Coffee N5 - Aly Walansky

Episode 121 – Coffee N5 – Insider Secrets for Successful Brand Pitching with Aly Walansky

On this episode of Coffee N° 5, join us as we sit down with Aly Walansky, the #1 food journalist of 2022 according to Muck Rack. Aly is a renowned travel and food journalist and winner of several awards. We delve into the impact of the digital age on the PR industry and explore effective strategies for promoting emerging brands to journalists and securing media coverage.

We’ll talk about:

  • How to get an editor’s attention
  • Changes in the PR world in the digital era
  • Tips on pitching for emerging brands

For more information, follow Aly Walansky on Instagram or subscribe to her newsletter.

Follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

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Twitter: @LaraSchmoisman

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Lara Schmoisman  00:05

This is coffee number five. I’m your host Lara Schmoisman. It’s all about you and I want you to succeed. Download today my free masterclass three ways to stand out from the crowd in the digital world. Sign up for free today. Hi, you guys, welcome back to coffee number five and my coffee is Friday, it’s getting cold actually. And so I’m gonna sit it a little fast today. But I’m talking about going fast track and this wall, this amazing wall that we’re in, in marketing PR goes fast, it goes really, really fast and have changed over the years. So much. So today I want to go really into starting this new year and all those brands out there that they really wants to stand out from the crowd and say, Here I am. So how do you do that? You talk to Aly Walansky. And welcome Ali. And let’s talk PR, because you are an award winning journalist, you’ve been in the industry for a lot of years, and you have a lot of emerging brands stand out from the crowd, which is not an easy task, because it’s really hard to convince a publication like, Hey, I have attention to this one. It’s going places. So first, tell us a little bit about yourself, and how did you get to be where you are today?

Aly Walansky  01:33

Oh, well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. And I am so flattered. I have been around for a long time, I started out doing some beauty and fashion blogging, and then that transcended into food and travel. And now I basically write about everything for everyone, which is part of how I have the opportunity of writing about a lot of, you know, emerging brands, because when you churn out a ton of content, there’s a lot of opportunity to include a lot of people.

Lara Schmoisman  02:04

Absolutely. But how did I mean, we know that the marketing or PR is being able to highlight what’s best. Actually, I just got a law in our a couple days ago, which it was really nice to receive. But someone else told me and I’m really sad why you were selected or not me? And I was first of all, I don’t know, but probably is because how do you highlight yourself? What is the interest important for what is important to you might not be important for the publication. So you and there’s a lot

Aly Walansky  02:41

of gently yeah, there’s a lot of jealousy in our world also, where people are like, Why are you not me? It’s happened to me also, I was rated by muck rack, the number one food journalist on the internet, and I definitely got some lash back why you? Why not me? And I don’t know, I didn’t

Lara Schmoisman  02:58

even get me started without anyway. And what I’m saying is that you need to know who you’re pitching to. We’re not sure exactly the same, the same persona to each publication?

Aly Walansky  03:14

Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, every publication has its own energy, it has its own audience, it’s, if I’m going to be writing an article for Southern Living, I understand that the audience is going to be looking for different content than for the Food Network or for the today’s show. So when you’re pitching stories or products, you have to think of it through the lens of the people reading it, what are they going to be interested in seeing? Like? So that’s definitely a part of it.

Lara Schmoisman  03:44

Yeah, but also mean, how do you choose what to highlight? I mean, this is something I do in marketing all the time. And because you need to look at the competition, what how the competition is pitching, how can you be different how you can take advantage of the competitor competition built already in that market and take it to the next level? Because otherwise, how can you eat as a marketer also, as a PR person, you need to make sure that we get picked

Aly Walansky  04:13

up which is right. I think that it has to be about being the interesting angle. We live in existence now where someone everyone is so obsessed with E commerce and product guides and affiliate relationships and everything just feels like redundant and churned out like it could be done robotically. And I think that the most interesting content is when you include the brands or the products or the expert that aren’t everywhere else, because that’s where you get the organic thoughts and the thoughts that aren’t everywhere else and the angles that aren’t everywhere else because I don’t want to read the same story over and over with just different like water to them. I want to read something new and interesting.

