How to Pitch: Jen Murphy, Deputy Editor AFAR
October 30, 2014
Ever tried to pitch Jen Murphy (@jengoesafar), AFAR Deputy Editor and weekly contributor to the Wall Street Journal What’s Your Workout column? Here’s how to win the heart of this voracious traveler who has visited Dominica, Slovenia, Croatia, Ireland, Mozambique, Maine, and Tennessee in the past few months!
AFAR differentiates itself from other travel magazines with very personal features. Our stories aren’t itinerary-driven; they show how travel can be transformative. AFAR also looks for stories that dive deep into a slice of a destination’s culture. For instance, Mallorca is well known for its beaches but we covered the island’s long history of shoe making.
2. How many pitches do you receive in a single day – and how many do you read?
It’s typical to receive anywhere from ten to 15 pitches a day. I try to read them all by week’s end and be respectful, responding even to simply say “no thanks.” When a pitch is enticing, I set it aside for our semi-monthly feature pitch meetings. All of the editors bring the most interesting ideas they’ve received and we discuss them as a group with the edit and art team to say “yay” or “nay.”
3. What elements influence whether or not you read a pitch?
It makes a huge difference if a pitch is tailored to a specific column. It shows the publicist is familiar with the magazine. The pitch should also be well written and deliver a news hook. If I can put a face to a name that pops up in my inbox I’m more likely to prioritize that email.
4. Do you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest as a resource for story ideas?
We look at all of these social media platforms for inspiration. We had a recent obsession with designer Lotta Jansdotter’s Instagram feed from which we discovered the obscure yet beautiful Scandinavian island, Aland, that is her muse. We sent a writer to visit with her and chronicle why the place is so magical and how it influences her designs and creativity.
5. Should PR professionals be incorporating social media ready content in their pitches for you? If so, what do you need?
PR professionals should always share social media handles and hashtag preferences when they have editors and writers visiting a destination. It doesn’t hurt to include social media strategy in pitches. For example, is there a way to incorporate buzz for a story via twitter or Pinterest in the build up to a story’s publication? How can the story be promoted and shared once it is published?
6. What role, if any, do press trips play in your editorial decision making?
Conventional press trips don’t usually align with the type of travel AFAR focuses on—deeper, richer, more authentic experiential travel. Our stories are also very personal and involve in-depth reporting, press trips simply don’t work for our writers. We accept very few trips and cannot promise any form of editorial coverage.
7. What types of story ideas excite you personally – and motivate you to pursue them further?
Any story that offers a fresh perspective on a classic destination, such as New York City or Paris, or a destination that isn’t on my radar, such as Aland. If a publicist can prove they have insider access to the place then I’m enticed as I’ll obtain a richer story.
8. What is your pet peeve when being pitched and/or working with public relations professionals?
I hate lazy pitches that are simply cut and pasted and sent to a dozen different editors. Every story pitch should be tailored to AFAR. I should have a clear sense that you understand AFAR, our readers and why this story would only work for this publication.
9. In your perspective, where is travel editorial heading?
It’s an exciting time for travel editorial. We have so many ways to tell stories now—print, digital, social, video. Long-form journalism and narrative feature stories will be seen as a luxury and an escape from the daily onslaught of tweets, emails and blogs. AFAR has been a trendsetter in the way our magazine is a tool to inspire travel through rich storytelling and vivid imagery. Ourwebsitehelps readers execute on that inspiration and plan a trip with service-oriented content such as hotel reviews, restaurant suggestions, and insider experiences in destinations.