What is the difference between your PR writing and other writing?
Writing specific to PR is covered in more detail under my Communications Strategist tab, but the main difference there is that I am working on behalf of an individual or an organization with their needs and point of view and goals being paramount and when doing non-PR specific writing I do either neutral pieces, or articles from my own point of view and with my personality attached if that is what is needed.
What kind of things do you write?
These days, I am writing mostly about food, entertainment, beauty and gift ideas, but I am interested in many subjects, genres and media. I have written journalistic articles on virtually every subject including finance, health, science, art, general news and controversial subjects. I have written relationship specific SEO web pieces. I conduct, write up and publish interviews with celebrities, comedians, chefs, business people and more. I know my way around an opinion piece, including Op-Eds. I have done plenty of copywriting and editing.
I even help students with their college entrance essays. I also engage in internal and external communications creations, but that is covered more in the Communications Strategist Tab.
You help with college essays?
Yes, that is one of my side projects. I have helped people get into many universities including Ivy Leagues, UCs, and independent colleges. My specialty is helping people find scholarships and assist with the essays creation and curation for those. Note: I do not do the writing for the students. I serve as an advisor and editor in this capacity. I help them turn their words, ideas and experiences into the best essays they can write.
Do you do copywriting?
Yes, I have written product copy for tech, travel, food, luxury items, beauty products as well as general items.
You have done many product reviews. How does this work?
If a product fits into my wheelhouse, I may review it. It could become part of a gift guide, or perhaps a stand-alone piece. I have done many since 2016. My main areas for testing are food items or things related to food or drink, beauty products and household items. Sometimes I branch out, but food, beauty and lifestyle typically are my main areas of work.
Do you always require samples?
Not always. Sometimes a product description and photos are enough, but usually testing the items, especially in regards to food items, is required. If a sample is requested and received, at least a response will be provided that explains whether or not it will be featured. And sometimes, items featured in guides or written up by me aren’t pitched. I discovered them on my own and felt compelled to write about them. See this example on the Amazon Echo Dot.
Do you return samples?
Yes, when it is required, requested and when it makes sense to do so. Food items or beauty products are usually not suitable to be returned for obvious reasons, but electronics or jewelry are.
Are you pay-to-play?
No. Even receiving tester items does not guarantee inclusion in a guide or a review. I have found that when an item is terrible or faulty beyond repair, I typically do not include it and let the publicist know why. If they insist on a review, I may provide one, but they may not like it.
How is a product review different than a restaurant review or entertainment review?
First, not all products require the same response. For example, a faulty fire extinguisher or a bad toaster could cause irreparable damage, but the same result is a lot less likely from a shampoo that I don’t like. If I dislike a product with no safety, nor customer service issues, I see no reason to call out the product, nor inadvertently hurt the PR team by publicizing it. Why proactively hurt a product that is seeking publicity? I just don’t give it any in those situations. The PR team may be grateful, and customers won’t be the wiser. However, for restaurant reviews or theater, movie or TV shows, and products involving safety or customer service, it is important that I give my honest opinion, which may involve urging potential customers or patrons to stay away.
Do you respond to every PR person who reaches out to you?
Unfortunately, it is not always possible nor practical to respond to everyone who sends me a pitch. I typically try to respond with even a “Thanks, but no thanks” message, but when I receive hundreds of pitches or blind pitches not even remotely related to my beats, then it is less likely that I will return contact. As a PR person, I understand the frustration that comes from sending out a pitch and hearing crickets, so I am more likely to respond than not.
Why should people hire you to write for them?
I know a little about a lot of things and I am never at a loss for generating story ideas. I am comfortable reporting on entertainment [television and classic films are favorite], history, art, books, education, travel, business, philanthropy and non-profits, pop culture, science, relationships, health, and general news. When it comes to copywriting, I write pithy product descriptions that match the required tone of the assignment. I also adhere to deadlines and work efficiently.
Are there any things you don’t write?
Not exactly. I am willing to give anything a try, however football, high finance and vehicles are not my areas of expertise.
How did you start writing?
I had always written for pleasure, but while at San Juan High School in Citrus Heights, CA, I was selected to be the student correspondent for the Sacramento Bee’s teen section called “Sidetracks.” There I wrote reviews of concerts and movies, as well as a few features. Years later I spent time writing and editing for college publications. I was the arts & entertainment editor, and eventually the Editor-in-Chief for the award-winning newspaper of American River College, The ARC Current. Years later I was the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer, the literary magazine for Columbia University, School of General Studies. Working on college publications taught me about the importance of being able to write about anything, as well as working in a team environment with deadlines. I credit my collegiate mentors such as Dr. Carol Hartman and the time I spent in those newsrooms as being essential to my development as a writer, an employee and a compassionate human being.
Do you ghostwrite?
