Jeff Haden is a columnist for Inc.com and Inc. Magazine with a unique background in manufacturing. His writing covers topics like productivity, leadership and personal improvement, but make sure he knows who you are before sending him a blind pitch that won’t get opened.
1. What publications/ outlets are you currently reporting for?
Inc.com, and I occasionally do pieces for the magazine.
2. What topics/ beats/ stories are of special interest to you right now?
I’m a sucker for productivity improvement, personal improvement, goal achievement… anything that has to do with people living happier/better/healthier/richer lives.
3. Please provide a brief bio.
I worked in manufacturing for twenty years, in a variety of leadership positions, and finally realized I wanted to do something else. My wife is a far, far better person than me, which meant I had the opportunity and encouragement to start writing. I write for Inc. and I’m a LinkedIn Influencer, and I’m also a ghostwriter. Personally I’m a wannabe cyclist, a washed up motorcycle racer, and a serial achiever (I like to try new things and get reasonably good at them until I get bored and move on to something new.)
4. Why did you become a journalist?
I’m not a journalist. I’m a columnist. The vast majority of what I write is opinion, experience, tips, how-to, motivational… I do no reporting at all. I do use sources to provide material, and credit them, but I never break news.
5. What stories (or project) of yours are you most proud of and why?
Probably this: The Emotional Price Every Leader Pays. Not because I come off particularly well in the story, but because I like to think it speaks to emotions every leader deals with.
I wish I’d written this: Frank Sinatra Has A Cold. I’m not that talented and never will be, but if you gave me one wish….
6. What’s the best pitch you ever got?
The best pitch I ever got was from a friend who said, “I just got a new job as the head of media relations and I need to hit the ground running; if I come up with an idea for a story that you like, can you help me out?” That’s my “best pitch” because I almost never respond to pitches where I don’t know the “pitcher.” To get my interest I need to know you, at least a little. And you need to know me, what I’m interested in, what my readers are interested in… so generic, boilerplate pitches never work. Find a way to connect with me on a reasonably genuine level first. Then we can talk about covering your clients.
7. What are some tips for people who want to pitch you a story?
It’s actually easier (and faster) for me to write a column on my own than to write about a company or individual. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but for me to be interested the topic has to be really, really good. So please don’t try to make me feel you’re doing me a favor by offering me an interview with your guy or gal, because 99% of the time you’re not. (And I have a big enough platform that I can pull off pretty decent “gets” on my own.) So when you pitch, know what I like to write about, have a sense of my audience, and give me a reason to write about it. In short, focus on my needs, not yours, and you’ll have a better chance. (Before you think that sounds selfish, that’s what I do when I write – I focus on what I think my audience wants, not on what I want to write.) If I like the topic, I’ll make sure your client gets to bask in the reflected glow of their wit and wisdom. I understand it’s a two-way street, but first you have to give me a good reason to want to take the journey.
8. When do you prefer to be pitched? How much lead-time, or what days/times are most appropriate?
I don’t care. Great is welcome anytime, mediocre is not.