Receiving an average of 100 pitches a day, Lydia Dishman is one of the very few editors who makes an effort to reply to each and every one that she receives. Shifting into an editor role this year, she focuses on working with outside contributors on feature pieces that dig into ongoing workplace and leadership trends as opposed to breaking news topics, though she occasionally still writes for the Fast Company news channel.
We caught up with Lydia to discuss her biggest PR pet peeves, the dos and don’ts of pitching her, and how she approaches story writing.
Before pitching me (or any other reporter), PR professionals should really get in the habit of doing their due diligence and checking to see if I’ve already covered their client or the topic. It’s simple, just Google the journalist’s name + your client’s name. This makes intros much easier.
I also ask PR professionals, do NOT pitch a client without knowledge of my coverage area OR without trying to figure out how that client could work into my beat. Another thing that should be avoided is pitching me and several of the other writers I work with simultaneously.
I tend to look for the subject line which may catch my interest, however, I am always looking for a concise pitch, so relevance and brevity are key. If you’re writing four paragraphs and telling me what the story is, it’s way too much. In my LinkedIn profile, I share that pitches should be distilled to five sentences. I feel like if you have to go longer than that, then you really haven’t clearly thought out what the angle is that you’re pitching, and that makes me have to do a lot more work to wade through your pitch.
While a good subject line is always catchy, I’m NOT a fan of somebody writing “time-sensitive” in all caps, although I do understand that is often a thing. I am often not a breaking news reporter, so that is not much of a thing for me. However, in my role as a staff editor at Fast Company, I do pay attention to time-sensitive topics for outside contributors who may have a hot take on a news item.
This isn’t as relevant anymore as I’m not writing daily as I used to. But, when I was writing exclusively, the majority of my story ideas were actually born of pitches I received. In most cases, I pull from a thread that sparks a different idea. For example, this was the case for a piece I wrote on the best places to work from home. The topic grew out of a lot of different pitches, from a lot of different people discussing the productivity hacks during the pandemic.
On slow news days, I would pull from the pitches on interesting reports that could be turned quickly. I’m a journalist. I love data. I love reports. That said, there are certain parameters that we follow for surveys, not the least of which is that they can’t be conducted by a company that has a stake in the results. Thanks to Pew Research Center, we’ve figured out that the sample size needs to be a thousand (or more). However, generally around a thousand is needed to be a completely representative sample of whatever it is that you’re doing. Those that come in 250 to 500 don’t feel like a standard representative sample.
I used to meet with companies and CEOs in the Fast Company office. Now, us journalists are just trying to do more with fewer hours. I look forward to the day we can get back to in-person interviews and meetings post-pandemic.