This interview explores some tips and insights of respected business journalist Nina Hendy, who has worked both as an inhouse journalist and freelancer with bylines gracing BRW, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, SmartCompany, Startup Smart, Public Accountant and more recently for BBC Worldwide.
And as a regular user of SourceBottle to source outstanding talent, Sourcey subs everywhere are asking her: How do I get you to PICK ME as a source for your next story? This episode provides some answers. Enjoy!
BEC DERRINGTON: So, we’re going to talk about how to get free publicity using SourceBottle. First of all, I’d just like to introduce Nina Hendy.
Nina's an Australian journalist who writes about business, marketing, entrepreneurs, startups, solopreneurs, self-made millionaires... I wish... money, and finance.
She’s regularly published in BRW and various sections of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, SmartCompany, Startup Smart, Public Accountant and has just started writing business stories for BBC Worldwide.
She’s also a content journalist and specialist, which is a really exciting kind of change in the media landscape. And so she’s hired to write for big brands and small businesses, including Microsoft, Telstra, Virgin Money, Westpac and Sensis.
She’s also authored several short business ebooks for leading Australian brands, and hired by thought leaders to ghost write their columns, which appear in leading local and international publications.
So, welcome Nina.
NINA HENDY: Thank you. I started using SourceBottle about the same time I decided to go freelance. So, I’m very grateful to you, Bec, for creating SourceBottle so that I could do my job.
BEC DERRINGTON: I’m very, very happy to hear that. So, we want to pick your brain about exactly how you’ve done that. But, first of all, tell us just, you know... I know I’ve probably stolen a lot of your thunder. But, tell us a bit about you and what you do.
NINA HENDY: Well, I started freelancing in 2009. I’d been in newspapers and magazines for a decade or more. And, I always wanted to be a journalist.
And, often, I’d be getting briefs and wouldn’t really understand how I’m supposed to fill these vague briefs. Like, find someone that just sold their house in Melbourne to talk about tax breaks or stamp duty or whatever it might be.
So, SourceBottle was really my savior because I could find those unusual people through your site. And, also, if I was writing more on business or marketing, I could often find people I didn’t even consider to interview.
So, it’s really an opportunity for me to post up what I’m interested in and what I’m looking for and to get someone to respond, lots of people to respond, to give me ideas of, you know, things outside of who I might necessarily straight away go to, to interview and get some new ideas.
So, it’s been great. I really, really get a lot out of it.
BEC DERRINGTON: So, do you think it really helps because of the new challenges of being a journalist in this era? Can you share with us some of the challenges that you have as a journalist in this day and age, in this era?
NINA HENDY: Well, there’s less of us, as everybody knows, and there’s more pressure. Freelance journalism, I guess, is different, if you ask me. But, we’re given more the sort of big-picture brief.
So, I feel as though the in-house newspaper journalists and magazine journalists are given their day-to-day stuff and the freelancer is handling more of the big picture stuff. So, the challenge I face is time. There’s just never enough of it. There’s lots and lots of great briefs coming my way and not enough time to fill them.
Often, the briefs can be quite vague. So, you know, like finding someone who loves online shopping that lives in Sydney to be able to be interviewed this week.
So, literally, other than sharing it on Facebook saying, “Does anyone live on Sydney?”, you know, where would you go as a journalist to find someone? I’m not any more special than anyone else. So, I’ve got to find that person and make the brief. So, SourceBottle is a savior for that.
The other challenges are photography. A lot of the times, journalists these days have to come up with some photography, particularly if it’s... I mean, I book photos for Fairfax but, also, it’s really great if I can present some photography with my story.
So, it’s really great to have some things available.
If you’re a business owner, holdups are a big challenge for me.
So, the talent saying to me, “Yes, I’ll get back to you,” and then not calling for a couple of days and you’re just thinking, “Oh, it’s gonna be close to my deadline.” I might have to move on.
