Takeaways From the WJA New York Metro Chapter’s Meet the Press Event

Honesty was the overarching theme for the Nov. 10 Meet the Press event, organized by the New York Metro chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association. Attendees got an earful from editors on the realities of workloads, and audience members asked tough questions, such as “Will advertising make a difference in securing editorial?” (Great question, whoever asked that!)

Cindy Edelstein, president of the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau, served as moderator to a trio of high-profile industry editors: Claudia Mata, jewelry and accessories director at W; Marion Fasel of theadventurine.com (slated to go live in early 2016) and a longtime jewelry editor for InStyle; and Tanya Dukes of InStore and InDesign magazines. Cindy asked the editors about how they liked to be pitched, pet peeves with pitches, and how each decides which pieces get used in editorial, among other topics. Then the audience had a chance to fire queries at the panelists. Among them: Can we send you unsolicited packages of product (no) and does gifting make a difference in securing editorial (no). There were more, but you get the idea.

It was incredibly generous of the entire panel to carve out time to participate and allow industry members a peek into the realities of their workloads, time constraints, and decision-making practices.

For those who couldn’t make it last night, here are some highlights from the evening. And though I did not officially participate on the panel, I did contribute a few thoughts below to state JCK’s policies and practices.

On print versus online editorial placement

Claudia Mata: “People always want to be in print, but digital is growing! Plus in the digital space, you can Google yourself and find the coverage and it lives on.”

Marion Fasel: “We live in an age that is so exciting—the playing field has been leveled because of online—and print doesn’t have the power it once did. Plus, you have the power to make your own voice heard through social media.”

JCK: “Online is powerful! You immediately show the reader what you’ve seen at a show or appointment that day, and it’s incredibly easy to share.”

On supplied art—called pickup in the consumer press—versus original photography shot by the publications

Claudia Mata: “W shoots original photography in print but we’ll use pickup—your own pictures—for online stories.”

Tanya Dukes: “We do a lot of pickup, or supplied, art. In fact, we use almost entirely submitted art for product shots. Everything should be on a clean white background.”

Marion Fasel: “When theadventurine.com debuts, we’re going to stay away from too much pickup art—we will do original photography.”

JCK: “We pull live goods for model and still-life photography and use a lot of supplied art on white backgrounds.”

On the importance of TARGETED pitches (Never spray and pray; target your pitches to your recipient)

Claudia Mata: “I like email pitches, but I get about 1,000 a day so I might not reply—but trust that I have seen it. And I don’t reply to everything because I am working on a million different things, and I cover different markets—accessories and jewelry. And to Marion’s point, what we cover depends on our reader. I worked at Town & Country for seven years, and there is some crossover between those brands I covered and the ones I cover now for W.”

Tanya Dukes: “I love getting emails, but it helps if you keep the calendar in mind. For example, in my mail today I got a pitch that I would have loved to have last week when I was working on a holiday story. Know how far in advance a publication works. I like consistency, so send me monthly materials about your work.”

Marion Fasel: “Be aware of the work I’ve done. Something that may have been right for InStyle isn’t necessarily right for Claudia at W. Know who you are pitching and why, and send specific targeted pitches for the publication that shows why your product is right for them. Cater pitches to each person.”

JCK: “I am inundated with untargeted pitches—T-shirts, shoes, bags, etc. And, I get pitches from those who don’t wholesale to the trade.”

On desk-side visits (when a designer goes to the editor’s office with a small portion of his or her line)

Claudia Mata: “I like desk sides but they can be a little tricky to schedule. I need time to do my own job.”

Tanya Dukes: “I like desk sides.”

Marion Fasel: “I was never an advocate of desk sides…I was always fan of going to a press event.”

JCK: “I prefer desk sides as opposed to press events because they are a time-saver. There are also way too many press events being organized by PR companies, and oftentimes there are no digital images available. I can’t afford the time to attend something if I don’t at least immediately get images out of it. I also can’t make it to every event.”

On gifting

Tanya Dukes: “It feels out of left field.”

JCK: “It’s not necessary.”

