Kate Michael: Travel Insider & Editor for Pursuitist + Freelance Politics, Health/Wellness and Consumer Writer

 

Angela Tuell  00:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those reports on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today we are talking with Kate Michael. She is a writer and on-camera spokesperson who started writing about travel with a particular focus on Washington DC while serving as Miss District of Columbia 2006 and competing and Miss America 2007. Currently, she works as a travel insider and editor for Pursuitist with additional frequent bylines in various outlets on topics such as consumer news, health, wellness, politics, celebrity news, and lifestyle. You can also find her showcasing consumer electronic products on QVC and bestbuy.com. Hi, Kate, I’m so excited to talk to you today.

 

Kate Michael  01:06

Angela, I’m so excited to talk to you too. Thanks so much for having me on.

 

Angela Tuell  01:10

Yes. You know, I wanted to start with how you started freelance writing while serving in a role that you won. Tell us more about that.

 

Kate Michael  01:20

So I think I came to writing and reporting a little bit differently than some people. I happened upon it. I was actually working in 2006, on Capitol Hill in a legislative role. So I guess you could say I was writing, but I was certainly not writing under my own name. And I decided that I needed to go to grad school and to go to grad school, I needed a scholarship. Okay, and the scholarship that I decided to try for was then the Miss America program. Oh, I win the Miss District of Columbia title. And we can talk about that more later. But I won the District of Columbia title and the very next day, I have someone start with brand new for people in 2006. Write a website about themselves. And the person that created my website says, I added this thing that you’ve probably never heard of before, but I think is going to become really big. It’s called a blog. And I think what you should do is write about what you do during your year. So that’s what I did. I was writing about all of the openings. I went to all of the ribbon cuttings all of the meetings with important people, I was meeting around town. And then at the end of my year, I thought, well, no one really cares about what I’m doing anymore. I’m going to stop this. This was my record of all of the wonderful things I got to do while I was Miss DC. But as it turns out, people were really searching for this type of content. They wanted an online lifestyle magazine, a place to find things going on around town. So they asked me to continue doing it. And I decided to continue which then led to lifestyle writing and glossy magazines and community newspapers. I was writing about DC-centric content, which then even led to travel writing and talk show hosting all because this person decided to add a blog on my website.

 

Angela Tuell  03:12

How amazing. And how did you choose to model? Did you do that when you were younger?

 

Kate Michael  03:16

I did not actually. I was a – before I moved to DC I was a professional ballet dancer, and I danced at Disney World. That seems like another lifetime ago. But it was a natural progression from the dancing.

 

Angela Tuell  03:31

Right. And you competed in Miss America then?

 

Kate Michael  03:34

I did. Now the whole reason I competed in Miss America was to get that scholarship for grad school. I did. I did. I went to Johns Hopkins University and got both a well it was a joint MA/MBA. And maybe someday I’ll go back and work on the Hill but I’m just really enjoying being a freelance writer and reporter right now.

 

Angela Tuell  03:52

That is so great. So were you originally from Washington DC?

 

Kate Michael  03:56

No, I would say I’m originally Southern. I was born in Kentucky and I lived in Alabama and Louisiana and Georgia, and Florida for a while obviously with Disney. But I moved to Washington so that I could work on the Hill.

 

Angela Tuell  04:10

That is great. My littlest was born in Kentucky as well in Louisville. And where were you born?

 

Kate Michael  04:15

I was born in Lexington but lived in Louisville –

 

Angela Tuell  04:18

Okay, so close around? Yes. And then I went out to the Washington D.C. area for college. So we have some in common there, the University of Maryland.

 

Kate Michael  04:26

Oh, that’s wonderful. DC is one of the best places to be so I hope you enjoyed your time there as much as I do.

 

Angela Tuell  04:32

I love it. So you talked a little bit about how you got to where you are today. And you were also a travel insider and editor for Pursuitist. What does that role entail?

 

Kate Michael  04:44

Because I was writing about DC and became a literal expert in all things to do around DC I started writing for some other travel sites about things to do in DC. And then that kind of morphed into, about things to do in general whenever I would travel. Well you can write about San Francisco, you can write about Seattle, you can write about Italy. And Pursuitist this is a curated list of literally the best things in life, travel, technology, restaurants, luxury experiences. So I started writing for Pursuitist just over a decade ago, and have enjoyed working for them sharing about just amazing brands, and how readers can best interact with those brands. It kind of went from my DC-centric focus to just writing about the best of everything.

