Fred Allen is the Leadership Editor for Forbes, overseeing the Leadership Department as well as the Leadership section and CEO Network for Forbes.com. We have been working with Fred since he took the position in 2008, most often pursuing byline placements for our authors as well as the occasional permanent column.
Fred graciously spoke with us for this week’s installment of the “Five Questions With…” media interview series to share his thoughts on working with publicists, business books, and what he looks for in contributed articles.
1. What is your biggest publicist pet peeve?
I don’t know if I have a publicist pet peeve. I know publicists have very hard jobs, and I’m sure they all have editor pet peeves. I guess I don’t love it when I’m sent a pitch at 5:30 p.m. and then get an email at 9:30 the next morning saying “just following up” or “just circling back.” And I don’t care for article proposals that list all the questions the authors would address but say nothing about how they would answer them.
2. What gets your attention in a pitch?
What gets my attention in a pitch is someone with a clear, authoritative voice offering to say something that’s original, surprising, provocative, and timely, but also solid and substantial and important.
3. What do you look for in contributed articles for the Leadership section?
I take contributed articles for Forbes Leadership about every level of leadership, from education and early career development to C-suite matters of governance and strategizing and highest level communication, as well as critiques of actual leaders and companies and how they’re doing. I look for pieces that fit the criteria I mentioned in my answer to the previous question.
4. In considering article contributions, how important is an author’s platform?
By the author’s platform I assume you mean who the author is in terms of title and past accomplishment. That matters, but not as much as having real expertise in the subject at hand and having something sharp and fresh to say and the ability to say it clearly and concisely and engagingly.
5. What is the best business book you’ve read lately?
I loved Richard Snow’s I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford, a biography of one of the nation’s most brilliant businessmen and most complicated and sometimes destructive public figures ever. The title encapsulates Ford’s importance. He built a business that remade America.