is, is really challenging. So, you know, I think having a bit of that knowledge from an insider is, is definitely useful. Because, you know, again, I think it’s a matter of understanding content, and also crafting that email is important, you know, you don’t want it to be too long, you want it to hit all the right points. And you know, it’s, I don’t know, there’s something about that email, it’s like, gotta really nail it for me.

 

Lexie Smith

Yeah. So that. So to kind of summarize, I think for those listening, if you can’t afford a PR firm, or a publicist that at least get educated enough, so you can act as your own in an informed way. Whether that be talking to a publicist, of course, Google, I always say you can google your way into a PhD, whatever works for you. Just, you know, put some thought thought into that. One more kind of pitch specific question. And then we’ll shift gears a little bit here. And it’s regarding products, because I actually think that the way you came onto my radar initially was from a gift guide, which in the past, so we’re recording this in January, so we moved past the the Christmas holiday craziness of gift guides, I can only imagine you were inundated. So when it comes to pitches, because kind of a two part question product pitches are the things you look for specifically, and also as a freelance journalist, do you have to deal with affiliate links at all?When it comes?

 

Theresa Christine

I’m not I do not deal with affiliate links with the products. So I think the gift guides you’re referring to are through forums, if I’m correct, because I am I’m a Forbes contributor. So yeah, so I, I don’t I would not insert my own affiliate links into a Forbes article. I’m not sure if Forbes goes in later and does that or anything? But But yeah, I honestly, I can’t speak to that. Because I’ve just, you know, I actually have done it once with one with one publication. And they had a very detailed guide of like, how to put in the the URLs. So that was very helpful. But to be honest, I can’t speak too much to that. But yeah, I did have a lot of folks reach out to me, as you might guess. And I did a Haro form or query. And I looked at every single one of them, I actually did. And I always try to because you never know, like, I you have this mentality you’re like, but what if like, the one that I don’t read is like a really good one. Right, right. So I do look through all of them. And, you know, I started my gift guides, with an idea of a few products that I already wanted to include where I was like, love this, but I need to fill out the gift guide more and have more options, which what are some of these products that I don’t know very well. And yeah, I got some really good responses and got a lot of not applicable responses, but I was able to fill out the gift guide with that.

 

Lexie Smith

Amazing, so be relevant people. Do your research, understand what you’re pitching, don’t just blindly send in sending your product. Okay, so you have I’m switching gears here and then we’re gonna do a couple rapid fire and we’ll wrap up. I know you have your very own podcast. So I’d love to hear a little bit more about what inspired you to launch this and what you talk about on your podcast and what what it’s called so people can find it.

 

Theresa Christine

It’s called The Wild And Curious Podcast. And I created The Wild And Curious overall because I was actually bingeing a lot of parts, unknown episodes. And I think I got it like three seasons, and I was just like, we’re all the ladies like, This show is amazing. It is a very good show. But Anthony Bourdain would very often have male guests on his show, and they would sit at a table while this guests mother or wife would cook them a meal, and it would just be the guys talking and I just put I don’t know something about that just rubbed me the wrong way. And so I was like, what about the women like, what is their story? So I wanted to create basically an intersectional feminism, travel and culture podcast that allowed people to experience the culture of a place through the eyes of women there, and through the eyes of extraordinary women. And we define women as anyone who identifies as a woman. So we basically invite really incredible people on the show who are very often like the first or the only or they’re just, you know, breaking cultural barriers in in the place that they live. And we talk about what it’s like being a woman in the place that they are. So, for example, we invited and had fresh deferral on our podcast, and she started the first coding School for Girls and Afghanistan. And yeah, it’s, she’s so incredible. And it’s not a podcast to be like, wow, we’ve got it so great in America, like we we also have guests here from the United States, we had actually our first episode ever was with a female surf club called Wahine Chi women’s surf club. They’re based in Huntington Beach. And you know, surface surfing is a male dominated sport. Men like in professional competitions, men get paid more for it. So yeah, we just basically my my co host, and I, I really wanted it to be like, you know, two friends talking to these women and kind of like creating a community and we just talk about their lives. And it’s, it’s really fascinating to get to know other places through people who live there, and through people who are doing really cool things.

 

Lexie Smith

How do you find out about these these women in these groups? Are you just hopping onto Google? Are you being pitched? Or how are they getting on your radar?

 

Theresa Christine

You know, we haven’t gotten too many pitches yet from from people. We have more been doing research on our own. And actually, when we started, I did use a lot of my PR contacts to kind of reach out and through that is actually how I got connected with a woman named Siena Ben scheck, who works for intrepid travel company. And so that’s how, you know, for me, like getting someone from intrepid on the show was huge. And it was so cool. Before we even ish, like before we even released an episode to reach out to this publicist and be like, you know, this is the mission, this is what we’re trying to do. And to have the publicist be like, yes, 100% on board. It was really cool. And I was just like, it was so nice to have somebody excited about what we were doing as well. And for me, I was so honored to have a large company like that. And we’ve had one seat expeditions Come on, you know, we’ve had this wonderful young woman who’s an astronaut and training and she’s, like, 19 years old, and she very well might be the first person to land on Mars in 2030, or like, you know, in the 2030s. So, yeah, it’s definitely publicists have been helpful, especially as we have grown now and are reaching out to even larger guests. And those larger guests that we were able to have, at first were because I had those connections.

