How to Pitch: Anna Haines, A Canadian With U.S. Media Placement PowerFebruary 27, 2020
Looking to pitch writers? Meet Anna Haines. Hailing from Toronto, she is a Canadian travel writer and photographer who has carved out a healthy career in travel media. With bylines in AFAR and USA Today, she has no trouble placing stories, if she has what she needs.
Following a trip to our New York office, Haines chatted with our team about what sorts of stories she likes and how she hopes to work with publicists who pitch to write about certain destinations. Like many travel journalists, Haines forms relationships with PR professionals, which help link her to the stories she wants to tell. And like many travel journalists, she has also noticed shortcomings in these relationships.
If you’ve never been a journalist, it might be hard to understand why PR and journalism are sometimes seemingly at odds – but it’s actually quite simple. Journalists pride themselves on being independent, embracing an objective method in their work, espousing transparency. Professional ethics are all they have to distinguish them from any other writers, so they do their best to maintain high standards.
So, when an inexperienced publicist hounds a journalist about an angle that isn’t newsworthy, it’s easy to feel that credibility slipping away. The journalist may feel like the destination is trying to buy her, rather than allowing her to produce credible journalism. In many instances, however, the only way to get the actual story is to work with PR professionals.
Starting to see the conundrum? It’s a fine line to walk – but walk it, journalists must.
The takeaway is that PR and travel journalists have a relationship that is as necessary as it can be is tenuous. So, in yet another of our “How to Pitch” series, we interviewed Anna Haines to get her thoughts on how she works with PR professionals while learning more about what she looks for in travel public relations and in a good pitch.
As she’ll explain, PR isn’t a journalist’s best friend, but it’s definitely not an enemy.
DCI: What got you into travel writing in the first place?
AH: I sort of fell into it! After working in the international development sector for the UNDP, philanthropic foundations, etc., I shifted to study photojournalism out of a desire to feel a more tangible impact on the people whose lives I was trying to assist. I completed a degree at the International Center of Photography in NYC and began a photo internship with lifestyle magazine Electrify shortly afterwards. They noticed my writing abilities and so when assigned stories to photograph, I was also asked to write too. As they say, the rest is history.
DCI: What was the biggest hurdle?
AH: The biggest hurdle is ongoing. Freelancing is a hustle and as someone who likes to feel in control, it’s very stressful having to pitch to multiple publications and balance unpredictable timelines. For example, you never know when you’ll land several assignments at once.
DCI: What do you think are three challenges to travel writers today?
AH: First, outlets not having enough money to fund freelancers. Or even if they have the money to work with freelancers, they lack the on-staff bandwidth to handle all the editing. Second, outlets increasingly creating branded content and working with PR firms directly — cuts out the travel writer as the middleman. Thirdly, influencers doing work for free is driving down the value of travel journalists’ work.
DCI: How does PR help travel writers?
AH: Access, access, access! They help put us in touch with the people that are crucial to the story. They get us into places that are hard to approach on our own. For example, restaurants may be quick to assume I’m an average customer or influencer when I pull out my camera, and servers can’t answer all my questions on the spot. They help fund us, so we don’t have to pay for all of our trips, and very rarely do I make back what I spend on trips.
DCI: How does PR hinder it, if at all?
AH: It diverts attention away from the businesses that don’t have the money to afford PR but are still worth being seen.
DCI: What advice would you give to a PR person trying to attract your attention?
AH: Send me story ideas rather than general information. Be concise and avoid vague descriptors (I.e. fresh cuisine, bespoke design features, authentic, etc.). Be clear whether your email is a press release vs. press trip invite (I.e. very rarely will I pursue a story or including your client in a piece if the email is clearly an email blast out with a link at the end saying “let me know if you need images”).
DCI: Was there ever a horrible attempt by a PR person?
AH: Revoking a group press trip invite was the worst experience I had. It completely diminished my credibility with my editor. An unorganized publicist sets off all the alarms to me now.
DCI: Can travel writing exist without PR?
AH: Yes! But the writers would have to be very rich! I sometimes wonder if travel writing would be better without PR, because I like to think it would filter out all the so-so stories and elevate the really meaningful ones, because it would require so much more effort on behalf to the writers to pursue that story on their own.
DCI: What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned during your travel writing career?
AH: That many publicists want to be journalists, but they can’t afford it.
Interested in learning more about working with journalists and the travel media? We’ve got a pitch for you! Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn more about how DCI can help develop your media strategy to land coverage of your destination.