BEC DERRINGTON: It’s good to remind people of that sort of thing. I mean, these sorts of challenges are very real for you. And so we, as potential sources, need to appreciate that when you need us, you really need us and we need to respect that.
NINA HENDY: Yeah. I mean, we would never really tell you our real deadline. We have to be in control, whether it’s an in-house or an external journalist. I’ve been both.
We can’t really say, you know, it’s next Wednesday or whatever it might be. We have to tell you that we need it within the next three days so that we’ve got the information ready to be able to make sure we’ve done our research and we’re presenting an accurate story. So, they’re the main deadlines.
Having said that, I always make sure that I’ve got enough time so if someone amazing comes through, there’s always time for them.
So, that’s the challenge. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve given your talent some deadlines but, at the same time, if, you know, Oprah drops out of the air tomorrow and wants to be interviewed, you’ve got time to interview her. So, you’re also juggling, as a freelancer, because you're writing for a lot of publications.
If they ring me, they’ll say, “Oh, hi. It’s so and so.” Let’s say Karen’s ringing me. “I’m ringing you about that story.” I might have nine on the go at the moment. So, I don’t know. I may be unsure as to which one you’re talking about.
BEC DERRINGTON: Understandable.
NINA HENDY: 'Cause you’ve got, you know, six interviews for the nine stories that you’re juggling.
BEC DERRINGTON: So, on average, how many responses would you get to a ‘call out’?
NINA HENDY: Oh, it depends.
I mean, if it’s something like a business story, I literally might get 60. So, I have to... I read every single response and I’m looking for someone that’s giving me really specific information because I have to read 60! I thought I had to make time for 10 and I’ve suddenly got 60 and in there somewhere, is the right person. So, I’ve got to literally read every single one.
I would never not read every single one because the one you don’t read is the one that’s the right person for this story.
So, you read all of them and then you’re looking through it quickly to find the person that’s telling me who they are, what they do, you know, where they stand on an issue. I like to know straight away, you know?
You know, “I’m a tax expert and I’m really passionate about working with women in small business”, you know, “and helping entrepreneurs” or whatever it is.
That just makes it really easy. And, I think, “Oh, they’re great. Maybe for next time. But, for now, I’ll keep moving on.” But, it’s really good.
I save all those ‘call outs’ for a later time, in my contacts, for down the track.
But, yeah, it’s best not to be everything to everyone. You’ve just got to answer the ‘call out’ because the brief doesn’t change, no matter what you say. The brief is exactly the same so, you’re best responding to the brief as well as you can.
BEC DERRINGTON: So, tell me, the advantages of using SourceBottle for you when you’re searching for your perfect source?
NINA HENDY: Well, it’s not just quick, because you can lay your hands on people very quickly to find the right business person... find someone because there’s more and more... I mean, I’ve been using it since from the absolute get go. When did you launch?
BEC DERRINGTON: July 2009.
NINA HENDY: Yup. I was freelancing three months before that, full time. So, I’ve been using it since then and loving it every week. So, you know, I think...
What was the question, Bec?
BEC DERRINGTON: Yeah, it was just the advantages you feel of using SourceBottle, which might help people understand why you use it and how they can tailor their responses.
NINA HENDY: Yup. The advantages are... it’s really quick. I hang out every day for 10am and 2pm. First of all, I love to be able to see what’s on the news and then what other people are blogging and writing about.
It’s a bit of a virtual watercooler, really. I sort of like to be able to look at it and see who’s writing what. That, and Facebook and Twitter. And, when I get a new job on my desk, I like to put it up on SourceBottle straight away, it’s become a bit of a habit, so that I can... I know I don’t need to start working on something for a day or two but, I can start the ball rolling by putting it on SourceBottle.
I’ve got the responses coming in the next day or later that day, 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock. So, I can sort of see what’s coming up and who might work for me. And, then I can sort of schedule the interviews for a day or two after that.
