Not just for Christmas (though the lead-up to Christmas feasting is a very busy time for them), food and drink journalists are snowed under all year round with restaurant launches and closures, introducing their audience to emerging food trends, typing up recipes for their readers to try and recommending seasonal ingredients and produce for meals, snacks and all-round sustenance.
Over the last month alone, almost a thousand journalists from national and regional newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, websites and blogs have sent out food and drink-related requests to PRs via the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service. With certain produce hard to get hold of in lockdown, and restaurants under extreme pressure to survive, writers in the sector have had to switch their focus and find new ways to feature food and tempt in their readers.
Here are five recommendations and requests from food and drink writers for how you can help keep them fed with relevant contributions.
1. News of reopenings and seasonal pitches should always be on the menu
‘With everything still a bit up in the air at the moment, I’m very interested to hear about stories of restaurants re-opening/doing different things, ultimately continuing to thrive against all odds. Or at least trying to. The same goes for brands.
‘Given the nature of most of my work being online, I don’t tend to even start thinking about Christmas content until at least mid-October, unless it’s very time crucial, or for a feature that requires lots of planning.’
Jonathan Hatchman is the food and drink editor at The London Economic and covers topics including restaurants openings, reviews, food news and trends.
2. Pitches should be seasoned to individual taste
‘Tailor your approach to each journalist and give up scattergun press releases (unless you’ve got a product launch or similar). I know it’s time consuming, but it’s worth it. 99% of approaches I get are generic emails written by someone who has no idea what I write about. So, for example, I write a lot for The Telegraph, which has a clearly defined demographic and very specific sections – you have to do your research and suggest an idea that might work for one of those sections. Time invested in this is well worth it – and aim it at me. Newspapers love to know they’re the only ones who will have that angle – if I say no, move on.
‘I need a story not a topic. “Woman runs sourdough baking classes” (a press release I received recently) isn’t a story. There has to be an angle, something fresh and ideally newsworthy; why is she interesting? What makes her perfect for my publication? What makes her different to other people giving baking classes?
‘Consider pitching the product/person as part of a broader trend piece and again, do some research. I once wrote a great piece for The Guardian about plant milks (at the time, they were quite new) and their booming popularity. The PR backed up her pitch with statistics, examples of plant milks, and suggested using the person behind ‘her’ brand as an expert commentator for the piece. This pitch worked really well, and gave her brand exposure when they would never have commanded a piece purely devoted to them.’
Sue Quinn is a food writer and journalist regularly contributing to publications including The Daily Telegraph’s Saturday supplement, The Guardian, delicious. and The Washington Post. Find out more about her work on her website penandspoon.com.
3. Emailing first is still a recipe for success
‘I personally find email the best way method of contact, as you can get all the info in one place and it’s much better – DMing on social media is an easy way for me to miss it, which is unfortunate. If a PR has a great idea that they need inspiration for, or they know what they want already, I am up for having a chat to see if it will work!’
4. Like good food, good pitches need time
‘Unless it’s completely irrelevant, I’m open to hearing about most things, but please do bear in mind that journalists receive a huge amount of emails. I do try to reply to all pitches (even those “Hi XXXX/[insert first name]” emails), but it takes time. Unless it’s super urgent, please don’t chase me within 24 hours or so of sending the initial email. Everybody has a different system, but I work backwards[?] so a quick follow up will just push the original email to the back of the queue.
‘Also, quite importantly: on behalf of all journalists and editors, please, please, please refrain from sending passive-aggressive ALL CAPS FOLLOW UPS. It won’t make us reply any quicker. I promise.’
5. Ensure your ingredients are right (does this serving need to be vegan, gluten-free, etc.?)
‘PRs can happily contact me via the contact form on my website, which will land straight in my inbox. Of course, the one caveat is that the product has to be gluten-free. I do get emails asking me to collaborate, then I find out that the product isn’t right for me.
‘I’m passionate about food photography, but I love creating recipe tutorial videos over on my YouTube channel, too. So, either works for me!’
Becky Excell is a baking blogger sharing gluten-free food ideas and photography. Read more in her Blogger Spotlight.