Welcome to Future Talks by RTF, where we engage in thought-provoking discussions with visionaries who have carved unique paths in their respective fields. In this episode, we have the pleasure of hosting Rachel Brunet, a dynamic journalist and content strategist with a rich and diverse career journey.
Rachel’s journey into journalism was driven by an insatiable curiosity and a deep-seated desire to uncover the truth. Her belief in the influential power of journalism to shape public opinion and policy decisions, particularly in an era where misinformation runs rampant, led her on a compelling path.
Throughout her career, Rachel has donned various hats, from urban photographer to content strategist and even Editor-in-Chief. Each role has played a crucial part in shaping her into the multifaceted professional she is today. Her academic background in sociology has provided her with a unique lens through which to view society and the world, enriching her approach to journalism.
In her role as Editor-in-Chief of a French media outlet in the USA, Rachel upheld the highest standards of journalism, emphasizing content quality, ethics, and a deep understanding of her audience’s interests. Her ability to offer fresh perspectives and insights in her reporting garnered her a loyal readership. Join us as we delve into Rachel Brunet’s extraordinary journey, exploring her motivations, challenges, and the rewarding aspects of her profession.
RTF: What inspired you to venture into journalism?
Rachel: First of all, I am very curious. I have always had the desire to uncover the truth, ask questions, and investigate matters that pique my interest. Furthermore, I have always believed that journalists have the ability to influence public opinion and policy decisions by revealing the truth about something or someone. Having a meaningful impact on society is, to me, something very powerful, especially considering that some media and social media platforms spread fake news.
In essence, my inspiration to pursue a career in journalism is a combination of personal interests, a sense of purpose, and a desire to communicate and inform in a rapidly changing world. Last but not least, I am driven by a deep passion for storytelling. I want to share important stories, give a voice to the voiceless, and draw attention to issues that truly matter.
RTF: You’ve taken up various roles throughout your career from an urban photographer to a content strategist and an Editor-in-Chief. Tell us about them and how have they shaped you.
My career spans the realms of journalism, urban sociology, and content strategy. Photography is a passionate pursuit that complements my desire to document through imagery. As I mentioned earlier, curiosity defines me. I’m curious about people, society, and the world, which fuels my insatiable need to understand and report. I see journalism as a complement to sociology, as it allows me to report on the news of a society I comprehend deeply due to my studies. A sociologist can transition into journalism, but, in my opinion, it’s rare for a journalist to become a sociologist.
Over the past year, I’ve expanded my career by collaborating with businesses on their content strategies—an exciting addition. Currently, I’m writing the biography of an entrepreneur, further indulging my passion for writing and storytelling, as well as honing my interviewing skills. Today, I take pride in my career and my ability, thanks to the diverse roles I’ve undertaken, to approach matters from various angles.
I believe that at each stage of our careers and with each new role we assume, we grow stronger, even if, at times, we appear to veer from our initial path. Professional life, like life in general, is brimming with opportunities that should be seized. I hold that continuous learning is essential every day. The more we learn about our profession, the more we learn about ourselves, and the stronger we become personally.
I’d like to clarify that I was born in France, grew up there, completed my studies, and began my career there. Had I not moved to the United States, there are opportunities I would never have pursued due to self-doubt. France is known for its freedom, as evident in our motto. While French citizens are indeed free individuals, early in our careers, we tend to be pigeonholed, making it challenging to break free, though this is slowly changing.
If I had stayed in France, I would never have ventured into photography, as I didn’t feel qualified. I would have never had my work featured in an exhibition. In New York, applying for an exhibition is straightforward—either a yes or no. Many times, I’ve received a yes, and even years later, it’s hard to believe for me. I initially thought my first exhibition offer was a joke (laughs). The same disbelief accompanied the first sale of my artwork. Whether it’s my French DNA or a common sentiment among women or, perhaps, French women (laughs), I live with a kind of imposter syndrome. In France, it would have stifled my aspirations. In the United States, all one needs to do is demonstrate the ability to get things done. In summary : just to it !
RTF: In a competitive media landscape, how do you stay relevant and engage with your readership effectively?
Rachel: As the editor-in-chief of a French media outlet in the USA, I have been uncompromising on several fronts.
First and foremost, content quality was of utmost importance. I consistently published high-quality, well-researched, and informative content. Always bear in mind that the audience should find value in what your media provides.
Furthermore, I maintained a strong focus on upholding ethical standards in journalism. Accuracy, fairness, and objectivity were paramount.
Another crucial tip is to know your audience well. Understand their interests, preferences, and concerns, and tailor your content to address their needs. As an editor-in-chief, I made every effort to be highly creative and offer fresh content that my readers couldn’t find elsewhere. Providing a unique perspective or angle on stories and offering insights that others might not have is key. I must admit; I believe I succeeded quite well in this regard (laughs).