So, that’s sort of the timelines I work to. Not everyone’s the same. But, that’s sort of how I work and that’s how I use it.
BEC DERRINGTON: Yeah.
NINA HENDY: So, often, someone obscure will come up that you hadn’t found through Google or... you know, I’ve got a contact book. But, you now, it’s alright to put it out there and see what else might come along.
And because you can be anonymous, you can just write about your brief and see what comes up.
I do wanna say, I wrote one recently and included the name of the publication I was writing for, for SourceBottle, and the editor of that publication contacted me and said, “Where have you put, you know, the fact that you’re writing a story? We keep getting all these PRs hounding us.”
That’s often why we... particularly external [journalists], I’m not sitting in the office of SmartCompany or BRW. I’m external. I don’t want my editors to be hounded so I would always choose to be anonymous.
It doesn’t mean it’s some far-out publication in the middle of nowhere. It just means I need to respect my editors’ time. They’ve hired me to do the story. I’ve got the ‘call out’ on SourceBottle but, I don’t necessarily want to be, you know, naming where I’m gonna be writing this story. Once you contact me and you fit the bill, I’ll tell you all about it. But, I can’t always name them.
BEC DERRINGTON: So, Nina, tell me what do you look for in a response to a ‘call out’?
NINA HENDY: Yes. I’ve just got a couple of notes here. So, I wanna make sure I answer everything succinctly.
So, I look for some sort of qualification from people. For example, they’ve been an accountant in Sydney for 20 years, servicing SMEs... or, if they’re specialising in something in particular, then it’s a good time to let me know.
You know, give me the sort of big picture stuff. “I’ve just launched my new business and,” you know, “I’m learning on the fly but, I’m really passionate about startups,” or, whatever it might be.
I don’t just take your response as a reason to talk to you, of course, regardless of how controversial or whatever you might be. I need to qualify you. I am a journalist. This isn’t the only place I go to to find talent.
So, that means checking your website or searching the net for stories you’ve been in, when you’ve been quoted, checking your LinkedIn. And, if these aren’t up to standard, it’s less likely that I want to follow up with an interview. So, making sure that, you’ve got a really good online presence.
Generally, I’m a business person. I do that myself. I make sure my LinkedIn’s up to date, my website’s up to date, you know, that my byline’s seen in the right places. So, it’s the same thing in business.
You’ve gotta make sure that your website is saying you do what you say you’re doing in your ‘call out’. If there’s some sort of doubt there, I’m less likely to want to pick the phone up and interview you.
I don’t necessarily want people to answer the call out. Often I’ll write questions in my ‘call outs’. It’s just sort of giving you a bit of an idea of what it is. But, more important than answering the questions, is telling me who you are and why you should be answering the questions.
As I said, you might say, “I’m an accountant who’s been working in a certain field for a long time,” or, you know, you’re a specialist in social media and you’ve been doing that for eight years.
And, then you might give me your stance, your big-picture stance. “I’m particularly passionate about this,” or “I really don’t like this about my industry,” or whatever it might be. Feel free to put that in there.
And, then it piques my interest. It makes me think, “Yes. They sound interesting. I’ll pick the phone up and ask some more questions.”
BEC DERRINGTON: Yeah. It’s actually funny you say that, Nina, ‘cause it’s one of those things that I often recommend to people when they’re asking me these sort of questions, which is why it’s good to be able to ask you directly.
So, you know, you, as a journalist, are going to cover both sides of the story. You want to provide balance. So, is that what you mean when you say to state what your position is on a topic?
NINA HENDY: Yes. So, just explaining whether you’re... you know, as you say, you’re covering the glorious side of owning real estate in Sydney and you’re also covering the terrible side of owning real estate in Sydney and the cost. So, tell me if you’re handling that situation well or if you’re really struggling and you’re more on that side. Because, in my story, I often need to cover both points of view.