Lara Schmoisman  04:56

Absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about how the industry has changed. Yes, I can tell you from the digital world side that this changed a lot. I believe it changed also for PR because back then you write an article once in a while you will receive a letter or something like that. But now people can really send you an opinion immediately what they thought about their article, or it can create conflict and pray through, we can be rewarding. And you don’t need to deal with everything.

Aly Walansky  05:28

Yeah, it happens all I share all my articles, both on social media. And also I have a daily subset email that I send out to subscribers, and I get a lot of responses. And sometimes it’s, Oh, I love this, or this was so cool. But people also will be like, I tried your recipe and I hate it. Or I read your article about this. And I disagree. People are much more likely to respond if they have something negative to say,

Lara Schmoisman  05:55

Oh, that’s so yeah, that’s so true. So don’t let it take you down. You need to know your value or the value of your product. And also, you need to know that it’s not going to work for everyone your product.

Aly Walansky  06:05

Of course, if I happen to love a red lipstick, it doesn’t mean someone else is going to love the red lipstick. It’s it’s my personal opinion.

Lara Schmoisman  06:12

Absolutely. And I do love Rutledge. But um, but also the industry has changed. We over the years, I’ve seen a lot more Piper play. Yes, on oil play, actually this week in LinkedIn. And I was approached two or three times to be a cover of a magazine. And I was like, why you want me to be a cover of a magazine? And what magazines? Let’s start with but what why is the paper place taking such a huge role in the PR world right now? Is laziness from PR people that their shares? Oh, let’s pay and get over it. Or it’s getting harder to be feature or I think

Aly Walansky  06:55

it’s the publicists are responding to what people who claim to be journalists are setting now I as I have a journalism degree, I would never in a million years do anything that was paid for play. But there’s a lot of people out there that are basically just shills, and they’ll do anything to make them feel for saying

Lara Schmoisman  07:12

that. Thank you. I don’t believe in paper play. And I will never do that.

Aly Walansky  07:17

Right. Like, that’s why I am not comfortable with any of these things. I know that it’s fairly standard. When you see lifestyle experts do TV segments, where they show you five different beauty products, they like chances are those beauty products paid to be included. To me that is less authentic. If you were paying to be included in something, then you’re not there. Because you’re the best fit. You’re there because you paid money.

Lara Schmoisman  07:40

Absolutely. I mean, I can tell you each award that I got on, I got it without paying, I would have never accept to be paying for an award. I understand that there are certain publications that they just charge that they’re very recognized publications, like for example, Forbes never charged me to get name force, and it’s 1000. I should write. But there are certain publications that there is a lot of bureaucracy in this election. And they’re very well known. And they really want not everyone to apply. So yeah,

Aly Walansky  08:17

exactly. Yeah, it’s really, it’s demoralizing. It’s just really sad. But um, thankfully, I’ve never been involved with any publication that treats people in that way. So I can actually feel authentic journalist.

Lara Schmoisman  08:31

Very nice. So hear that. But what if I want to approach you for, hey, I have a product that I think will be great for you. How can I get your attention?

Aly Walansky  08:42

I get about 1000 emails every single day. And honestly, yeah, and honestly, I do. If I don’t answer them all, I do read them all. So email me pitch me what your product is, or your expert is tell me where it’s sold. What makes it stick out like this year? Magenta is the color of the year. So if it’s magenta wine glasses, or if it’s if it’s Viva London that Viva magenta, yes. Or if you’re tied into like, you know, some pop culture trends, whatever it is. Tell me what you think makes it newsworthy doesn’t mean I’m going to agree that that’s what I think makes it newsworthy. But tell me what you believe the hook is telling me what the news is. And then if it’s a fit for anything I’m working on, then I’ll respond. I get assignments every single day. I put them in my newsletter. Lots and lots of publicists. subscribe to my newsletter. It’s free. It’s ally wolanski.substack.com. I don’t know if you have like a sheet that goes out with the podcast.

Lara Schmoisman  09:43

Absolutely. Within 40 Yeah, it’s,

Aly Walansky  09:46

it’s 100% free and I send it out every single weekday in the morning and it’s every goal, the assignments I’m working on that day and the parameters for how to pitch me. So right now I’m working on an article On romantic cocktails available at bars and restaurants for Valentine’s Day.

