Samantha Lande: Food, Family & Healthcare writer as seen in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Food Network, Midwest Living and more

 

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’re talking with Samantha Lande. She is a freelance writer and content creator who most often covers food, family and health care. Her work has appeared in Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, Food Network, Midwest Living and many other national publications. Samantha also creates content for internationally known brands and small businesses. Hi, Samantha, thank you for joining us today.

 

Samantha Lande  00:53

Of course, I’m so excited to be here.

 

Angela Tuell  00:56

Yes us too. So I have to start with how long have you been a freelance writer?

 

Samantha Lande  01:01

I’ve been a freelance writer for about eight or nine years now.

 

Angela Tuell  01:06

Okay, and how did you always want to be a journalist? Or was that something that came about? Walk us through that a little bit.

 

Samantha Lande  01:13

Yeah. So um, so the answer is yes. And no, I was an English major in college, because the University of Michigan does not have a journalism program. So I felt like going the English route was a good way to sort of start writing. But as I progressed through college and my career afterward, everyone sort of was like, you’re never going to make money being a writer. So I put that aside and started to do other things. And it wasn’t until I had been out in the workforce working actually in the healthcare world that I eventually made the switch, to writing.

 

Angela Tuell  01:47

How did you make that switch?

 

Samantha Lande  01:49

In the most random way possible, I had been working for a healthcare data firm that was a little bit too quantitative for me. And I was missing that qualitative part of my life, that creative part of my life that I wasn’t getting at my current job. So when Eater launched in Chicago, I started reading it, it was, you know, new and cool. And I sent in a tip to them about a restaurant, a wine bar by my house that was changing to something else. And so I sent him the tip, and the editor wrote back, thanks. And I don’t know what came over me. But I decided to write back and say, Do you need writers? And he wrote me back and was pretty much like, who are you? What’s your story? Send me published links. And I didn’t obviously have any published links. But he said he’d let me, you know, send them a couple of writing samples. So I really put my boots to the ground and looked for other things I could send him. Friends who maybe you know, were opening restaurants or knew someone who was and did a couple of writing samples. And that’s how I got started.

 

Angela Tuell  02:52

Wow. So you really started in culinary?

 

Samantha Lande  02:54

Yeah.

 

Angela Tuell  02:55

But you also cover family and wellness as well. You know, all of those are really broad topics. So how, what are your favorite type of stories or preferences?

 

Samantha Lande  03:05

Yeah, so I think I did start in culinary. And that was, is mostly what I did in the beginning. When I started to have kids. I felt like, you know, parenting and family stuff was sort of a next, next iteration, and then the healthcare stuff since I have started in healthcare, health, and wellness sort of made sense for me. I spoke the language I knew, knew what was up. For me, though, in general, my favorite stories aren’t necessarily, you know, what fits into a broad bucket of topics. But instead, I love telling stories about people, whether it’s a cool business that got started, or whether it’s sort of more in-depth on a chef, or being able to share information and share stories about people and different businesses is what I love the best. So the story that sticks out the most is actually not the most recent, but there was a publication in Chicago called Splash that’s folded.

 

Angela Tuell  04:01

Yeah, yeah.

 

Samantha Lande  04:03

So I started by writing some foodstuff for them, but eventually moved on to write cover stories for them. And I was able to write a cover story about Miguel Cervantes who at the time was the lead in Hamilton in Chicago and is now the now plays Hamilton on Broadway. And I did a cover story on him he has a very interesting life and background but I got to do the interview in the dressing room, where all of his Hamilton costumes were. It was there for the photo shoot you know, got to see all the dresses got to see you know, see the show, and then be face to face with him doing an hour, hour interview and then writing the story. So for me, that’s definitely super meaningful and sticks out for sure.

 

Angela Tuell  04:47

What’s something you’ve learned recently from your research and writing that surprised you?

 

Samantha Lande  04:53

You know, I think that when I first started, you know, doing restaurant culinary, you know, as a different type of writing than some of the stuff I’m doing now. And you know, as you know, in PR, there’s been an evolution and journalism over and over and over again. So I think what really surprised me the most is my ability to have that versatility to pick up many different types of writing, whether it’s, you know, features, commerce, or whatever it is, and be adaptable in that way. When I first started, I obviously didn’t know what I was doing. I had come from a totally different world. And now I think, you know, I think being thrown into the fire has made me really adaptable to all the different types of journalism that are out there now.

 

Angela Tuell  05:37

Yes, what a great skill to have. Yeah.

 

Samantha Lande  05:39

For sure.