So, you need to consider whether you’re one or the other and sell me on that position so that I can clearly see when I see the ‘call out’ that you’re one or the other.
BEC DERRINGTON: Perfect. And, so can you give me some examples, and I know we’ve laughed about some things of the past, of some of the less useful responses you’ve had.
NINA HENDY: I understand the situation with PRs because more and more they’re feeling the pressure with clients saying, “I’m not going to give an interview unless it’s these four publications.” But, I can’t announce that in my ‘call out’ because as an external freelancer, I want to just sort of put the feelers out.
And, I think my advice would be to understand that that’s up to the journalist to decide if they’d like to speak with someone, not for PRs to decide whether they want to speak to a journalist.
So, if you’re a PR... I do get quite a few saying, “We might have a client that’s interested but, we need to check.” It’s a really big turn off as a journalist. That’s up for journalists to find out and qualify PRs, not the other way around.
They’ll say, you know, “We’ve got this small business owner. I think they’ll be perfect for you. I look forward to hearing from you.”
Don’t sort of bleed me for information on what the publication is. I’ll tell you as soon as I can. And, sometimes, I won’t say because while I certainly have a commission when I use SourceBottle, sometimes I can see another story in a ‘call out’ response and I think, “That’s great. I’ll keep that one because that’s another story for next week for Fairfax Money or someone else.” And, I just keep it there and I’ll contact them a week later.
Actually, one of the biggest running stories I had on Fairfax Small Business was someone who responded and who was not right for that ‘call out’ but I could I see an opportunity and, contacted him. And, the editor said, “This story was amazing. Keep giving me stories like this. This was great.”
And, it was a complete fluke that the man wasn’t really answering correctly. But, it did end up being a really great story for me down the track.
But, yeah, some of the less useful responses... I’ve printed a few out. “Are you interested in this kind of thing? I’ve given several talks about Bitcoin payments in the media. Are you interested?” But, the email address is vague. The name doesn’t tell me anything. It’s just someone’s name. And no phone number, no LinkedIn details etc. I don’t even know what he does.
Next one, “I’m a certified practising accountant and last year I wrote about this. I attached my article.” Now, that’s an example of a good ‘call out’. Sorry. I’ve got those in the wrong order.
But, that one was a good one because it didn’t have probably much time but I’ve got his title, where he works, his email address – everything. And, then I’ve got this article so I can certainly call him and say, there’s a bit here I’d like to use.
And, the other one is a PR I’ve worked with a lot and I really respect. But, the response to the ‘call out’ was, “I’m working on a couple of stories around this topic. Do you have a direct email I can get you on? Please tell me the name of the publication.”
And, I’ve got 60 to go through. I literally just don’t have time to email 30 of them to tell them the name of the publication. Simple as that. You know, this is one story for the day, several of those on the go at a time.
BEC DERRINGTON: Now, Nina, not everyone is going to be as polite as you. Not everyone is going to read all 60!
NINA HENDY: I read them all ‘cause often, you’ll get something.
It’s not about length either. Often, it’s something quite short and you think, “Oh, that will work for something else. I’ve got nine jobs on the go at the moment. It’ll be good for that other thing.” And, I’d slip that guy in the folder over there and think, “Yup, that’ll be for something else.” Sort of related ‘cause they run on the same topic.
But, I certainly don’t have time to respond but I read them all. You’ve just got to give me more information about what you’re doing and what’s your title, name, email address, LinkedIn, if you’ve got it handy, web address... you know, that sort of stuff.
I need to be able to make sure you weren’t quoted last week in my opposition. You know, my editor’s opposition. I’ve got to do all that qualifying myself. So, if you can help me do that, that’s great.
BEC DERRINGTON: Okay. So, in summary, because I know that people want to be able to get to their questions in as well. Your top three tips for people using SourceBottle to ensure they get the attention of a journalist?
