Now Pitching: Joan Verdon, Forbes

By Andrew Petro

Welcome back to second addition of Now Pitching, Matter’s monthly retail tech Q&A that features the industry’s leading journalists to get a pulse on the trends they’re following and topics they’re focused on.

Last month we spoke with Dan Berthiaume of Chain Store Age, who shared his experience at NRF 2020, perspective on covering the coronavirus pandemic and more. This month, we’re thrilled to spotlight Joan Verdon, senior retail contributor at Forbes.  

Joan Verdon has more than 20 years of experience covering the retail industry, from mega-malls to main street shops. Joan has reported on retail bankruptcies, launches and turnarounds, as well as the phenomenon known as Paramus, New Jersey, which has more retail square footage per capita than any other suburban zip code in the country. 

We’ve worked closely with Joan to secure features for clients, most recently around the 2019 holiday shopping season: The 10 Busiest Shopping Days At Stores: Why They Now Matter More To Stores Than Shoppers (Sensormatic Solutions).

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to consume the retail news cycle, taking a measured approach to pitching reporters has never been more important. Joan gives us an inside look into what she is currently working on and helpful tips for PR pros looking to engage with her.

Matter: What are you working on currently?

Joan: I am doing a lot of reporting on how stores, restaurants, entertainment chains and malls are preparing to reopen, and how they are changing their everyday procedures to adapt to the new retail world. A big part of that is looking at how consumers are responding to those changes. 

Matter: How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted your day-to-day as a reporter? What kinds of pitches are breaking through the clutter?

Joan: I was working from home before this, so not much change there, but the surprise has been how busy I have been. The retail beat has become busier than ever, because retail has been hit so hard by the shutdowns. I am also getting more pitches than ever. The best way to break through the clutter is to have something new. Tell me something I haven’t heard before. The first clothing company that pivoted to make face masks was a good story. The 20th, not so good. 

Matter: What topics or trends in retail do you find the most interesting right now?

Joan: One of my problems is I find pretty much anything retail-related interesting, so it’s hard to say no to any pitch, but right now I am most interested in the ways retailers are changing and adapting, and the ways shopping habits are changing. We are about to see the biggest change in retail since the mall era began in the 1950s. I am interested in the new technologies or new ideas that are going to accompany that change.

Matter: What sort of story or data would you love to get from a source as an exclusive?  

Joan: I have seen a big change in the value of an exclusive in recent years. Because everything is online, an exclusive is no longer your exclusive the minute you post it. It’s not like the days when you could have an exclusive on the front page and beat the competition by a day. So for an exclusive offer to interest me, it would have to be something major – a company is announcing a new CEO and you are offering an exclusive interview, or a company is announcing major news, and I have an exclusive interview about it. That way when the news breaks, other outlets will also have the story instantly, but they won’t have the interview. 

Matter: How do you prefer to receive pitches or be contacted by PR pros?  

Joan: Email. Email. Email. Email as much as you want and nudge me by email. Just don’t get mad if I don’t reply. I read all my emails, but if it isn’t something I am working on right away, or it doesn’t fit my beat, I probably won’t reply.

Matter: What is a fun fact about yourself that people may not know?  

Joan: Here are some guaranteed ways to make your pitch to cut through the clutter: If you grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey, or if you went to Teaneck High between 2003-2011, or if you grew up in Nassau County, New York, or went to Hofstra University, put that in your email and you have just boosted the odds of getting a reply from me by 100%.

Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay tuned for our next edition of Now Pitching.