I was first introduced to Tonya Garcia when she was an editor at PRNewser, a MediaBistro site that covers the public relations industry. I always enjoyed reading her witty and straight forward perspective on the industry and appreciated her efforts to highlight diverse topics and people. She was always extremely responsive to pitches; even if they didn’t fit.
Over time we developed a great rapport and when she announced that she’d be leaving to become the business editor at Madame Noire in 2012, where I was and still am a contributor, I was excited about the prospect of continuing our working relationship.
As an editor, she’s been absolutely amazing; and no, I’m not just saying that because she’s my editor. Tonya makes herself available to assist staff- and contributing writers and she’s always calm under pressure even during extreme situations like last week when server issues threatened to erase most of the content on the business page. In a little over a year’s time, she’s increased both the amount- and the quality of business content on MadameNoire.
Here, she talks about her pitch preferences, her favorite books and gives some great business advice.
Hashtags+Stilettos (H+S): What are your day-to-day responsibilities as the business editor at MadameNoire?
Tonya Garcia (Garcia): My day-to-day is packed with everything that has to get done to keep the business page running. That includes writing and editing stories, responding to pitches, interacting with freelancers, scheduling lunches, parties, and Twitter chats… just about anything you can think of since I’m the only MadameNoire editor working on this page.
H+S: What inspired you to become a writer?
Garcia: I always knew I wanted to do something with books and letters. I took journalism 101 my senior year of college and was immediately sold.
H+S: You used to write about the PR industry for MediaBistro’s PRNewser. Do you think your time in that role has helped you build more meaningful relationships with PR people and/or your interview subjects?
Garcia: I think it’s taught me how to handle the back and forth, which makes for better information coming to me and less time wasted being upset.
H+S: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Garcia: Be dedicated. It’s a tough industry. And read. I had a professor tell me, “Good writers are good readers.” It helps polish your vocabulary, your grammar, and makes your writing cleaner. There are way too many people who submit a resume or sample to me who can’t write.
H+S: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Garcia: “There’s no crying in baseball.” Business is business. You have to have a tough skin, you have to be focused, and you can’t take things personally. I love what I do. Sometimes, it doesn’t love me back. But it’s a job and you have to be professional.
H+S: What types of stories, content or projects are you looking for?
Garcia: Always good business profiles and Q&As, expert commentary to inform a feature slideshow or news story, and we’re diving more and more into trends, so we need insight about different areas that we should be keeping an eye on.
H+S: How do you prefer to be pitched?
Garcia: I prefer Facebook, Twitter and email. I like links and a bit of detail to get the ball rolling. If we need to speak, we can put a few minutes on the calendar. Sounds crazy, but even a 10-minute interruption when I’ve got stories to publish is a big deal.
H+S: When is the absolute worst time to send you a pitch?
Garcia: Anytime! If you send a note, feel free to write at all hours.
H+S: Biggest PR pet peeves?
Garcia: The follow-up phone call. If I don’t get back to you, send another email to get your note back to the top of my inbox. If I see the same name twice, I know I need to address it. But if you don’t hear back, it’s possible that we’re not going to run with the story. And calling just diverts me.
H+S: How can a PR person or brand get on your “always respond” list?
Garcia: Be specific. I get too many pitches that aren’t actually pitches. Just “this exists and we’d like you to cover it.” Details give me direction.
H+S: Name one thing journalists can do to have a better relationship with PR people?
Garcia: Be more honest. Not nasty or mean-spirited, but just say flat out, “If you do XYZ, I can’t work with you.” You can’t blame a publicist for doing their job. Part of that job is being a little pushy. So journalists have to say very plainly what is and isn’t working. But there’s never an excuse for being ugly in response.
H+S: Complete the following sentences:
My favorite inspirational quote is… One I like right now: “If your nerve deny you, Go above your nerve.” It’s from an Emily Dickinson poem.
My favorite books are… The Great Gatsby, Ethan Frome, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Room by Emily Donoghue, The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Nighttime, The Interpreter of Maladies; too many to list.
I had the most fun writing or working on… Just about everything I’ve ever worked on. I don’t believe in working on things I don’t enjoy.
I’m most proud of… Being a part of the media industry. It’s a great area to be in.
My dream interview would be with… Barack and Michelle [Obama]. Honestly, there’s just so much happening in the world right now. It’s just exciting to talk to interesting people.
iPhone, Android or Blackberry? Ugh… sadly a BlackBerry. But I’m working on it.
My 3 favorite mobile apps are… I’m addicted to Twitter. But Facebook. Once I’ve got a funky fresh new Android phone, I’ll have a third.
I have…unread emails in my inbox right now… If you count all of my email addresses… about 3,000. A good deal of it is junk.
A fun fact about me is… I have a pretty good fake British accent.
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