NINA HENDY: All right. Make sure you satisfy the brief, would be number one. And, then give me your title and what do you do. I mean, you might be a PR specialist but, what do you do within that? Do you specialise in a certain area?
Don’t spend more than five minutes responding to the ‘call out’.
It’s really great if you can give me enough information within five minutes, whether it’s a couple of attachments. Don’t attach pics. But, five minutes to just tell me who you are and why I need to speak to you. So, sell yourself. Use it as an opportunity to sell yourself as a specialist. And, then, you know, give me your top line position on why, where you stand on a situation.
BEC DERRINGTON: Great.
NINA HENDY: Is that enough? Is it all right? I’ve got more but I won’t...
BEC DERRINGTON: I know. I know. We’ll focus on those three. I really want to see whether people have some burning questions. So, I’m opening up the Q & A. Okay?
NINA HENDY: Sure.
BEC DERRINGTON: Okay. Great. So, any questions? So Jenny has asked, “Not to add pics?”.
NINA HENDY: Yeah. I wouldn’t add pics but, I’d say that they’re available. I’d be more interested not to see what you look like but for you to attach a bio. When I say attachments, Jenny, I’m saying previous articles or bios or press releases that you’ve released recently in the last few months.
BEC DERRINGTON: As long as they’re relevant, right? Not just...
NINA HENDY: Yeah. Anything that is relevant to the ‘call out’. But, relevant in terms that it gives me a full picture of who you are.
BEC DERRINGTON: So, do you think that’s pretty standard? I know that a lot of journalists are reluctant to open attachments. I suppose with SourceBottle maybe they feel a little safer with attachments. But, the concern is, of course, that that could contain any kind of things so they’d be reluctant to open an attachment.
NINA HENDY: Oh, I’m not reluctant. I mean, no. I’m happy to open attachments. I mean, most people have got decent spamware on their PCs these days.
BEC DERRINGTON: Ok.
NINA HENDY: Yeah. No, I’ve got no qualms with opening an attachment. I wouldn’t attach more than one or two. And, just let me know if pics are available. So something like, “I’ve got lots of great new images.” Not something that, you know, was in a publication a year ago.
BEC DERRINGTON: So how often should we be getting up-to-date photographs or photography done? And, do we have to pay an external person to do it for us or, can we do it ourselves?
NINA HENDY: Get your photos redone every three or six months. And yes. You need to pay someone external to come in. Unless you happen to be married to an amazing photographer like I am. But, you should. He’s an accountant but he’s handy with the camera.
But, if you can just get some really great shots that show you, you know, what you look like.
And, if your business is expanding and you’re trying to do more, you know, cooking classes as opposed to selling cookbooks, for example, get photos of you more in that environment. Rather than you with the cookbook, get more of you in the class environment. Make sure your photos represent what you’re telling me you do. If you can set aside half a day and just, you know, take lots of photos and then drip feed them out.
So, you might give me these particular ones and, then next week, you give different ones and, then the following three weeks, using a ‘call out’, you know, that’s similar to the stuff I put up, you know, you want to offer me those.
So, sort of swap them around all the time.
And, make sure they’re high resolution, which is 300 to 600 dpi, which is around 1-2MBs. So, when you work them on your screen, they should be the size of both of your hands. They should be about that size.
Make sure they’re big. You don’t want tiny little postage stamps ‘cause I can’t resize them. So, make sure they’re a good size.
BEC DERRINGTON: That’s a really good point.
Now, Elle just asked, “Can you recommend a professional bio to attach to the ‘call out?’”
NINA HENDY: I would look at LinkedIn as well as well as looking at your professional bio. I feel as though LinkedIn’s possibly more accurate than something written that’s, you know, glossy.
But, that’s a great idea to attach a bio as well. That’s what I want to know. I need to be able to qualify you in the ‘call out’. It’s not about answering my questions.
However, if you’ve got the time and you want to answer, you know, a couple of parts, that’s fine. But, don’t go into reams and reams of content and information. Just give me a few parts to whet my appetite and then ask me to pick the phone up.
