Media, Darling: Benjamin Leszcz

I’m a freelance journalist living in London. Before leaving Canada, I worked at enRoute and a couple mags you whippersnappers may not know: Toro and Saturday Night. In 2009, I co-founded the online men’s magazine DailyXY, which I’ve edited for the past couple years. I’ve just given my notice there, and will be freelancing full-time. (Incidentally, I’m looking for my replacement – and an assistant editor – at DailyXY. Click through for details.)
Lately, I’ve been writing for some American magazines, like Details and Nylon, as well as collaborating on projects with Urban Outfitters and Google. I’m currently on contract at Winkreative, Monocle magazine’s sister creative agency. To learn more about me, you can visit my personal website, follow me on Twitter or watch this video of me eating poutine.

1.   How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
PR, like everything, is about relationships. If I receive a personal note from someone I know, of course I will read it and respond. (Eventually.) Might sound crazy, but I believe that the basic rules of human decency should apply to publicists and journalists, too.
There’s a flip side: If I’m receiving a note from a publicist I don’t know, I’m grateful if they take a moment to personalize it, and to introduce themselves. A note that is obviously copied and pasted is very easy to ignore.
The obvious attention-grabber – and I’m sure every journalist would say this – is demonstrate that you’ve read the publication. If a publicist pitches to a particular section, or mentions a recent story, I will always take a moment. 
I want publicists to make my job easier, not harder. Give me ideas that work.
2.  What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
I love it when publicists are super-responsive and super-available. Prompt replies to emails and requests are great.
3.   What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
There are common mistakes, and there are big mistakes. Common mistakes are sending me inappropriate pitches, or sending me too many pitches. But big mistakes: Being rude to me. Trying to exert pressure on me to cover a product, or run a particular story.
Another mistake that I see in the vast majority of PR shops is that they’re not protective enough of their own brands. A PR agency’s name should tell you something – before you even hear who the client is.
My pet peeve 
Follow-up calls. Please don’t call me. (I actually removed my phone number from my email signature for this reason. My sister, who’s had my Toronto phone for four months, still gets occasional follow-up calls from publicists. So I guess I’m okay with it now.)
5.   Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
As a freelancer, I’m tough to pitch, especially because I don’t have a clear beat, and I’m not contributing to any particular magazines regularly. Still, if an idea inspires me, I’ll pitch it. So really, it’s all quite simple. Just inspire me.