On pitching entire teams instead of just one editor

Claudia Mata: “You can pitch the whole team, but at the end of the day it’s me.”

JCK: “It makes my job more difficult when PR people email everyone on the masthead instead of finding the correct person to pitch. It can also be a waste of clients’ money in the sense that nonwriters attend events with no outlet to possibly cover it.”

On PR agencies versus speaking directly to designers themselves

Claudia Mata: “I like speaking directly to designers myself.

JCK: “I also prefer to work with designers directly, though there is a list of jewelry-specific PR firms that I routinely recommend, should you need help. Email me at JHeebner@jckonline.com for the list.”

On unsolicited products

Claudia Mata: “There is a whole process to check it into the closet, and it can be an awkward situation because if I didn’t ask for it—maybe I don’t want it. We’re always shooting three to four shoots a day—every jewel, shoe, and bag in that magazine we shoot—so it’s a constant stream of things, and I know everything that I need. If everyone did that—sent unsolicited products—it would be chaos.”

On press releases

Claudia Mata: “Save your paper—the phrase press release is even so outdated. You don’t need a press release for a new collection—this is a visual job. Send me pictures, and if I want to find out more I’ll ask.”

Tanya Dukes: “It drives me crazy when I get a block of text and no pictures. I want the picture in the email in low res and a one-paragraph pitch with the price points and maybe seeds of inspiration.”

JCK: “I like to receive pictures of products with descriptions of items including the metal type used (18k gold-plated brass or 14k gold?), carat weights of gems, and suggested retail prices.”

On the time pitches are sent

Tanya Dukes: “It doesn’t matter what time of day you pitch—there is no better day of the week. We’re pretty much on a 24-hour work cycle. The time I’m least busy is on the weekends. During the week I’m writing or at appointments.”

JCK: “Email me targeted pitches, but no phone calls, please.”

On pet peeves

Tanya Dukes: “Not following instructions! When I ask for high-res shots and prices of five pieces, don’t send me your look book and then tell me to email you again for the pieces and prices once I’ve decided on exactly which ones I’ll use. I’ve already asked for something specific—we’re composing pages with lots of different elements—and we don’t have time for back and forth. Also, don’t ask, ‘What are you working on now?’ because I always have about 25 different stories in the works. Determine what’s in the air—brooches are big for fall—and determine what you have that resonates with that.”

JCK: “Too many emails from PR firms, often with untargeted pitches.”

More takeaways

–If you don’t hear back from an editor that does not mean that he or she doesn’t like your work. It just means that he or she has a massive workload including daily deadlines and a family to see on occasion.

–Follow instructions.

–Send pictures on white backgrounds.

–Google yourself to find your press (better yet, set up a Google alert to notify you every time you get a press mention). Or, search for your own press on the publication’s website or Google it yourself.

–Understand that because of the volume of pitches received by editors that you may not get a response.

And while advertorial or paid blogging did not specifically arise, I think it’s important to note. Blogging—whether it’s advertorial or paid for or editorial (unpaid for)—is a good thing because it’s another avenue for exposure, but according to FTC rules, advertorial (or content marketing) needs to be clearly labeled when it’s paid.

Gem Gossip is a hugely successful and popular jewelry blog, created by Danielle Miele, who has a graduate gemology degree and has racked up a massive following because of her voice and appeal to readers. I really admire what Miele has built. Some of her content is paid—meaning designers bought the article—and it is labeled in a way that suggests it, such as: “This post was brought to you in collaboration with X company.” Monica Stephenson of iDazzle is an editorial blogger, so she operates as an editor and does not charge for posts. Diamonds in the Library offers a clearly labeled mix of paid and nonpaid posts.

Just as transparency is a part of the jewelry and gemstone industry—à la this stone is from a conflict-free source and the gold was responsibly acquired and the workers who mined it were fairly paid—so needs to be the labeling of paid posts. It’s not lesser or wrong, but it’s not editorial, so be clear about that. 

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From left: Cindy Edelstein, Marion Fasel, Tanya Dukes, and Claudia Mata

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