BEC DERRINGTON: So, can I just ask, an ‘Expert Profile’, do you find them handy?
NINA HENDY: Yeah, they’re great. Expert profiles are actually really good. They come out before [the call out is published and the Drink Up! email newsletter is sent]. They’re pretty new, aren’t they, on your site?
They come out before the newsletter, so they’re in my inbox beforehand. I always read those as well because I think, “Oh, you know, I’ve got a minute. I can sit and have a look and, maybe I’ll just get that interview done.” ‘Cause often in a story, there might be four or five interviews.
So, if I can get one done and it’s not due ‘til next week and, then the next day, another one done, before I know it, it’s sort of written itself because I’ve done my interviews. And, that’s how a lot of journalists work. They don’t sort of write and stop and then interview and write and stop. I think we do tend to do all of the interviews, then we got a clear picture in our heads of what the angle is and, you know...
BEC DERRINGTON: Yeah.
NINA HENDY:... whether it needs more pieces to the jigsaw.
BEC DERRINGTON: Okay. Now, Andrea says, “Thanks Nina. Great session. Do you refer to Google Plus and Instagram at all of your research?”
NINA HENDY: I personally don’t. I don’t look at Google Plus or Instagram. I do look at Twitter and I certainly look at Facebook.
NINA HENDY: But, Instagram is not really... it’s more, you know, pics. And, Google Plus, no.
But, you know Facebook, if you go into a business person’s Facebook and have a look at their posts, you can get a good idea of what they’re about.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that whether you’re an internal or external journalist, like I’m a journalist for BRW but I don’t sit in the office there, is for me to be able to qualify who I’m speaking to.
I don’t want my editor coming back to me and saying, “Oh, he was quoted last week in this other article. We don’t want him quoted again this week.” I need to make sure I’ve done all those checks and balances.
And, if someone’s only been in the industry, for example, they were a nurse and now they’re saying they’re an entrepreneur, I need to know that last week they were a nurse and, they’re probably not the right talent I need to be talking about being an entrepreneur.
So, you know, there’s a lot of work involved in making sure the person’s the right fit.
BEC DERRINGTON: And, look, just another question. In terms of being sort of proactive in terms of creating great content, do you think that’s one of the areas that freelance journalists are going to branch out a lot more into? That owned media space where a brand will own some sort of publication?
NINA HENDY: Definitely. Yeah. I work in that space now and, I write for lots of big brands. I create ebooks and I write articles. Westpac’s got a new site. They’re really good briefs. I’m really proud to do those stories.
It’s not like sort of the old school advertorial. They’re a really amazing topic aiming at SMEs and they want to tell SMEs about how to get a loan. But, my briefs don’t speak to anyone at Westpac. They speak to everyone else. And, that’s good content. That’s really quality content.
So, there’s often opportunities in that content space for me to be interviewing independent people in the finance space or, you know, whatever it might be that I’m writing about, to give me information. There’s more and more brands wanting to hire journalists.
I sit in both camps. I’ve got a foot in both camps and, I’m really proud of that. I really enjoy the diversity of doing both. And, I feel as though I’ve got the skills as a journalist to create really great content for the brands as well and business owners.
So, yeah, there’s good opportunity there.
You know, I always make sure I let them know it’s going on. It’s for Sensis or it’s for Westpac or whoever the publication might be. Private Media, which is SmartCompany ‘cause I write their content as well. So, yeah, there’s a lot more of that going on.
BEC DERRINGTON: I just wanted to stress why I’m asking that question, is that if those sort of ‘call outs’ appear, people should know they’re very credible stories. And, audiences are usually significant. And, so it’s certainly not an opportunity that should be overlooked just because it’s not the Sydney Morning Herald, for example.
NINA HENDY: That’s right. There’s just a couple of questions here, Bec.
BEC DERRINGTON: Yes.