 

Angela Tuell  05:31

Yeah. And in that role, writing about the brands, the best of everything, do you have to pay attention or work in affiliate marketing?

 

Kate Michael  05:39

Not exactly. I do not work with affiliate marketing in that role. I know that there. There may be some reporters that do. Everything that I do is purely editorial. I do reviews and lists. Obviously, we would love to make money off of those lists. But I’m not the one that makes those decisions.

 

Angela Tuell  05:59

Okay. How would you describe the target audience of Pursuitist?

 

Kate Michael  06:03

Pursuitist has a luxury lifestyle audience. These are people that have aspirational travel goals, that have aspirational home decor goals, and like the newest, best tech and gadgets. So I think Pursuitist would say they have an affluent, and aspirational audience.

 

Angela Tuell  06:26

So a lot of your writing focuses on travel as well, right?

 

Kate Michael  06:30

Yes, I love to write about travel, because I love to share with people, not only hotel reviews and best places to stay – working with those properties has always been fun – but things to do and explore and learn. It always has a little bit of an educational component whether the reader knows it or not.

 

Angela Tuell  06:47

Yeah. Like they’re fun to read, but you learn as well.

 

Kate Michael  06:51

I hope so.

 

Angela Tuell  06:52

Yeah, what are some of your favorite destinations?

 

Kate Michael  06:55

Oh, that’s a tough one. That’s a really hard one. Well, I’m a Francophile. So France is always going to be one of my favorites in southern France for a while. So I always enjoy writing stories about France and all of the things to do there. You know, I still recount stories about adventures in Sri Lanka, almost a decade after I went there. And it makes you thank you, I went there 10 years ago, and now Sri Lanka is in the news again. So now people are looking for stories about Sri Lanka. So it’s an opportunity for me, to recircle back and see some of the things again, that I’m, as a freelancer, you’re always looking to use one trip in multiple places. So that’s been fun and interesting, and I love exploring American national parks. And obviously, I always love sharing about the best of DC. So that’s a hard question. But I love everything. I love exploring.

 

Angela Tuell  07:45

And we actually met in Indianapolis a few months ago. And you must tell everyone about the trip you’re on. It was quite an adventure involving long train travel.

 

Kate Michael  07:56

Oh, yeah. So I, I do enjoy the Pursuitist luxury angle. But I recognize that not all readers are able to travel by private jet or non-commercial airfare. So I wanted to do what everyone else is doing this summer, either a road trip or figure out a more economical way to see the United States. So I took a budget flight from DC to Minneapolis, got on an Amtrak train, and went over 24 hours. I think it was, I think it was 24 hours. It was overnight anyway, all the way to North Dakota, where I then was judging the Miss North Dakota pageant, rented a car, went to South Dakota, traveled around for a while got back on that Amtrak ended up in Milwaukee took a bus down to you. So I did all of those things before I even got to see you. And experience Indianapolis, which was very, very cool. It’s my first time there.

 

Angela Tuell  08:54

Incredible. How long was your trip?

 

Kate Michael  08:57

Two weeks total.

 

Angela Tuell  08:58

Okay. That’s great.

 

Kate Michael  09:00

I think I think people are generally traveling for longer periods of time. These days, you know, you have the ability to work away from your desk, you can work while you’re traveling. And especially if you want to see some of those parts of the United States that you hadn’t had a chance to. I knocked off five states that I hadn’t visited in that one trip and I predict that’s the way people are traveling now.

 

Angela Tuell  09:21

Yeah, that’s amazing. What’d you think of Indianapolis?

 

Kate Michael  09:24

I loved Indianapolis. So that was very interesting. I did a lot of walking around on foot. I kind of wanted to get on a scooter. But I’m always afraid about getting on those scooters in cities I don’t know very well.

 

Angela Tuell  09:35

Yeah. And they have rules like I mean, every city is different, but in Indianapolis, you cannot ride them on trails or a sidewalk or anything like that. So you literally have to be just on the roads with the cars.

 

Kate Michael  09:47

Well, not riding them on the sidewalk is a good rule. I wish that rule so I’m happy with that one. I thought it was an excellent historical city. For history buffs like me visiting the Benjamin Harrison Presidential site was one of my absolute highlights. And then you know, everybody loves spending some time on the water. So it has everything. It was a great place to be.

 

Angela Tuell  10:07

Good. Are any exciting travels coming up?

 

Kate Michael  10:10

There is always something on the horizon. I am looking forward to reviewing a hotel in Switzerland hopefully. And, I am doing a story on places for the ultimate girls’ getaway. So I’ll be doing that in September as well.