Of course, being among the first to report on important developments is essential. I firmly believe that when a media combines all these aspects of journalism with impeccable writing, it shows respect for both the readers and the people you interview. And that’s when the job is truly done!
The key is to remain agile, responsive to audience needs, and committed to delivering valuable content. By staying relevant and engaging, you can build a loyal readership and thrive in the ever-changing world of media.
What’s the right way to pitch your story to journalists? What’s the ideal pitch length?
In terms of the ideal pitch length, it’s best to keep it concise. Journalists are frequently short on time, so a pitch that quickly gets to the point is more likely to be read. Aim for a pitch that can be absorbed in about a minute or less. If it’s too lengthy, it might get overlooked. The objective is to offer sufficient information to pique interest without overwhelming the recipient. If they desire more details, they can follow up with you for further information. Be very clear and precise. If the journalist is interested in the information you’re providing, it’s evident that they will contact you very soon.
RTF: What’s the ideal number of follow-ups for a story?
Rachel: The ideal number of follow-ups for a story can vary depending on the circumstances, the urgency of the story, and the relationship between the journalist and the source or PR professional.
If you still haven’t received a response after the second follow-up, you may consider sending a final follow-up email. It’s important to be respectful and not overly persistent in your follow-ups. Some journalists receive a high volume of pitches, so if they haven’t responded after multiple attempts, it’s often best to respect their decision and redirect your efforts elsewhere. Building a positive and respectful relationship with journalists is essential for future interactions, so maintaining professionalism in your follow-ups is crucial.
RTF: What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Rachel: To be honest, there are several of them ! Meeting inspiring personalities all the time is a very rewarding aspect of my job. But not only that! Journalism is the power to inform, inspire, and incite change in society by stating the truth. This is incredibly fulfilling. Journalism can illuminate vital issues. I always take pride when I have the ability to shed light on a topic that has gone unnoticed or to give a voice to someone whom other media outlets overlook, even though that person has crucial insights to share.
On a more personal note, I stepped down from my role as editor-in-chief just a year ago to focus on content strategy. Since then, not a week goes by without one of my former readers or partners telling me that my articles are missed in the French-speaking community of the USA. I must admit that I am deeply touched. Similarly, many former advertisers from that media outlet seek my services for content strategy, often with the recurring phrase: ‘We love your writing style so much.’
Finally, regarding the current and intense project I’m working on—writing the biography and story of a french entrepreneur living in USA— he asked me to write this book, telling me: ‘I’m asking you because you’re the only journalist who has clearly documented my work and understood what I was saying.’ That meant a lot to me. I am so grateful.
The book is scheduled for release on Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!
RTF: What’s your biggest pet peeve as a journalist?
Rachel: Fake news! It’s not only annoying but also detrimental to the core principles and goals of journalism. It challenges the integrity, credibility, and mission of journalists who strive to provide accurate and trustworthy information to the public.
In today’s fast-paced society, journalists face a significant challenge: people are reading less and often settle for article headlines or information shared on social media, much of which is false. Combatting this trend is exceptionally challenging for journalists.
Another complex issue, which is intensifying over time, is the growing hostility towards journalists from certain social groups. This hostility is often fueled by populist politicians, and unfortunately, in an increasingly divided society, many individuals believe that the media is corrupt.
RTF: What’s your advice for young aspirants wanting to venture into journalism?
Rachel: I just want to say to aspiring journalists : Go for it, it’s a challenging but fantastic profession! Always strive to be impartial, objective, curious, ethical, resilient, and empathetic! Respect the people you interview, respect your readership and respect yourself and your ethics!
But more than that, I want to say what I always tell my son, who doesn’t want to be a journalist by the way (laughs) ‘Give yourself a dream, a big dream, and do everything to achieve it. You’re living your life for yourself, not to please your family or friends. Believe in yourself, if you don’t, no one else will do it for you.’
And who knows, maybe one day you’ll win a Pulitzer. If you dream it and work towards it, you’ll make it happen, for sure!
Rachel Brunet holds a Master’s degree in Sociology/Anthropology from the University of Provence, in France. She began her career in the media industry in Paris, where she worked in journalism. After gaining substantial experience in this field, she made the decision to return to sociology, leveraging her skills and sociological knowledge in the field of urbanism.
Upon relocating to the United States, she reentered the world of media by taking charge of the development of a French-language media outlet in the United States. This decision marked a return to her preferred field while offering a unique perspective to French-language media coverage in the American context. Her background in sociology undoubtedly enriched her understanding of social and cultural dynamics, which may have influenced her approach in developing this media outlet.
For the past year, she has been working as a freelance content creator and strategist, collaborating with various companies to meet their content, content strategy, and book-related needs. With her writing skills and expertise, she contributes to building a media presence and a positive image for entrepreneurs and their businesses. It’s a creative way to combine her passion for writing with her commitment to the world of business.
Rachel Brunet is the mother of a 14-year-old boy and resides in Manhattan.