NINA HENDY: “Once you find a suitable response to a ‘call out’, do you remove it from SourceBottle?” Oh, sorry. That’s a question for you Bec.
BEC DERRINGTON: Yeah. No, I think probably what Shanika means is if you find your talent, do you then ask for the ‘call out’ to be removed or...
NINA HENDY: No, I never. I leave it there for the deadline. I’ve never asked it to be removed.
And, how do I come up with titles? My view on Clickbait?
Well, I stopped writing for publication last year because I was writing a lot of Clickbait and I wasn’t enjoying it very much.
And, you know, writing articles that literally write to a headline. You’ve been given a headline, you’ve got to write the article around it. And, you’re pitching really amazing articles for a small business publication, for example, that really, really matter and you know that these guys that are in line here tonight or, you know, that they really would get a lot of value out because it’s on a new app or it’s on a... you know, something amazing happening in the startup world.
But, you’ve got to write, I won’t sort of say any names. But, the Clickbait, yes, the headlines that you have to write to it, I certainly have refused to do that. I don’t think anyone benefits from that.
And, I stopped doing that. I did it for about five months last year, or might have been the year before now, and I didn’t feel good. I couldn’t sleep very well so, I stopped.
BEC DERRINGTON: Good on you.
NINA HENDY: Thanks Jenny. Thanks for your question.
BEC DERRINGTON: Yes, thank you Jenny for your questions.
I think the problem is, of course, you want to write great content where the story actually lives up to the promise of the title. And, I suppose with Clickbait, that’s just never the case, is it?
NINA HENDY: No. I started off writing for a publication that the briefs were really, really interesting and I was always bringing in really great stories every week. And, I was just told “Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Keep doing those.” You know?
I was just writing, you know, two or three stories a week for this particular editor. And, the briefs became less and less interesting, from my point of view, to the business owners that we were supposed to be targeting and more and more, you know, stuff that would end up in other parts of the publication. And, I just decided...yeah, I just thought it was a good idea to stop doing that.
So, yeah, there’s lots of opportunities out there for small business owners to get their names up in lights. It’s just a matter of not losing faith if you’re not contacted all of the time.
I mean, it’s, literally, I don’t know what my editor might want next week. I don’t sort of hold all the cards and neither do the guys inhouse. I worked inhouse for a long time. You know, it’s just a throw of the dice. Often it’s a matter of saying, “This is who I am. This is what I stand for.”
Don’t try to be all things to all people. The time will come. And, it’ll come when it’s right and, it’ll be your time to shine when that time comes. But, yeah, don’t try and be a bit of everything.
Can I just say one more thing, Bec? If I am looking for something really vague, like someone that just sold their house in Sydney, and your sister just sold her house in Sydney and you drop her a line - being the person who gives me that information, I may go, “Oh, Jenny, that was so nice of you to do that. Thank you. That’s really great that you gave me your sister’s phone number. That can work really well for this case study.”
You know, let’s not forget, I mean journalists always need helping. And, if you’re able to help in any way with context, maybe it’s not you this time but you know someone else that will work well, that’s never forgotten.
BEC DERRINGTON: Well, actually, I think one of the other things that I love about SourceBottle is everyone shares the ‘call outs’.
It’s one of those things where it’s a fabulous community that say, “Yeah, my sister has...” and, if they don’t get in touch with you and tell you that directly, they’ll forward the ‘call out’ to them.
Now, there’s a few more questions that are all coming in.
Thinking fast. I just realized, we didn’t finish answering Jenny’s question. She said, “How do you come up with titles?”
NINA HENDY: Titles for the stories?
BEC DERRINGTON: Yeah. ‘Cause that was the question about Clickbait.
NINA HENDY: Look, Jen, I often don’t write the titles. We don’t know what the spaces that the stories are gonna fit in, whether it’s online or in print.
