I’ve been attending the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) annual conference here in Portland this week, and besides tasting some amazing food during the opening night reception (and meeting/seeing a “who’s who” of the culinary world, including Ruth Reichl, Kim Severson and others), I’ve attended a few interesting seminars.
The “Pitch-O-Rama” on Thursday featured five top food journalists: Victoria von Biel (Bon Appetit), Laurie Buckle (Fine Cooking) Silvana Nardone (Every Day with Rachael Ray) Martha Holmberg (formerly with The Oregonian, but now working in PR and writing for a local restaurant/lifestyle magazine) and Joe Yonan (Washington Post).
The seminar format gave freelance food writers, bloggers and (to a lesser extent) PR people a chance to to publicly pitch their story ideas to the panel in 90 seconds. Before that got underway, the editors shared some general pitching tips worth passing along. NOTE: These apply more to freelancers pitching a story versus PR people pitching a client – which most editors indicated caused them to routinely hit the delete button.
Fine Cooking: The magazine is all about cooking. It teaches techniques through the lens of a recipe. Don’t pitch a product on its own merits. Turn the product into a story. What can the editor pull out of it? Make an experience part of the story, then put the brand secondary.
Every Day With Rachael Ray: Fast, Easy, Fun is what we’re all about. We like to present stories that help readers cross things off their list, not add to them. General doesn’t work. Make the pitch worth our time. Brevity is key. The first line of the pitch must deliver. We love supermarkets and how home cooks can use them.
Bon Appetit: We’re the largest “epicurean” magazine. We cover the classics, but with a twist. Stories build around a trend like molecular gastronomy, for example, are no longer good enough to stand on their own. Drill down to another level to present something new.
- Editors are admittedly selfish people. It’s their job to peel back the layers of a story idea and find what’s relevant for their readers.
- Most monthlies begin planning their holiday cooking issues (Thanksgiving) a year in advance.
- They almost never accept/will use writer-generated photography. Magazines shoot their own.
- Don’t overlook the online component of monthly magazines. Consider using video to support the pitch.
This was my first IACP conference, and I’m so glad I decided to attend (being hosted in my own city certainly helped in that decision). It’s a terrific place to network and meet hundreds of like-minded people who are passionate about food.