 

Angela Tuell  05:40

How do you tend to find your stories?

 

Samantha Lande  05:43

In a couple of different ways. I think a lot of my stories originate from things that I may be interested in myself, or a trend that I may see. You know, if I’m doing a product story, and I start to see, you know, a couple of snacks that may fit into a category or I start to see an ingredient that pops up on a menu, or, you know, maybe a, you know, a clean beauty or some sort of wellness thing that’s going on. A lot of stories come from that; a lot of the family and kids stuff comes from either, you know, being a parent myself, or, or other parents I know. But yeah, I would say a lot of that, you know, some of them, some of the stories come from relationships with PR people who know my writing, and who can come to me and say, Hey, I think this might be something that you’re interested in. Yeah. Speaking of PR professionals, how do they help you do your job? And what pet peeves do you have? Great question. I think that you know, as I said, the relationships are the key part for me with PR, as you can imagine, my inbox is – given that I write across so many different topics, my inbox at any given time can have, you know, 1000s of press releases. So for me, that’s not always the best way, when someone just sends a general press release. You know, with the internet, it’s obviously not that hard to do. Five minutes of research on any writer that you’re pitching. So for me, a pet peeve would be someone reaching out and having zero idea of anything I’ve covered in the past, or, you know, what I like to cover. Yeah, and so I think that really with PR, my, the best thing for me is, is those relationships that have been built, and it’s sort of a back and forth conversation versus, you know, here’s 1000s of words about what you should be interested in when it’s just too much for me to keep up on.

 

Angela Tuell  07:35

Yeah, there isn’t, it’s not possible to be able to read through all of those emails and do your job.

 

Samantha Lande  07:40

Exactly.

 

Angela Tuell  07:41

Yeah. What’s your favorite thing about your career?

 

Samantha Lande  07:45

You know what I love the, I love the flexibility. And I love that I can choose, you know, what I want to cover and what I don’t. Of course, there are always assignments that are, you know, that are less of a favorite than others. But I really, my job really allows me to have that flexibility to say, You know what, this is interesting to me, I’m excited to research this and write about it. And if something comes across my desk that I’m not so interested in, I can choose to not cover it. So that’s probably my favorite part.

 

Angela Tuell  08:15

What would you say – how many of your stories are assigned versus you pitching to the editors?

 

Samantha Lande  08:21

Yeah, that’s a great question. I it’s, it really depends on the month, I would say that since I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ve been able to develop really good relationships with editors. So I’d say for me, it’s probably about, you know, 60/40, 60% of me pitching and 40% being assigned.

 

Angela Tuell  08:40

Okay, that’s still really good considering it’s a freelance world. And there’s a lot of pitching being done to editors.

 

Samantha Lande  08:47

Yeah.

 

Angela Tuell  08:49

So who is your inspiration?

 

Samantha Lande  08:52

I find inspiration and a lot of different places. Obviously, I’m very grateful to my very first editor at Eater for taking a chance on me. He is still freelancing as a writer himself now but the fact that he was like, okay, she, you know, she hasn’t written but I’m gonna give her a chance. That has always been, you know, someone I’ve looked up to, but I think I find inspiration all over inspiration and other people’s writing, inspiration in, you know, various topics or stories that I tell too.

 

Angela Tuell  09:23

Yeah. And you’ve recently started writing for Midwest Living. What have you learned about that outlet?

 

Samantha Lande  09:29

You know, for me, Midwest Living is such a natural fit. It’s funny to me that I hadn’t written for them prior to this. I’m from Michigan originally and my husband’s from Indianapolis. We live in Chicago. I mean, we’re –

 

Angela Tuell  09:42

Midwest through and through, right?

 

Samantha Lande  09:45

Yes, we do. And I, I had taken I you know, someone had put a call out for pitches for Midwest Living print. And it took about a year and a half for the story to go from pitch to print.

 

Angela Tuell  09:59

Wow, yeah.

 

Samantha Lande  10:00

And so you know, it’s it’s sometimes some of the coolest places to travel and do things are really in your backyard. And it’s been nice for me to start exploring some of the places closer to where I live.

 

Angela Tuell  10:13

Yeah. Are you doing more travel-type stories for them?

