Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Figuring Out FOBs

Yo, peeps. I'm taking the rest of the week off to chill with my family. Assuming that I don't pop before next Monday, I'll see you all back here then. And yes, I know that I still have some of your questions in the queue. I promise to get to them! I haven't forgotten. In the meantime, if you want to send me others, feel free to do so - allison@allisonwinn.com. Until then, enjoy your turkey, go easy on the stuffing and try not to watch too much football.

Question of the day: I would like to try to break into consumer pubs with FOB pieces, so I would like your advice on finding ideas that are new enough that a million other freelancers haven't already submitted them. Do you pour over press releases on PR newswire? Where do you go for info on recent studies (I've tried pubmed)? Do you usually get a source to quote for these queries? Are there other ways that you find sources? I want to avoid looking like an amateur when I query for FOBs and when I contact sources.

The best place I've found for the latest, breaking news is a site called Newswise. You might have to present a few credentials to subscribe (I can't remember), but you can sign up to get newsletters delivered daily. And, depending on which ones you subscribe to, the newsletters contain all of the newest research, news and pop-culture info. For example, one of the ones I receive is called, Medwire, and essentially, it contains snippets of just-released studies, along with links to more info.

I actually never use PR Newswire...I always thought that this was a place where PR firms pay to post press releases, though I might be wrong. And honestly, I know that publicists are just doing their jobs, but I rarely get story ideas from their releases. (Unfortuantely, plenty of them email me directly, and I almost inevitably hit "delete.") Which isn't to say that you can't find a nugget from a release, it's just that I often don't.

PubMed is a GREAT resource, though a lot of their studies are still fairly heavy in medical-speak, so if you're not good at deciphering that language, you might feel a bit lost. Medlineplus.gov, intelihealth.com and Yahoo Health are all favorite stops for me too. They're not solely focused on medical/health stuff, so you can generate some good ideas from their headlines.

I rarely do a pre-interview for an FOB. As I've mentioned in the past on the blog, FOB pitches are usually short and concise, and to put that much time and effort into a short query just isn't worth it for me. What you can do, however, is cull stats from a study or paraphrase a study author in the query, noting that he/she would serve as an expert should the story get approved. If this were a feature pitch, then yes, I'd say go ahead and do some preliminary research, but again, for an FOB, I probably wouldn't. Not because you'd look bad for doing so, but because the time-effort-payoff just isn't worthwhile. (Again, to me.)

And don't worry: if you're citing reputable studies, coming up with creative angles, and crafting savvy sentences, you won't look like an amateur at all.

Where do you guys find your ideas for FOBs?


Julie said...

Thanks for the GREAT advice, Allison. Have a wonderful holiday!

Susan Weiner, CFA said...

Thanks. I'm going to check out Newswise.

I mostly write feature stories. My ideas come from my reading and lectures that I attend.

Liz Lewis said...

Allison, thanks for some great resources. Other ones I have found useful include trendhunter.com and springwise.com for ideas of trends that might make great FOBs or articles.