 

Lexie Smith

Amazing. One more time. What’s the name of the podcast that people have? Because I’m sure right now they’re ngoing I want to listen to that. I know I do. So what is it called again?

 

Theresa Christine

It’s called The Wild And Curious Podcast.

 

Lexie Smith

Okay, phenomenal. So we’re gonna shift into kind of this last section, I call it rapid fire. So there’s, there’s no right or wrong answers all preferential and it’s, it’s taken us back to really your preferences and being pitched. Okay. So, do you prefer certain day of the week to be pitched?

 

Theresa Christine

No.

 

Lexie Smith

Okay.

 

Theresa Christine

Although, can I add, please, I will say Mondays are always a crazy busy day, because the weekend, you know, I try not to work. So there is a higher chance that an email on a Monday, I will look and be like, I’ll get to that later.

 

Lexie Smith

Fair enough. Which could be bad

 

Theresa Christine

I think. Yeah, I think that could be bad. Yeah. Honestly, if the subject line is interesting, and the content is interesting, like great, but Thursdays and Fridays are so quiet compared to Mondays Tuesdays, that it’s a lot easier to spend time on what I’m looking at.

 

Lexie Smith

That’s very helpful. Okay. Let’s talk pitch length. Is there such thing as too long?

 

Theresa Christine

Yes.

 

Lexie Smith

Okay. How important are photos to you in a pitch?

 

Theresa Christine

Ooh, they certainly are helpful. It’s really, I would say it’s not important if the pitches great, awesome. But knowing that I have them, especially if it’s a horror response. Knowing that I have them makes it a lot easier to put everything together. So it is a nice added bonus. Okay,

 

Lexie Smith

How do you feel about follow ups?

 

Theresa Christine

I think after three, it’s sort of like, I’m sorry. You know, like, sometimes I just don’t have the brain space to respond. And I know that I should try and respond to everyone. But I think after three, I’ve seen it, you’ve reminded me of it. If it’s important and applicable to something I’m going to write, I will come back to you. But yeah, after about three, I’m good.

 

Lexie Smith

So wait, so one, two, fair game.

 

Theresa Christine

Yeah, I think that there are some times when I’ll, I’ll look at it. And I’ll be like, can’t get to this now. Or, like, I need to think about this. And the follow up or the final follow up or, you know, third follow up, will, you know, bump that back up to the top of my emails, and that’s helpful. I think the timing in between your follow ups matters also.

 

Lexie Smith

Okay, so what’s what’s the tip on timing there?

 

Theresa Christine

I think my, the something that irritates me is when someone emails me one day and the next day they follow up. If it’s if it’s time, time sensitive, that’s one thing. I understand that. But if I’ve gotten quite a few recently, where people have followed up just the day after, and I don’t like that.

 

Lexie Smith

Okay. Fair enough. All right. Here’s your last last question of the show. So this is called the Pitching And Sipping Podcast. We talked about writing and PR, and all things pitching. Now, what can we find you sipping? So what is your favorite beverage alcoholic or non alcoholic?

 

Theresa Christine

Ooof! All right, well, I, you know, I love a good Aperol spritz. Like, I know, they went through a phase a couple summers ago, because actually, the Aperol company was really pushing their US publicity. They were really pushing, you know, getting getting recognized. And it had its moment, but it’s always having a moment for me.

 

Lexie Smith

 

I love that I, it’s funny, you say that. I had my first one of those over the holidays. My brother in law made them super good.

 

Theresa Christine

It’s delicious. And you know, some people don’t like it because Aperol has like a sort of herbal bitter quality to it. You know, that’s you mix it with Prosecco, which is a little sweeterr. But yeah, I just I think they’re great. I could drink them all day. Like, it takes me immediately to Italy. You know, just like afternoon time having an aperitivo. It’s ideal.

 

Lexie Smith

I love that. Amazing. So before we wrap up, tell everyone, if they want to get in contact with you. Where should they go? And you know, maybe one more time. Let’s mention the podcast just in case.

 

Theresa Christine

Yeah, you can reach me on my website, theresachristine.com. I’m on social media as @itsmetheresaC. So on Twitter and Instagram, and my podcast is The Wild And Curious Podcast.

 

Lexie Smith

Amazing. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. You’ve been so helpful.

 

Theresa Christine

Thank you so much for having me. This is really great to talk about and you had some good questions that I hadn’t thought of before.

 

Lexie Smith

Thank you, I try. Cheers!

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