Coffee Chat with Nandita Godbole, Author, Journalist and Entrepreneur
August 1st, 2021
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While Nandita Godbole has several other degrees — none of them are related to journalism or marketing. However, like many entrepreneurs, she’s learned the ropes along the way. When she first published and crowdfunded her indie cookbook, ‘A Dozen Ways to Celebrate in 2014’, she was not familiar with how influencers and publicists worked. While many people asked about receiving a copy, few felt compelled to write about it. This was defeating, but she pushed forward. To begin, she started building her own writing portfolio around topics that interested her, and as many writers do, she also wrote for very little or no money to gain experience. “It took time — but six cookbooks and seven years later — she has been on both sides of the machine as a journalist and as someone sending out the press releases.

Here, she chats about what her multifaceted career has taught her and what brands and PR professionals can learn:

Walk us through your daily routine.

Nandita Godbole: Much to the chagrin of my family, my work starts the night before. I do a fair bit of research each night, scan social media to skim articles and see what topics would align with my interests. The next day, I have a general list of writing assignments to address — either as pitches or as articles, or routine tasks like maintaining a website/blog, planning social media posts, and so on. Then it is a lot of juggling for several hours. Sometimes I bounce between writing about topics to keep my mind fresh. Sometimes if I am on a deadline, I type furiously and get it done. 

I don’t work on writing projects throughout the week and do other creative activities around my own work for my platform, profile, and mental health. This is either food writing, food photography, developing recipes, or engaging in seasonal hobbies like painting or attempting ikebana with flowers from my summer garden. 

My mental health became even more important last year while working on my newest cookbook: ‘Seven Pots of Tea.’ I would find calm and centering quiet time while making tea – and it became an outlet for self-care. I shared that experience with tea lovers through many articles (the most popular one was on Healthline). 

Keeping a diverse set of activities at hand keeps everything interesting, creative and allows me to take a break without really taking a break. My audience comes along for the ride and knows they will see something different every day.

How many stories do you work on in a month? How do you keep yourself organized?

NG: I know I could do more. I send out probably 50 pitches each month but work on between 3 and 4 pieces each month. In addition to that, I write a few pieces for my blog and try to post on Instagram: @currycravings several times at least once a day.

I wish I was better organized — but my creativity rules the roost. I need focused time to work, and the pre-planning helps get a general framework of activities in place. 

How do you find sources and products?

NG: Good old-fashioned referrals help, but I also do a lot of my own product research. Good publicists will be familiar with my platform, know what I like, and send me information or products without asking. I ask around on social media for product referrals and article sources, and sometimes HARO. The best ones come this way.

What stands out to you in a pitch from a publicist? The good? The bad? 

NG: My relationship with my audience is sacrosanct – because it is my name at the end of the day. I won’t promote a product or a brand I don’t like. And my audience trusts my judgment. A good publicist includes enough information to be respectful of my time, but not so little that I glaze over it. 

Tell me about the person behind your product and quite literally why I (specifically) should look at it. As an author and freelancer with a niche topic interest, it helps if the publicist has literally done their homework and thoroughly knows my platform before pitching me their product — whether it is a cookbook or a cooking device. 

Also, tailor your pitch. Pitching a pork-based product to a person who is a vegetarian isn’t a bright idea. Also, remember the politics. Pitching a product designed for a political niche consumer must be done with great care. A good publicist will do a little more research than scan through a database. I’ve received some downright racist and offensive pitches from a publicist — and now their emails go to my spam inbox.

How do you come up with story ideas?

NG: Nearly all my work is a passion project. Feeling passionately about specific topics helps fuel the story idea – whether it is for a cookbook or for a “story.” 

What's the hardest part of your job? What's the best part?

NG: As a journalist, I won’t likely take on a product if I can’t place it. Editors get all kinds of pitches. But the hardest part is knowing that an editor has read your pitch several times, don’t respond, and then give the topic to someone else. Or covert plagiarism (mining my cookbooks, social media, or other platforms for content to supplement their own writing). It becomes rather unfulfilling, like an exhausting daily hustle. 

More than half the time, I am discouraged from promoting my work because of a few rotten apples, and it ends up not helping the client I am trying to promote. I try and find a way around it, but clients don’t always understand that.

The best part is when readers reach out and tell me that a particular piece resonated with them or share it on their platform because it gave them some strength, courage, inspiration, or guidance.

What advice would you give to a publicist to catch your attention?

NG: Please (I implore you) get to know your target influencers/freelancers/journalists and those who think ‘outside-the-box' long before you need them. Build the relationship before you need them. Some of the best publicists reach out to me through my Instagram after following me for a while and interact with my posts with thoughtful, meaningful responses long before they attempt to promote a product. It is all about building lasting relationships.