Lara Schmoisman  10:04

Oh, that’s yeah, one. Yeah. So

Aly Walansky  10:07

if you were a bar restaurant and you were a chef or a bartender, you could email me and say, This is the cocktail. This is what’s in it. This is you know why we feel it’s a romantic cocktail. Here’s an image. And then I go through all of those, and I choose the ones that fit

Lara Schmoisman  10:22

very nice on how do you feel about products, because I have a lot of publications, we work with OPR, and agency, and then a lot of publications who ask for the products. And it’s costly for a brand to sell products. So when a journalist really needs to proceed products,

Aly Walansky  10:44

hardly ever. So the true story of my existence is I live and work in a really tiny studio apartment, I don’t want a lot of mail, like I as it is, I basically feel like I live in a storage closet. Sometimes it’s bad. So I will only request a sample if I’m working on the type of story that’s a specific I tried this, like I tried six of the six frozen mac and cheese. And this is the ones that were the best or I tried this new pour over coffee pot, and this is how it worked out. I don’t need to have samples just to say, Oh, these are six different mattresses to buy for President state sales. That’s not necessary. I

Lara Schmoisman  11:26

didn’t imagine getting all those mattresses.

Aly Walansky  11:28

i It’s a fantasy. But I would never say I would never say yes to anything like that. I know that there’s writers that do I know that there’s writers that say that they’re working on things just to get free crap.

Lara Schmoisman  11:41

Oh, I know what to do with me.

Aly Walansky  11:44

But it’s not necessary. And I’d say for 80% of stories that I write, it’s not necessary to have any samples at

Lara Schmoisman  11:51

all. And yeah, absolutely. But I think four is important to get people the data, right. And get journalists the data, right, I try when I pitch a journalist to give them an angle, of course, but then to give them the information. So it’s easy for them to access or to write the article, whenever you’re gonna ask someone something you need to give them everything. I’m not saying write the article for the journalist, because I don’t think they will like that. If he’s a professional writer. Right? Very professional. I, but I think if you give them the information, the data, they can find everything in one place. It’s really important.

Aly Walansky  12:35

I usually give people the advice to treat it, like we did in news writing classes where every pitch should have like an inverted pyramid. The first paragraph should have the who, what, where, when White House? Like what is the product? Why do you need it. And then after that, if you want to put specs like, you know, weight size colors, it comes in with retail availability, that kind of stuff. But get like the juice, the nuts and bolts of it is top heavy as possible. That way, you know, for people who do get so many emails in a day, it’s easier for them to give it a quick scan.

Lara Schmoisman  13:10

Absolutely. Let’s talk about APKs versus one shit.

Aly Walansky  13:17

Honestly, I don’t necessarily need either I would say most of my pitches are simply an email. The only time I really look so much at press releases, or you pick the APKs or when sheets would be I do sometimes product news like food products that are being launched. And I might look at that for when it’s being launched if it’s a limited launch regionally flavors that comes in and that would be in that. But generally I don’t need a press kit, or one sheet I put emails on both you need the images. I prefer images to be a link like a YouSendIt or Dropbox link or Google Drive not attached. Yeah, and an initial pitch. I usually don’t need it. You could include it if you want to. But you don’t have to. I usually if I have interest, we’ll follow up and ask for that image.

Lara Schmoisman  14:06

Okay. Because as in the past, we have a lot of platform. I still remember the days that I will go to trade shows and I will come back with bags full of APKs. Yeah, and they were heavy. And on top of that we have cute cameras, microphones and all those things. But and then there was a next job to go from all that paper then we’re CDs, hard drives, you go through all that information. Nowadays, it’s so much easier you have a link or scan core code and it’s much easier to access that information.

Aly Walansky  14:43

Oh yeah. Like if someone’s pitching me a product. It’s under embargo. It’s being launched. It’s literally just a Google Drive by link and all the information is there. I remember also going to events you to get those little flash drives.

Lara Schmoisman  14:56

I wish I mean I remember what they were folders on Everything from there we prepared that they gave us a CD or a DVD with information. Yeah. clutter. Yes. Hi. And then years after I will keep finding them, I think I still have some inboxes. So anyway, you, let’s say I’m a new brand. What’s your recommendation? PR wise? Where do I start? Hmm, I

Aly Walansky  15:26

would say, first of all, build a presence on social media that is so important. I get so many ideas just from browsing social media, looking at tick tock looking at Instagram, seeing what people are sharing and doing, whether it’s like a tic tac hack, or if I’m doing a food trend story, restaurants that people went to. So no matter what your product or your brand is build a social media footprint, and it’d be a lot easier for people to know about you and share you and find you.

