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Mar 15, 2002
Interview

FAME: How to Pitch a Story to Forbes' Marketing Editor

SUMMARY: More than 900,000 business executives read Forbes Magazine. We interviewed Senior Editor Melanie Wells to learn how you should approach her to see if she will write a story about your company.
PROFILE #17 in Our Continuing Series on Marketing Journalists

Melanie Wells
Senior Editor
Forbes Magazine
Forbes Inc.
60 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
PH: 212-620-2200
mwells@forbes.com

-> Circulation as of 3/01:

As you can expect, you will be getting in front of a large audience of paying business professionals -- over 900,000 in fact – from entrepreneurs fresh out of business school to the CEO of the magazines own top ranked company. Each of them pays $59.95 a year for a subscription.

-> Wells’s background:

Wells started her career as a business reporter while at the Washington Business Journal in Washington, D.C. where her beat for most of her time there was real estate. As Wells describes, once she started with the big league publications, she has never really looked back.

“I gravitated to business reporting shortly after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in journalism,” Wells explains. “I joined Forbes as a senior editor in 1999. Prior to that, I spent almost five years as a reporter for the Money section of USA Today. Before that, I was a writer and columnist at Advertising Age magazine.”

-> Current editorial coverage:

While her title may be Senior Editor, her job is to oversee the marketing section of the magazine, where by and large they “specialize in tales about good and bad marketing strategies” and “case-history type stories.”

Of course Wells also enjoys covering new campaigns when she is “given the exclusive -- or an excusive angle.” (Hint, hint!) Oh, and occasionally they will write about trends in marketing.

Forbes' ad/marketing coverage targets companies of all sizes but will rarely touch on agencies, though Wells enjoys writing about them once in a while. She will write about vendor technologies "if it is truly something breakthrough and you can prove how it is working for someone." The bottom line for Wells, however, is that Forbes "will write about anyone with a good marketing story." She admits that it is "broad but true."

-> What Wells looks for in a story pitch:

To be frank, “If you don't know me, don't call me. Send me an email. Don't send me a fax, since there are 30 of us who share a fax machine. I'll never get it,” says Wells.

She will also get story ideas from gabbing with the in-crowd of Madison Avenue to the hoi polloi who will occasionally pitch a story her way.

All of that aside, Wells really likes to see story ideas that her readers can learn from or perhaps offer some kind of lesson.

-> Deadlines:

Forbes is published every two weeks but keep in mind Wells is nearly always busy so you should try to adhere to the aforementioned guidelines.

-> Submitting pre-written contributions:

Forbes (and Wells) rarely takes pre-written contributions. Apparently they rely on a short list of regular contributors they already have. However, fear not contributors, there is one shining light:

“There is an occasional column called "On my Mind" and we accept contributions on all/any topics for that,” says Wells. Do not bother sending those to her. For that, you need to contact Susan Adams at the phone number above.

-> Becoming a regular columnist:

For the time being you can forget being a regular columnist. As Wells explains, “In this ad environment, there are too few editorial pages for people on staff to get stories in the magazine.” Her only suggestion this point is “wait until the economy picks up.”

-> Where you can meet Wells:

As difficult as it may be to pitch a story to Wells or even get a column into the magazine, the chances of meeting her are close to impossible, at least as far as industry events are concerned. Sure, some writers may attend major marketing events but Wells pretty much stays put.

-> Best gifts for Wells:

“No gifts, for crying out loud. Ask me to lunch and we can fight over the check,” says Wells. This is probably the best chance of meeting her.

-> Wells’s favorite business publications:

The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and (of course) Forbes

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