 

Angela Tuell  10:26

Hey, so you are in Florida now, right?

 

Kate Michael  10:29

I’m in Georgia at the moment.

 

Angela Tuell  10:31

Oh, Georgia.

 

Kate Michael  10:31

I don’t know where I am. So I’m in Georgia at the moment.

 

Angela Tuell  10:34

So if you could live anywhere, where would you live?

 

Kate Michael  10:38

I asked myself this question almost daily. It’s hard for me to leave DC. I’ve gotten to know DC on such a deeper level. Everyone thinks it’s all about politics. But if you get to know the city, it’s just amazing. It’s really an amazing place. But if I weren’t going to live in DC, I would probably pick someplace rural. I think, like that’s so interesting that the United States still has all of these kinds of untouched untapped areas. I could maybe live my Henry David Thoreau life. Write a book.

 

Angela Tuell  11:12

I love that. Yeah, my we have family in Tennessee and in, you know, rural Tennessee, and we’re down there this recently, and my 10-year-old daughter, it’s like it’s so peaceful here. I love it. It was kind of the first time she’s really realizing the difference that she wouldn’t have to be in a bigger city. That sort of thing.

 

Kate Michael  11:33

It’s probably that. It totally doesn’t make sense for someone who is as digitally focused as I am online writing, needing the internet for everything, and good upload speeds. Because if I want to continue doing all of the videos that I do, I’m going to need that. But I think sometimes, well, first of all, even our rural areas are becoming better connected. But I think sometimes you do need to have a little downtime and get back to the earth.

 

Angela Tuell  11:57

Yes. I agree. What has been your proudest accomplishment so far? If you could pick one.

 

Kate Michael  12:05

Anytime someone asked me that question, I always say, whatever I do next because I’m always trying to figure out what I’m going to do next. I’ve never in my life would I have thought I would compete in Miss America. Never would I you know, think I was a dancer at Disney World, you all the things that I have done that I have really enjoyed I never would have expected to do. I think that’s one thing that I love so much about the life that I’ve created for myself as a freelance writer and blogger, if you accept every opportunity that comes your way you don’t know what life will bring. And you could find the next career, even at the age of 40, or 50, the next career could be right around the corner, and you just you don’t even know. So the thing I’m most proud of is the next thing that comes along.

 

Angela Tuell  12:52

I love that. Aside from travel, you also focus on consumer health, politics, lifestyle and celebrity news. And I’m sure other areas. You know, that’s quite varied. How do you find your focus and get your story ideas?

 

Kate Michael  13:08

So I have enjoyed listening to your other Media in Minutes podcast hosts talk about how they get their story ideas. And I know some of them really like to have a beat. And others of us enjoy that we don’t have one particular beat because, for me, I appreciate the challenge I need every day to be different. And to be honest, I want to insulate myself from risk. I mean, we just saw travel, for example, was non-existent a couple of years ago. So if I was solely a travel writer, I would have really been struggling, but politics and consumer news abounded, right? So I was able to rely on those while still getting back to travel whenever it was more feasible. So you asked me how I come up with ideas. And I’ll admit that I do heavily rely on publicist pitches. And I’m proud to have really great relationships and maintain those great relationships with publicists. Obviously, I find ideas in my everyday life. I think as we all do, whenever something just maybe seems really interesting or even doesn’t really seem quite right. And you have a question about it. Like, that’s where the story is. That’s where you need to dig a little bit deeper. So when I’m telling someone about travel, it’s usually finding an interesting story or helping them to figure out how they can best take that trip, have that experience, and explore that area. When it’s about politics, it’s you know, having that nose for digging a little deeper and finding out what the real negative information is. When it’s Consumer News, I do a lot of deals and hacks for shopping at certain stores. Sometimes that’s just how I how am saving money at CVS. How am I finding deals at Target it’s a mix of pitches from publicists and experiences from my and my friends’ daily lives.

 

Angela Tuell  14:56

So being in so many different beats, I’m sure your inbox is a mess – unmanageable.

 

Kate Michael  15:03

Oh yes. I probably get 1000 pitches a day.

 

Angela Tuell  15:08

Wow. So what do you, you know, what are your tips for PR professionals that are trying to get through to you?

