Who Are The Top Food and Travel Writers? Consider Kelsey Ogletree!September 16, 2021 | By: Janelle McKinsey
As was the case for many top food and travel writers pitching stories to editors, the pandemic challenged Kelsey Ogletree, just not in the way she imagined. While many writers were facing layoffs, this freelancer realized editors were relying on writers like her to produce stories quickly. She called it frantic, but said she was fortunate to have had so much opportunity to produce engaging travel writing.
Now, looking forward, hoping to visit Germany, Hawaii, or Sweden in the near future, Ogletree is continuing to write and help guide travel publicists and content producers on best practice. She’s still open for pitches from destination marketers, however, and has more than a few thoughts on the best ways to work with her moving through this recovery phase into the future.
Pitch What She Wants
Ogletree has a large portfolio of work covering travel, food, and wellness for publications like AARP, Condé Nast Traveler, Midwest Living, and Wall Street Journal. For travel publicists pitching stories to her and other top food and travel writers, get to know her work before you send off a story idea. She’s wading through a constant river of pitches, so you have to make it count.
“I like an element of personalization, showing they know me,” she said. She’s not looking for generic press releases or mass email blasts and can see right through that.
Also, as a freelancer, Ogletree wants travel publicists to know that pandemic-related stories and news items aren’t hot topics for her. “My value as a freelancer is finding the trends and pitching more feature stories. That’s my unique perspective that gives me the kind of stories that staff writers might not find,” she said.
Angle It For Her
Don’t throw everything you have at Ogletree and other top food and travel writers and hope she can make a story out of it. She’s traveling, she’s exploring, she’s generating her own ideas. Positioning your pitch with a specific publication in mind, and even a sample headline, will help her see the value in what you’re proposing. “You have to make me want to pursue one of your ideas instead of something that has come out of my head or experience,” she said.
She said to nix the general news pitches and destination overviews, which rarely lead to the results travel publicists want. “Just because it exists doesn’t mean it’s a story,” she said.
The ABCs of Pitching
There are basic elements of pitching that Ogletree wants travel publicists to know. First, include a city and state in their communication. She said it sounds obvious, but when a travel publicist just drops a city name and expects writers to know where it is, it adds a needless hurdle.
Also, keep it short. She wants a specific angle or story idea in 200 words or less. Seems like a big ask, but she has no time to read thousand-word pitches day in and out.
Finally, while mistakes do happen, Ogletree does feel slightly ruffled when a travel publicist writes to her by the wrong name or confuses her work with another writer. It’s not the end of the world for her, but mixing her up with someone else is still a red flag of sorts.
Cut the Cliché
“I don’t want to know that a destination has something for everyone, it’s so cliche. I want to know why it’s attractive and for whom it is attractive,” she said. It’s all part of her biggest pet peeve: writing clichés. From hidden gems and places undergoing a renaissance, this sort of bad writing is something she urges travel publicists to avoid.
“Publicists and journalists are very similar in that we are trying to sell our pitches through words. How you write is important,” she said.
She suggests travel publicists avoid clichés and make sure that these types of phrases are actually useful in their pitches to top food and travel writers. “I want to contribute to something positive instead of contributing to the noise,” she said. For publicists pitching stories to writers, she said it’s the same. They need to ensure they are pursuing quality of quantity.
Go the Distance
Where travel publicists have excelled for Ogletree over the last year has been in putting in some extra work where they may not have before. For a recent feature, a publicist helped her by securing responses from a restaurant chef, helping provide Ogletree with what she needed while still achieving their own goal of highlighting the destination.
“That wasn’t something I expected, but it made me want to work with the publicist again,” she said.
Ogletree gives travel publicists resources on her website and her Office Hours workshops. Follow her on Instagram or sign up for her newsletter “Reading & Eating” where she shares leads for pitching to her. She hopes publicists will take a little extra time to dive into these resources before pitching stories to her and other top food and travel writers so that both sides can work together in the best way possible.
Looking to expand your media network? At DCI, we have spent more than 60 years connecting destinations with the right media outlets and writers. Get in touch with Janelle McKinsey at [email protected] to learn more about how our PR efforts can help your destination marketing efforts when pitching stories.