This month’s Freelance Friday journalist is New York-based writer and self-described founding member of Over-Packers Anonymous, Katie James (soon-to-be Mrs. Watkinson). Previously Travel Editor at Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast Brides, Katie now contributes to Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, Jetsetter, Traveler’s Joy, and Condé Nast Traveler. When she takes a break from horse play, Katie reports on honeymoon travel, destination weddings and wedding planning, design and architecture, food and drink, and fashion.
Katie has also contributed to Bloomberg Businessweek, Travel + Leisure, TripAdvisor, DuJour, Endless Vacation, Robb Report, Shape and Surface.
Q: How many times a year do you travel?
Since transitioning to freelance, I travel approximately once a month. As much as I try to space out my trips, they often collide, meaning I’m away more than I’m home, much to the dismay of my fiancé!
Q: What is one thing you can’t leave home without?
An eye mask and earplugs. I legitimately can’t fall asleep without them so sh!t hits the fan if I forget them at home.
Q: What is something unique you do while at a destination/resort?
When I check into a resort, I always try to hit the gym or check out the spa. Often, the amenities offered in these spaces are an indicator of the resort’s attention to detail (quality products and nice robes in the locker room, bottled water and fresh fruit at the gym). When it comes to exploring a new destination, I always try to go for a long walk as opposed to cabbing it from one place to the next. It’s a great way to get a feel for different neighborhoods and local scenes, plus scout any cute shops or restaurants I want to return to later.
Q: What is a fun fact about you?
I couldn’t ride a bike until I was 10 – not sure how fun that is. More embarrassing.
Q: Can you share a favorite press trip experience? Why was it memorable?
I did a lodge-to-lodge trek around Kenya with Scenic Air Safaris last December, which exceeded my expectations tenfold. The luxury tour operator has its own private Cessna Grand Caravans, outfitted with executive interiors, so not only is it one of the most comfortable ways to get around Africa, but also one of the most expedient. You just walk on the runway, board the plane, and go—no waiting around for your plane to land or dropping off other passengers along the way. We got to experience so many different regions of Kenya and met with the top animal conservationists within each park, which painted an in-depth and incredibly profound picture of environmental issues in Kenya and the ways in which conservation tourism can be the solution. Not to mention the game-viewing was unbeatable! We saw endangered black and white rhino plus 21 lions in one day!
Q: What is your ideal pitch?
Something personal, but also relevant. Asking what I’m up to and also sharing client news (with images attached) that is tailored to my markets.
Q: What is the best pitch you have received? Why did it stick out?
Honestly, it’s not really a pitch. My most valuable communication is with friends in the industry—when we email back and forth about what I’m working on, what they’ve got, etc. If I know you, like you, and your client is solid, I’m more inclined to cover it than to go searching through my inbox for a random pitch.
Q: What is the worst pitch you have ever received?
Too many bad ones to pick just one. But the other day someone called a boutique hotel in a nowhere destination an “endangered species,” which made me chuckle/cringe.
Q: What is your pitching pet peeve?
When a PR person tries to pitch a trend story that only lists their clients. I understand the intent behind it, but it feels like they live in a bubble. And I don’t need them to tell me the trends—that’s my job! Just tell me the news and interesting things about your client and let me find a way to tell the most interesting story. Also when someone pitches a hotel without including an image gallery, it’s one more step I have to take if I decide to include it in a story, now or later.
Q: What is your favorite destination and why?
Africa and anywhere with a pristine, white-sand beach.
Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you do?
Maybe wedding planning or something in the design world.
Q: Fill in the blank. I look ahead at the future of wedding/honeymoon travel and see…
Couples traveling further afield and making multiple stops to pack in as many experiences as possible. Gone are the days of the fly-and-flop honeymoon.
Q: What is a growing trend you see attracts couples to a particular destination and/or hotel?
Instagram-worthy moments. For example, if I had never traveled to Bali but had seen Hanging Gardens’ tiered infinity pools on Instagram, I’d probably book it because it looks amazing and I would want to be able to post something that epic.
Katie, thank you for always making it a pleasure to work with you.
If there’s someone you’d like to see featured or just want to say hello, e-mail Erica Hammett at email@example.com. Stay updated by subscribing to our blog and following us on Instagram and Twitter @MPA_Marketing. Happy pitching!