 

Kate Michael  15:15

Well, I’m not sure if I should say this is a good thing or a bad thing. But I have noticed that publicists are getting very smart about getting to know you via your social media. So if I have, although I don’t always post in real-time, if I have a picture from Indianapolis, for example, they will start the pitch with I just saw you were in Indianapolis, that looks, makes you either feel like they you know them, which you may or that they want to get to know you. And that creates a relationship. And you always want to work with people that you have a relationship with. So that’s, that’s one thing that they’re doing that I think is kind of nice because it shows that they’ve paid some attention to me and what I do write about what I do care about. On the other hand, I think if I were going to tell the publicist what would be most helpful for me, because I write about so many different things, putting your city where your event or topic is located would be so helpful because I get so many pitches asking me to write about or attend an event. And I don’t know where I’m going to be that week.

 

Angela Tuell  16:25

And it doesn’t say where?

 

Kate Michael  16:26

It doesn’t always say where so please don’t assume that just because I wrote about Chicago once, I live there. Please tell me where your pitch is located.

 

Angela Tuell  16:38

Great, great, great tip there, for sure. What sort of things are you working on currently?

 

Kate Michael  16:45

Oh, well, aside from catching up on all of those travel pieces, which there are many after that long trip I was telling you about. I just started a partnership with a, I want to describe it as like a video content travel search engine, which I’m pretty excited about. I’ve been involved in a lot of energy and environment pieces for a political site called Well News that I write for. So I’m always looking for Energy and Environment pieces, and always searching for deals and hacks to share on that consumer news site. It’s called Fetch. If you are interested in that one, I work for Fetches blog. Okay? So I’m always looking for story ideas on just about every angle, to be honest.

 

Angela Tuell  17:30

So before we go, I must ask about how you showcase consumer electronics products on QVC and bestbuy.com. Tell us more about that.

 

Kate Michael  17:40

Oh, well, you know, I started doing many of the internal training videos for Best Buy over a decade ago. So if you ever worked at Best Buy, and you had to learn how to sell something was probably me in that blue shirt, teaching you how to sell it. But since then, they’ve used a lot of similar videos on their site, sometimes explaining the products. And if you watch QVC, you may just catch me live selling gadgets for clients. They like to call me their gadget guru, which I love.

 

Angela Tuell  18:08

Yeah, how does that work? Does the do you work directly with QVC? Or does the client brand contact you? Or how does that work?

 

Kate Michael  18:16

Yeah, so I’m actually a client guest post. So I do not work for QVC I work for the products that will be sold on QVC as a product expert. So if you know everything about all of the products and be able to share how they work, why they’re wonderful, and why the QVC viewer needs them in their life.

 

Angela Tuell  18:34

Okay.

 

Kate Michael  18:35

I have to use them and know how they work and everything before I sell them. So yeah, I’m definitely not. It’s almost like doing a product review for Pursuitist. I have to, I have to know about it and know what its best features are.

 

Angela Tuell  18:49

How much fun.

 

Kate Michael  18:50

It is a bit of a more sales role, I guess than reporting but yeah, it all kind of comes back to the same place. If you think about how everything – I mean, even you can buy a product straight off of an Instagram link or straight off of a YouTube link or pretty soon from your Hulu just by clicking a button. I feel like the whole shoppable experience is kind of coming full circle so as long as we maintain our integrity and selling or sharing about products that we think are wonderful, then it all kind of comes full circle.

 

Angela Tuell  19:21

Yeah. And I love all the variety in what you do.

 

Kate Michael  19:24

I couldn’t – I mean, I need every day to be different. I think that’s one thing I’ve learned about myself as I’ve gone through life. I need, I need to continue learning and exploring and having something different every day.

 

Angela Tuell  19:37

That’s wonderful. So how can listeners connect with you online?

 

Kate Michael  19:40

So I go by K Street Kate on all of my social media. K Street is a street that runs through DC. I like to say K Street runs all the way through DC and so do I. Well DC and more now. So K Street Kate on Twitter, on YouTube on Facebook on Tik Tok, just about everything.

 

Angela Tuell  19:57

We can watch QVC.

 

Kate Michael  19:59

Absolutely.

 

Angela Tuell  20:01

Great. Well, thank you so much.

 

Kate Michael  20:04

Thank you, Angela. It was really lovely to chat with you.

 

Angela Tuell  20:06

That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We’d love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I’m your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.

Listen as this former Miss District of Columbia shares how the pursuit of a scholarship led to her role at Pursuitist.  A writer, vlogger, and creative entrepreneur, Kate speaks about a variety of issues that pique her interest.  As a freelance writer, Kate covers a variety of topics from consumer to politics to health and wellness. She is also an on-camera spokesperson on QVC and BestBuy.com

Follow our guest