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People To Pitch: Lisa Bertagnoli, Freelance Writer

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Guest post by Jennifer Wolan, Community Media Workshop New Media Intern

Lisa Bertagnoli is a Chicago-area freelancer and frequently contributes to Crain’s Chicago Business [2]. Her stories include ‘Sometimes an organization needs a wakeup call’ [3] and ‘Chicago’s nonprofit struggling.’ [4]

With the extensive nonprofit and organization reporting Lisa does, we asked her tips on how to pitch her. Lisa’s answers are below.

How do you usually receive a pitch from organizations?

Email. Social Media is not an effective way to get in touch with me.

Do you have any pet peeves about press releases?

I don’t really have any pet peeves about press releases but what I am looking for is personalization. I like to be personalized. I like for people to know my column and what I write about and pitch stories to me personally. Example would be, ‘You wrote a story a month ago about XYZ and this is why I think you’d be interested ABC.’ I know that sounds very selfish but I get so many press releases and so many pitches and if someone indicates that they know what I write about. I don’t think I’d write about someone who got a grant from an organization and was able to go on and do great things– those touchy-feely stories. I know it sounds very cold and impersonal but that’s not what I write about and it’s not my beat. I write about the financial and the nonprofits and what makes them tic. So if someone understands that and conveys that in a press release, I would be more likely to read it and respond to that person.

As a freelancer I have to be really invested and excited about a story I think to pitch it well (to her editor). I just can’t say it enough, please take a few days to read my stories, understand what I do and who I do it for. And that would help immensely. Just like I need to know the publications I pitch for. I need to know who they’re writing for and who their market is. It’s a big “pitch chain”, the way I put it.

Can you give an example of what is a good personal press release?

Just an understanding of what I do, that’s what I mean by personal. If someone has googled me, read my columns in Crain’s, they understand my approach to what I do. I write for a very sophisticated audience. A lot of times I get press releases, for example, “beer and shots night at Pat’s bar and grill.” And I don’t do that.

Have you ever been pitched in person through organizations?

Sure! We get talking and an idea come up. But I don’t get ideas from pitches per say, I get ideas from talking to the person. For example, someone came up to be last week and told me a fundraiser was coming up and that turned into a story. I get a lot of story ideas that turn into stories from talking to people at events. With that in mind, if someone comes up to me at an event and says, ‘Hey, I have a great story for you.’ 9 times out of 9 I will say, ‘it sounds good, write me an email.’ So I can see it in person, digest it and think of a way I might pitch it to my editors. It functions as a network and were talking to a lot of people and it’s really hard to stand still to a 5 minute pitch and digest it. I will always as for a follow up in an email.

Do you get story ideas through social media events or organizations?

I get story sources through Twitter and Facebook, if I have a story assigned that I’m working on I will look at Facebook and Twitter to find sources from the story. A couple of times I’ve gotten story ideas based on what was trending on twitter but mostly I look at Twitter for sources. That might change in the future. I’m trying to get more active on Twitter. I tweet from events and things like that and I’m trying to do more with Twitter but not really Facebook, that’s for my personal life.

If you would like to pitch to Lisa Bertagnoli, her e-mail is lbertagnoli@comcast.net