Pitching Insights from the CNN Digital Travel Global Team: Katia Hetter and Marnie Hunter
February 27, 2017
Recently, DCI had the opportunity to host two members of the CNN Digital Travel Global Team, writer/producer Katia Hetter and senior producer Marnie Hunter. We were able to get a closer look at what these experienced travel writers — who receive 500 to 600 emails per day (whoa!) — expect from destination publicists when it’s pitching time. Here’s what we learned.
Always try to pitch at least one or two months in advance. It’s important to give writers enough time to plan their travels and stories. Even though Katia and Marnie couldn’t share their editorial calendar with us (bummer!), they emphasized how important it is to make sure they haven’t recently written on the destination or topic you’re pitching, as they most likely won’t write about it again soon.
Travel writers look for an unusual or unique angle on any story (that’s no news to us). Katia suggested finding the local point of view, something that is inclusive and will say “Come play! We want you to enjoy this place as much as we do.” For videos and interviews the CNN Digital Travel Global Team likes to find a local storyteller: someone who could work on camera but is not necessarily an expert, who has a local reputation and can provide a personal perspective on the story (here’s an example: Midwesterner Michael White cooks with the soul of an Italian).
Last but not least, if the destination has a distinct attribute, call it out! For instance, a city where there is no need to rent a car creates a host of story possibilities based on that feature alone.
Get to the point – quickly!
The subject line of your email is critical. It should be concise and catchy. Katia and Marnie confided that they usually create folders and files based on the destination and story angle highlighted in the subject line of every email. If the email doesn’t measure up, it gets deleted.
Show as well as tell
Even though images are not mandatory, they help capture attention. If you want to share photos with a writer, make sure they are unfiltered or raw, to give the writer more options, and use a high-resolution format. It’s preferable to share destination photos through Dropbox, or another file hosting service — no one likes attachments. Finally, don’t forget to include captions and credits and give rights to use the images.