Sometimes. When I wear my publicist hat, I am happy to write speeches, remarks, blogs, Op-Eds, Tweets, Facebook posts, articles and other collateral materials for others, but as a writer, I prefer to have my own byline. That written, I am willing to consider ghostwriting for the right opportunity. I have ghostwritten non-PR projects before including a book on email etiquette, blog posts about Russian Mail Order Brides and relationship dramas, and chapters for biographies and other creative business materials.
Do you blog?
Most of my blogging has been done anonymously, but I have blogged a bit as myself, and I will be doing more of it through www.mediamichelle917.com
What do you blog about?
My blog is varied. Most pieces are humorous observations about life, but there are a lot of tips on using Craigslist, I am an expert on buying, selling, donating, hiring, finding activities or friends using this helpful tool. Also, there are product reviews, recipes, foodie news, and general thoughts on lifestyle and entertainment. While I won’t shy away from controversy, I will avoid any kind of political speech.
What is Straight Ahead Management?
StraightAheadManagement.com a.k.a. Drlmichaeltompkins.com is the website that I created and edit for my dad, Dr. L. Michael Tompkins. It is his professional website for his work as both a clinical psychologist and management consultant. His blogs cover a wide variety of topics and themes. He’s fantastic. Please check it out here.
What are some things that you want to write more about?
I’m never at a loss for ideas. My areas of interests for articles include, but are not limited to: food and cooking, tips for dinner parties, overcoming epic culinary fails, making/keeping friends, trying new things to be active like going on scavenger hunts or participating in room escapes, going on Meetup.com adventures, making the most of coupon sites like Groupon or Living Social, how to be a tourist in your own city, using all aspects of Craigslist to enrich life, why daily comic strips are essential to living a happier life, time management, when to choose alone time vs being social, how to be politically independent when you may be in constant disagreement with your friends, workplace solutions, new cocktail trends, roommate misadventures, navigating through complex adult-child family conflicts, health insurance successes and failures, walking the line between being a feminist and a traditionalist, celebrity deaths, skincare–what are the best creams and beauty products for every age, the coolest unknown facts about Comic Cons, when to rock red lipstick, and how to cope with having to wait so long for the return of Game of Thrones. However, I am also comfortable reporting on art, books, current events, pop culture, education, science, tech, medicine, entertainment [television is a favorite] and general news.
How many pieces can you write in a day?
It depends on what kind of piece is required. If it involves a lot of research, then a piece can take days or even weeks, but typically my turnaround time is very quick and on par for the assignment. I can write thousands of words a day, but sometimes coming up with a great sentence is more fulfilling.
How do you decide whom you interview?
I can either be assigned interviews, or I reach out to people directly. I have found both to be enjoyable.
Are there any types of people you interview more than others?
I particularly love interviewing comedians, artists and chefs, but I find something interesting about most people and I like bringing that to the public.
What is your experience with social media?
I am skilled at social media strategy and continue to develop my skills, however, my own social media footprint is small as I just started posting as myself. I originally kept a low profile online when working for other organizations, as I wanted to let them shine, but I realized that having my own presence is essential, granted, a bit late, so now I am increasing my personal social media engagement.
How do you differentiate your writing work from your PR work?
Writing and PR skills are not mutually exclusive skills. Most writing work now requires a social media marketing component, and all PR work requires a lot of writing.
What are your writing rates?
I work on a sliding scale and my pay depends on the project and the publication, individual or organization, but I try to work within the budget of my clients?
Do you do any pro bono writing work?
Very rarely. While I will some work for very little money, and I do some work for barter agreements, such as I write your resume and you help with my taxes, I do require some kind of compensation for all of my projects. The promise of exposure usually doesn’t light my fire.
Does that mean you don’t write on spec?
You’ve got me. Sometimes I have a story in me and I haven’t found a buyer yet, so I write the story or pitch the idea first and worry about compensation later.
How are you with images?
Writing and image curation and creation used to be separate beasts, but now, they are indelibly linked. In order to be successful as a writer these days, one must have some skills at graphic design. I am adept at legally sourcing images, and working with Adobe Suite. I work well either alone or with a team when it comes to adding great photos and graphics to my pieces, or those that I edit.
Are you looking for a full-time writing position?
I am keeping my options open. I love writing and there are many fabulous organizations out there, so maybe, but I will always continue with additional writing projects.
What is Incompetencia?
Incompetencia: The Art of Looking Busy at a Non-profit is my first comedic novel that is almost completed. It is a piece of fiction, but many items in the book are inspired from life. Stand by for more information on this.
Are you part of any organizations?
I support many organizations, but I am a member of only a few. I am a member of National Association of Hispanic Journalists—where I received many scholarships, as well as Columbia Arts League and part of many MeetUp groups.