Lara Schmoisman  15:57

That’s great. But should you have a press release?

Aly Walansky  16:02

If you could, but honestly, I don’t think press releases are as necessary as they used to be. And I think I

Lara Schmoisman  16:07

personally don’t like press releases now.

Aly Walansky  16:11

No, I think that even though they’re not a paper pile on the way they were once upon a time, there’s still clutter in a digital sense. It is not right. That’s also

Lara Schmoisman  16:21

I don’t feel like either cater for the publication.

Aly Walansky  16:23

Right? It’s, I’m not going to be browsing like a bunch of news wires or press releases in the morning anymore. It’s once upon a time. Yes, sure. But it’s not the place I am anymore. And it’s not the place that most people are anymore.

Lara Schmoisman  16:37

Let’s talk a little bit about syndication. Because this is a word that was really popular at some point. And getting a lot of people get press releases out to say I was in that publication. And that was the process that we called syndication. And it’s not necessarily that you were in the news. Right, exactly. So I want to differentiate that. So you can pay for press releases. And there are a lot of press releases that they have syndications, which means that you process the the press release, and it will syndicate to different places, and you will show in different places. But it doesn’t mean that you were in those publications as journalist?

Aly Walansky  17:20

Of course not. And I mean, I’ve heard stories about people taking press releases, especially bloggers and just cutting, pasting them and calling them an article. And that’s ridiculous. I would never in 100 years do that. Like, if there’s something inside a press release that I want to consider towards a story. I would use it as a source, but I wouldn’t copy it. That’s not Yeah, that’s not okay.

Lara Schmoisman  17:43

Not okay. And today with the you can see that there is pleasure is your their tools, how they are?

Aly Walansky  17:49

Oh, yeah, I run into that sometimes I use expert sources for quotes for stories, and they’ll send me commentary, and then I’ll run it through a plagiarism check. And I’ll see that it comes from a press release or a blog post or a book that they wrote, which is, you know, not okay, you if you’re giving commentary to be quoted in any published material, it has to be original to that published material. Otherwise, it’s plagiarism.

Lara Schmoisman  18:15

Absolutely. And also, you’re going to be you get the application through Google, you get there on so many issues. But at the same time, if you have the honor to be quoted in someplace, you need to be unique, because you are ruining your reputation by doing that, that journalists never gonna get back to you.

Aly Walansky  18:32

Oh, absolutely. And, I mean, I need experts so often. And the best way for me to keep on using your experts is that don’t do that to me. If I’m going to be needing a nutritionist or a registered dietician, I’m going to be using people that give me great answers and meet my deadlines, not the people that I have to chase after for what they promised they were going to send, or whoever sent me an original material. They are the ones who I never speak to again,

Lara Schmoisman  18:59

this same happens with recipes, don’t recipes, you can I think that there is a role, how much you can modify a recipe to be yours. I think, from the court, quarter blow, I think, yeah,

Aly Walansky  19:13

I mean, I understand that foundation wise, a lot. There’s a lot of recipes that have similar foundations, but it always annoys me so much when I see people like playing off something is their original creation. And like I’ve seen this before, it is not yours.

Lara Schmoisman  19:27

Yeah. Or my grandmother is to do something very similar.

Aly Walansky  19:30

Yeah, you did not invent this. Sorry. Oh,

Lara Schmoisman  19:34

well, Ali, it was such a pleasure chatting with you today. Thank you for your insights for being so candid and willing to share with us all this amazing information about the PR world.

Aly Walansky  19:47

Of course, thank you so much for having me, but before we go where people can find you. Okay, so my substack is Alia. [email protected]. And I’m also Alia Lansky on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and I share all of my articles and all of those places. And I also share recipes that are actually mine.

Lara Schmoisman  20:06

Amazing. I need to try that. And I let you know what I think. Awesome. So you guys, thank you so much for being here in coffee number five and I’ll see you next week. Fun everything you need at LaRoche moist man.com Or in the Episode Notes right below. Don’t forget to subscribe. We’re so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. Ciao ciao.

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