 

Samantha Lande  10:16

Yes. So. So the very first story I did for them was actually about a Indianapolis, western suit designer. And that’s actually in the issue that is currently out. And yeah, and so now I’m starting to do a couple of things online because the turnaround is a little bit quicker. You know, why wait for print, but yeah, I’m doing I’m currently working on an ice cream store for them. And I just did a story for them about six shows that are coming to Chicago – theater shows that you should see this summer. Love that. So any trends that you are noticing in the industry in general? Yeah, I mean, it there’s no surprise that you know, people are really focused on commerce and product and have been for a while, it seems that the pendulum really swung over with affiliate marketing, but also now I think a lot of the publications are starting to go back to testing their own product and making and taking a stand of, you know, here’s what we think you should buy based on our expertise and what we’ve tested versus like, here’s what you should buy, because, you know, because the reviews are good, or because, you know, we say so. So I think that they’re starting to go back to back up some of those recommendations with actual product testing.

 

Angela Tuell  11:34

Yeah, that’s great to know, because I was going to be what I was going to talk to you about next, because there’s so much in the affiliate marketing world that as PR professionals, we wonder too like, can we even get coverage for products or destinations or things if there’s not, you know, a 30% commission on the, on the E-commerce side, that’s going to go to the publication?

 

Samantha Lande  11:58

I know. And you know what, that’s really tough as a journalist too because, of course, over everything, I would love to support a small business. I want to tell a cool story or find a, you know, a great destination or a fun product that isn’t, that isn’t necessarily, you know – affiliate, affiliate doesn’t matter to me. I guess the short answer is, it depends on the publication. Some of them will let you know, have a couple of them in there as long as the majority is an affiliate and others will say, you know, there’s a product that’s similar that has a better affiliate, we’re gonna replace it. So it really depends on the publication, but I’m sort of in the same camp as you. Like I want you to know, I want the best story, the best destination, whatever it may be, regardless of affiliate, but that’s just not the world we live in.

 

Angela Tuell  12:45

Yeah. Do you have to tell them that information about the affiliate? Or do they usually do usually not know that side and look it up on their end?

 

Samantha Lande  12:55

Yeah, so a little bit of both. I, you know, there’s usually it’s, you know, some of the bigger websites like Amazon, and, you know, and William Sonoma, things like that. They have good affiliates, and we generally know the stores that have the good affiliate, but not necessarily brand per brand. So if it’s like, you know, a brand website that information, I wouldn’t know, they would know, more on their side, but, you know, generally Amazon, Etsy, William Sonoma, that kind of bigger box stores, you know, the sort of the general rule of, of knowing that they would have an affiliate.

 

Angela Tuell  13:31

Yeah. What do you hope the future holds for you professionally?

 

Samantha Lande  13:35

Oh, man. That’s a tough question. I you know, I want to continue to tell stories. I think a lot of features have fallen by the wayside to make room for some of this more commerce stuff. Yeah, and you know, I do miss I missed the deeper dives. I miss the features. I know that online people have, you know, last of they don’t want to spend their time reading 1000s of words, but I do really miss digging into those deeper dive stories. And I do hope that at some point in time, you know, things sort of level out, and there will be more of those to be had.

 

Angela Tuell  14:10

Yeah, before we go, I have to ask a little bit personally. I know you live in Chicago and have two sons. What do you like to do in your free time?

 

Samantha Lande  14:18

What free time?

 

Angela Tuell  14:19

I know. That was kind of, that was the way – what I kind of meant by that. 

 

Samantha Lande  14:25

Yes, absolutely. I mean, I you know, the nice thing is my boys are both great eaters. When when my oldest was born, I was still writing for Eater and I was like, Oh my gosh, what am I going to do? I love going to restaurants. I’m going to have kids. They’re going to only want chicken tenders. What am I going to do? But, luckily, both of my boys pretty much eat anything so we can go wherever to eat even with them, which has been really nice and you know, sort of love to explore restaurants as a family and, and travel and all of those things. But you know, if I’m being honest, most of my life is spent on a baseball field.

 

Angela Tuell  15:01

And writing. Working and baseball fields. Well, thank you so much. This has been very inspiring, and to learn more about you. How can listeners connect with you online?

 

Samantha Lande  15:12

Sure. So you can find me on Instagram at Samantha Lande and on Twitter at The Petite Filet. And I also I launched a newsletter about six, six months ago, where I share most of my story ideas, recently published work, and some other thoughts I have. And we can add that link into into the show notes so you can see that as well.

 

Angela Tuell  15:36

Wonderful. Thank you.

 

Samantha Lande  15:38

Thank you.

 

Angela Tuell  15:40

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.

In today’s episode, Angela gets the dish on how Samantha’s brave email led to a career transition for her.  Samantha also shares how her culinary writing career has joyfully included exploring and writing about her Midwest life.

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