Fed is a column in the Toronto Star written by Corey Mintz about his experiences of cooking for people in his home. Guests have included Toronto Mayor David Miller, lawyer Clayton Ruby, director Sarah Polley and the troglodytic Mole People that live in the basement apartment. Before this spoiled lifestyle, Mintz was a restaurant critic for the Toronto Star. Before that spoiled life, he worked for a living, cooking.
He always has Tic Tacs on his person and looks both ways before crossing the street.
How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
Write cogently. The relevant information needs to be up top. I once received a pitch that began with “since the dawn of time …”. If your information is good, there is no need to disguise it with jibba jabba. For my column, the guests could be anyone, as long as they’ve got something interesting going on. But in 45 installments, so far only one guest has come from a PR agent. Nothing takes the place of knowing and trusting the PR source. But for me that’s a short list. There’s only one name on it, Debra Goldblatt, and she never pitches me anything.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Timeliness and truthfulness. If a story is good, exclusivity is a bonus.
What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
I can only apply this to my area of food. The mistakes I see again and again are: 1) Not understanding the subject you are speaking about. 2) Forgetting that your clients represent you as much as you represent your clients. If you are asking writers to write about, and eaters to eat at, a crappy restaurant, you’ve lost your credibility.
Your pet peeve (pertaining to PR)?
Nonsensical lead paragraphs attempting to associate every vodka cooler, rib festival or pair of solar-powered jeggings with Mad Men or Sex and the City. It oozes vapidity. Also, a lack of humanity, sincerity. A lot of the people I deal with only want to be seen as communicating their client’s message (with permissible asides about shoes, Glee, cupcakes, jogging or cats/children). Without having a personality, it’s hard to believe anything a publicist says. Why not contact writers to make an introduction without pitching anything? That’s how I got my job.
Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
It’s criminal to presume that your audience is dumber than you. It was either Roosevelt or Churchill who said, “Talking smart to a pimp, you done broke the first rule.” For me, that’s never a problem since I am not very smart. Still, I always read my work out loud before filing it. If the author thinks it sounds like a con, so will the audience.