We will give it a working title, I guess, that gives the editor a bit of a direction on where it’s going but, it’s up to them. They often will change it completely to suit their space or their needs of the day.
You have to make sure you’re presenting the facts correctly, but it’s up to the editor to write the headline. That’s the one part of the story that the journalist often doesn’t write.
BEC DERRINGTON: Now, Karen’s asked what is Clickbait? Can you summarise that?
NINA HENDY: Stories that make you want to click on them or, you know, “Five Great Ways To...” listicles.
It's not real journalism. They’re more often lists of information.
You know, I’m always open to stories. But, I’m not gonna pitch a story or idea to an editor unless I feel it’s gonna be a good fit.
BEC DERRINGTON: Awesome.
Penny Smith has asked, “Do editors turn down stories because they have appeared in another of the same company’s titles?” So, not competition. So, BRW sees a person quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald. Does that happen?
NINA HENDY: Yes, it does, Penny. Not so much if a person is quoted but if the story’s around somewhere else. So, you know, you can, Penny, or anyone, be quoted in lots of titles on various topics.
But, if I pitch a story, what happens is as a freelancer I would suggest to an editor, “I’ve got this for you this week. This is what I wanna be writing about. Is it of interest?”
Sometimes it’s no. Sometimes it’s yes.
You know, you get very good after years of doing this to know what they do want and what they don’t want. So, it’s more about the story and then, you know, they’re saying, “This is the story I think I really wanna write for you.”
And, then, once I’ve got my outline, I’ve got my 1000-word, then I start researching and finding the talent for the story and giving it some bones and finding the information, the facts, the experts, and all of that stuff. That’s when I straight away turn to SourceBottle to see what comes along.
I certainly wouldn’t be naming the publication, but I would like to see if anyone knows anything about this particular issue I might be writing about. I often write more about issues and pick those individual stories that I do about, you know, daily news.
So, no. You can certainly have lots of bites of the cherry.
BEC DERRINGTON: Sarah says her main question is how long should we wait after we submit quote responses to know if the journalist is going to use it?
NINA HENDY: Usually, within 24 hours. Maybe 48.
As I said earlier, Sarah, you’re better off using your ‘call outs’ to qualify yourself. So, if a journalist is saying, this is what my story is and I need someone to talk to me about whatever the topic is, tell me why you’re the best person for that topic rather than necessarily telling me everything you know about the topic.
Tell me why you’re the best person. Maybe give me a couple of juicy quotes in your ‘call out’ but, then stop… move on to the next ‘call out’ or go and have a coffee or do something else and accept that some days, you know, there wouldn’t necessarily be a ‘call out’. But know that your name is coming up in my inbox every time you put your ‘call out’ out there.
So, it’s at least building awareness, which is great as well.
I mean, the next time I think, “Oh, I don’t need to do that SourceBottle ‘call out’ because I know Sarah’s an expert in this topic. She told me all about how she’s just come back from New York and did this course and she knows all about it etc.”
So, it’s worth just qualifying yourself in the ‘call outs’.
BEC DERRINGTON: Yeah. That’s a great point, Nina. So many people go so much trouble responding to a ‘call out’ and then feel so disheartened if it’s not used. And, then they’re in that grey area where, you know, a week... two weeks pass and then think, “Can I use it myself instead?”
NINA HENDY: Yup.
BEC DERRINGTON: So, avoid that situation by just doing what Nina is saying. Qualify why you are the right person rather than, showing your entire deck of cards in that response to the ‘call out’.
NINA HENDY: Maybe give me a couple of juicy quotes, as I said, and just leave it.
BEC DERRINGTON: Yeah. That’s good. Be sexy talent, I always say. That’s the most important thing. State your position and that makes you a sexy talent.
And now I think we probably should wind it up.
NINA HENDY: Thank you everybody.
BEC DERRINGTON: You’ve been so generous. Thank you so much, Nina.
NINA HENDY: All right. Thanks, Bec.