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Join Our Research Team at DMA 2014
Nov 07, 2008
Interview

PR Interview: Get Into ‘Fast Company’ With Innovative Pitch: 8 Dos & Don’ts (Plus Tips for Startups)

SUMMARY: Businesses and key leaders featured in Fast Company magazine are seen as on the cutting edge of innovation. Find out the dos and don’ts of making a pitch to Fast Company Senior Editor David Lidsky. Includes special tips for startups.
Contact Information

David Lidsky
Senior Editor
Fast Company
7 World Trade Center
New York, NY 10007
212-389-5449
Dlidsky(at)fastcompany(dot)com
http://www.fastcompany.com


Background

Lidsky co-edits “Next,” the 30-page front-of-book section of Fast Company that covers new ideas. He also sits at the decision-making table for overall direction of the magazine, including story mix and cover features. Lidsky was an Assistant Managing Editor at Fortune Small Business magazine for more than four years before moving to Fast Company. He was a Senior Associate Editor and feature writer for PC Magazine.
Lidsky holds a BA in History from Columbia University and a JD from Boston University School of Law.

Circulation/Readers

Fast Company magazine has 725,000 subscribers. It averages 620,000 unique visits per month on its website, FastCompany.com.

Magazine readers are entering their prime earning years. 82% are aged 25 to 54, with a median age of 47 and a median household income of around $155,000. Other stats:
-81% hold professional/managerial positions
-44% have top management/C-level responsibilities
-78% graduated from college
-71% have household assets of $1 million or more
-64% are male
-36% are female

FastCompany.com readers mirror magazine readers. They have a strong voice in their companies, and 59% are decision makers/influencers with a median age of 46 and a median household income of about $122,000. Other stats:
-53% are male
-47% are female
-40.7% make computer software purchase decisions
-25% hold senior management positions

Editorial Coverage

The magazine covers “the evolution of business through a unique focus on the most creative individuals [who are] sparking change in the marketplace,” according to FastCompany.com.

Lidsky calls their coverage a “state of mind.” The magazine’s audience is broadly defined as executives at large and small companies. So staff is pretty open about what makes an interesting story. They cover smart business ideas that have some impact – with the potential to have an even larger impact.

“Every story should have a thread of innovation that feels like there’s some specific thing happening that feels distinctive and fresh,” Lidsky says. “We try to cover, to some degree, every issue.”

Their focus on innovation includes more frequent coverage in the following areas: design, technology, and sustainability. The editors and writers look for ideas and valid examples of companies using those disciplines to create a competitive edge for themselves.

NOTE: The Fast Company staff works on an issue up to four months in advance. Keep this in mind when pitching something with a time element.

How to Pitch: 4 Dos, 4 Don’ts

Lidsky gets about 75 to 100 emails each day. Most are from PR pros. He opens each one and reads those that grab his attention. Here are some dos and don’ts for getting him to read your email.

Do #1: Make it exclusive

Lidsky wants to know right away if you are offering an exclusive. Try putting “exclusive story” in the subject line. It will not guarantee coverage, but if it is something of interest, the story could become a priority.

Exclusivity is important, Lidsky says, because of competition in the market place. “If people want to be in the magazine, they need to understand that they have to make those kinds of decisions,” he says. “It needs to be something that we can own.”

Do #2: Clearly define what the story is about

Answer these questions: What are you asking for? What are you offering?

Do #3: Be concise

An effective pitch should be about two paragraphs long, says Lidsky. The pitch should get right to the point of the story and contain the information on the access they’ll have to the right contacts.

Do #4: Provide open access

Lidsky needs to know who the magazine will be able to reach. For features, in particular, the magazine needs to contact the main players in charge of the innovation being pitched. A recent issue has Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, on the cover.

He also needs to know “what we’re going to be able to experience that’s going to make the story a story we want to do,” he says.

For the MacFarlane story, for instance, the magazine got access to the writers’ room and sound studio. For a story about a prominent sports surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, the writer got access to surgery rooms during several operations.

“That’s the sort of access we’re looking for,” says Lidsky. “We want to be able to spend some meaningful time with the people we’re writing about, and get to experience something.”

Thirty minutes in someone’s conference room won’t cut it. A hallmark of the magazine is the ability to take people places they normally wouldn’t get access to.

Don’t #1: Bury important information

If Lidsky must scroll and scroll and sift through data to find what he needs, he, most likely, will lose interest before he gets to it.

“I might do it, but you’re not helping yourself if it’s not clear and up-front about what you’re asking for and what you’re offering,” he says.

Don’t #2: Send irrelevant information

Lidsky is not interested in announcements about a company’s new vice president or director of HR. Sending irrelevant data, therefore, hurts any chance of winning Lidsky’s respect and eventual coverage.

Don’t #3: Pitch often

The PR companies that Lidsky hears from the most “probably get fewer stories in the magazine because they just shovel a bunch of garbage at you” as opposed to thinking about what would be a good fit for Fast Company, he says.

Lidsky remembers the pitches that are positioned specifically for Fast Company. He may not hear from the PR companies that pitch that way for three months at a time, but when he does hear from them, he knows they’re worth paying attention to.

Don’t #4: Send a press release

Lidsky doesn’t read press releases. “Because I get a lot of mail, if something’s not specifically addressed to me or if it’s addressed to me but it’s clearly just a release that’s been sent to everyone, I just delete it immediately.”

It’s one of the ways he manages his inbox, he says.

Advice on Pitching Startups

Pitching a startup company? Follow these two bits of advice:

Tip #1. The company must be working on something that’s significant, something that is changing the way people do business. It must be having an impact.

Tip #2. There must be a sense that whatever it is, product, service, business model, strategy, it is already working. The magazine generally won’t cover something based on potential.

One way to prove something is working is by showing that the startup has secured a large, name-brand client. In that case, Fast Company staff needs access to both, the startup and the client. In June, for example, the magazine covered Audiobrain – the small music and sound production company used by NBC to produce the dramatic score for the summer Olympics.

This pitch works for design firms or any startup with a large client and a unique, innovative twist on the way they get results or help a client do something more efficiently.

Where to meet

Lidsky prefers in-person meetings, not phone calls. If you’re pitching a meeting with him via email, he suggests putting “meeting request” in the subject line, so that he could respond immediately. Be sure to give him at least 10 to 15 days notice.

The first two weeks of the month are generally very busy because it’s so close to when the issues close. There are exceptions, though, since the magazine has only 10 issues per year. Lidsky always makes time for meetings about something he’s really excited about.

“If I know it’s not a good fit for us, I’m not going to take the meeting because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time,” he says.

Useful links related to this article

Seth MacFarlane’s Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seth_MacFarlane


Family Guy:
http://www.familyguy.com/


Dr. James Andrew’s Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._James_Andrews


Audiobrain:
http://www.audiobrain.com/

See Also:

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