BuzzFeed is one of the most popular news and entertainment companies around, creating crazy cool content that ranges from serious hard news to fun, exciting, hysterical, and celebrity-driven stories.
It almost goes without saying that most PR and marketing pros would love to see their name or company anywhere on BuzzFeed. But how can one actually achieve this?
Alex has experience as both a scientist and science communicator. Before turning to writing, he studied fossilized chemicals in ancient rocks in an effort to shed light on dramatic periods of environmental change during mass extinction events. He has written features for NASA’s Visualization Explorer and worked for two years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the primary writer and content producer behind three of NASA’s websites geared toward elementary and middle school-aged kids.
Now at BuzzFeed, Alex covers shorter, lighter science stories, such as “best of” pieces around science facts and culture.
“I typically don’t cover a single scientific study or breaking science story but focus instead on collections of science stories and facts about a specific topic or theme,” he says. “Creepy animals, weird phenomena, outlandish ideas about humanity, evolution, consciousness, and stories with a strong visual component are always popular.”
“I don’t have a specific beat per se, but I spend a lot of time writing about space, astronauts, and fossils.” He adds, “I pitch almost all of my stories myself. BuzzFeed gives us a great deal of freedom in that regard.”
So what exactly does Alex look for in a pitch? Here are a few of his dos and don’ts.
DO research what BuzzFeed writers cover. “People pitching stories to me should be familiar with the TYPE of stories that BuzzFeed Science writes,” says Alex. “We rarely do single study findings, and most of our stories try to evoke some sort of human emotional response outside of simply ‘gee wizz, that’s cool.’”
DON’T pitch products or corporate campaigns. “I will always reject any pitch that is clearly just an effort to get me to advertise something corporate,” he cautions. “That is not my job, and there is a whole other division of BuzzFeed for advertisers anyway.”
DO demonstrate the story’s potential to go viral. “A strong pitch to me would involve not only an idea, but also why people on the internet would want to share it with a friend when they are done reading it.”
DON’T write the story for him. Your pitch should be a pitch of a story idea, not the story itself. ”Avoid writing an entire post for me and ask me for my thoughts on it. It’s not a super-efficient way of doing things, and BuzzFeed actually has a place for community members to write stories for the site directly,” he recommends.
DO embrace the weird. When it comes to pitching an expert to feature in a story, Alex reveals: “My favorite experts are people who research quirky, specific, and esoteric things but who can also make those weird things appeal to a broader audience. One of my favorite interviews from ProfNet was with a professor of mechanical engineering who had an incredibly detailed knowledge of Star Wars and a very creative way of relating his expertise to that genre. He helped me write a post answering absurd science questions about the Star Wars universe.”
DON’T be afraid to ask. “Shoot me an email!” says Alex. “Let me know what you have to offer and I can let you know what kinds of pitches are most likely to work on my end.”
“BuzzFeed allows me to experiment with bringing more science to their pretty considerable audience,” he adds. “Not only do I get a great deal of freedom on the topics I choose, but also I have the freedom to figure out new and creative ways to convey information or tell a story in a new way. I also have more of an opportunity to inject weird humor into my posts in ways that other outlets might avoid, which is always a hoot.”
For instance, Alex’s most memorable moment came from a series of stories about retired astronauts. “I got to speak with a number of insanely qualified and absurdly brave astronauts and have them tell me all kinds of crazy stuff about almost dying in space, about how gross some aspects of astronaut life were, and different mistakes that can happen, both big and small, while on missions,” he recalls. “These were things that they probably couldn’t have said while still employed as astronauts. I could listen to those men and women for hours and not get bored.”
From BuzzFeed to Bloomberg, not all media outreach is created equal, and earned media coverage can seem elusive to even the most seasoned communications professional. Download our guide Best Practices for Creating Media-Friendly Content for more tips that’ll get you noticed for the right reasons.
Author Evelyn Tipacti is an audience relations specialist for ProfNet, a service that connects journalists with expert sources. She is a former broadcast journalist with years of experience behind the television camera and radio mic.
2 Comments on Blog Post Title
Hi EvelynTipacti I read your article. Thanks for this knowledgeable article of BuzFeed. I appreciate this.
You’re welcome! So glad you liked it.