This month, my guest for the Journalist Q&A in my Facebook group, was Armani Syed. Armani is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of MESA Magazine and as a freelance writer has contributed to gal-dem, HuffPost and TOKEN magazine. She has interned at the Sunday Times and also covered London Fashion Week for FavourUp.
In March 2020, alongside Kardelen Yuce, Armani co-founded MESA Magazine, a platform for Middle Eastern and South Asian creatives, focussing on sex & relationships, arts & culture, fashion, politics and first person opinion pieces – and it’s already read in over 47 countries.
Armani said: “We wanted to change the way the media represents our communities. As a South Asian Muslim, the way the media portrays us is not necessarily the most flattering. I found when I was pitching articles I was only getting commissioned to write on heavy issues like the difficulties of racism, religion and the impact on my mental health – and that takes an emotional toll itself.
“There’s a whole rich culture we don’t always get to see and I wanted to create a space to celebrate that and tell diverse stories from the Middle East and South Asia that aren’t focussed on race.”
While she was studying at the University of Warwick, Armani worked on the lifestyle desk of her uni newspaper. In her final year she wrote a piece for gal-dem on the ethics of cultural appropriation which went viral – and led to another interview with Al Jazeera. It was her first experience of starting a global conversation with her writing and her career went from there.
Armani gave some great insights into working with the media – here’s a roundup of her top tips…
Your story needs to be timely
Articles aren’t essays – they need to be relevant to what’s happening now, linked to the ‘zeitgeist’ - otherwise it’s just a floating statement. Find a strong, current angle for your story and it will have much more impact!
Finding a current angle
Have a look at what’s trending on Twitter and check out google trends – look for what people are searching for from your industry right now.
Good articles are informed by other voices
Can you get a relevant comment from a client to back up your piece? If you can balance the article yourself or offer another expert comment this will make the journalist’s job much easier and increase your chances of getting picked up.
Keep your Twitter up to date
When I’m looking for experts to comment, I often turn to Twitter. Your profile should reflect your ideas and your take on the industry you work in. Retweeting articles with a comment and voicing opinions on current industry news will really help a journalist to pick you out from the crowd. It also helps us to shape the piece as we’re researching it.
Connect with new journalists
Anyone starting out in journalism is always hungry for a story and looking to grow their network. Find out who’s new in the role and connect. Search on Twitter for trainee reporters and editorial assistants working on publications you want to be featured in. These pitches might be more likely to get read as they will have a clearer inbox more time to get back to you!
Tips for writing your pitch
Make sure you have the word ‘pitch’ and other keywords in the subject and body of the email so journalists can find it when they’re searching their inbox. Use bullet points to highlight key information – and tell me something I don’t know! That’s what gets me interested in a story.
If you want to know how you can get yourself featured in the press, check out my free Facebook group PR Made Easy.