As an occasional freelance writer, I understand that due dates and deadlines loom large for writers and the publication wheels that grind forward.
That said, I found the following conversation confounding. If you’re going to write, the subjects you contact don’t have a vested interest nor do most care (not in a cruel way) whether you write full-time or not. That’s irrelevant. I don’t write full time and I still take my commitment to what I do write with full credence and weight, no matter the assignment.
What they do care about is a writer doing their homework, looking for information on how to best contact their desired subject, and a little bit about what they are about as it pertains to the questions the writer has. To not do your homework in advance is a bad reflection on the profession you’re representing (journalists and writers) as well as rude to the subject.
Here’s where we started:
My name is [XYZ] and I write for the [ABC]. I’m doing a story for the upcoming edition focused on [topic here]. I was chatting with [another beer colleague] and he said you’d be a fun person to interview for the piece. I think I pretty well have a timeline pieced together for the story … but would like to get some comments on what factors may have lead to the microbreweries kind of taking off when they did and some thoughts on what distinguishes our scene and our brews. I apologize for the last minute nature 1, you were a later referral 2, but my deadline is Wednesday evening 3, so if there’s anyway you could find a moment to give me a call or let me know when might be a good way to reach you 4 it would be much appreciated.
1. Apologizing up front, while it may seem like a good idea to some, it’s a bad idea. It makes the writer look frazzled and time not well-managed.
2. I’m fine with being a “later referral.” That said, invite me in a different way. How about ” I was talking with XYZ and they said I should contact you. I realize it’s later in the game and would welcome the opportunity to talk with you as I also think you’d be a great fit.” *
*this indicates the writer has done even a small amount of research on the person, me in this case, to see about suitability.
3. Your emergency and due date is not my urgency. Period. Pressure is good for making diamonds, bad for requesting interviews. Like a good friend and valued colleague in the industry told me once, she decides which interviews to give base don her schedule. It’s that simple: don’t put a your deadline on the subject.
4. The writers’ grammar is poor. A red flag off the bat! Next, I’ve got a Contact Us page with directions and a form to help guide. Many don’t take the time to see and fill that out, so it’s not a huge deal – though using it indicates a higher level of professionalism. As well, my direct HQ number is on every page of my website. It tells me this writer is sloppy and not doing any homework, especially since I have my preference for contacting me clearly stated on my site.
With an extremely full work schedule this month and wanting to be available, at first I replied in the positive, with a time and location option that worked for me within the writers’ time frame.
So I told them:
“845 am confirmed this time.
Advice: Do some simple basic research on your subjects before contacting them. My number is in my email signature, always – as well as online, on every single page of my site. People are more likely to be available to those who do some homework. See you in the morning.”
Then I got to thinking.
No, this writer hasn’t done their diligence, their due date doesn’t work comfortably for me, and the publication (with respect, quite frankly though) isn’t going to do much for my business. We all have to make choices. Not all press is good press. Good press to me and my business is well done, professional, helpful, and tuned into the subject.
Once I replied with my change, I also stated:
” Hi – After more thought and looking at my calendar, I’ll bow out of meeting with you tomorrow. The month of June is extremely full professionally and personally, and while I appreciate you’re wanting to talk, your deadline doesn’t jive with what my priorities are. Next time you’re in search of and have a week – two weeks of time for the piece, feel free to call me. I wish you well on the article. Cheers – Ginger”
The writers’ reply amazed me in the lack of professional commitment, again – how much time you put into something is irrelevant. Do it like you mean it, being a positive reflection of the entire industry. Again I’ll bring up a very poor attention to grammar and spelling. Woof! While I think they are well-intentioned, the writing skills as exhibited in their emails alone turn me way off. Why give an interview to someone who’s either not getting proper guidance, or is writing for a low quality publication?! That simply doesn’t work for me as it then can reflect negatively on my business, however incidentally related.
Here’s the writers’ reply, my comments in red.
“I can appreciate being busy for sure -this isn’t my full time job or anything, [wow!!] I’m just a free lancer doing it because I love my community and do what I can to promote and elevate it.[then invest in yourself and the people trusting you to do a good job] Thanks for the advice, for some reason the full signature didn’t come up when I opened the email, but I’ll take note. [I find this very hard to believe, as I self check this regularly] I had contacted you just after the referral and typically knowing the inside outs of a person isn’t all that necessary before an interview has even been granted. [strongly disagree – bad grammar…again] Plus, when it’s the website of an organization, typically I don’t assume the number listed is the director’s cell number. [why not? It’s clearly stated on the Contact page that it’s my number] I appreciate you considering it though and will keep you in mind down the line. However, being a bi-weekly publication, our deadline comes a little quicker than people might be used to around here. [if you know it’s every two weeks, then you can still plan ahead] Generally, I’m getting about 5 days notice (especially challenging when the first three of those are a holiday weekend). [so? try calling on a weekend – you’ve nothing to lose] Whether it’s been the sheriff, city council members, or the owner of the local baseball team it generally hasn’t been a big deal thus far to just call and hit someone up for an interview. [it’s not a big deal – you simply need to get your poop in a group] Some people are busier than others I suppose. [untrue – we all have 24/7 and have our own priorities. set yourself up for success by being more organized and focused on what you choose to do] Thanks for considering, I look forward to meeting you in the future.”
I do wish the writer well and hope they get some sorely needed professional development. Cheers to those who set the bar as professionals in the writing and journalism community. To them, I’m much more inclined to be available.