Coffee Chat With Stephanie Mansour, Health & Fitness Expert & Journalist
May 12th, 2022
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Stephanie Mansour isn’t just a health and fitness journalist, but also an expert contributor to a plethora of publications. This gives her a solid understanding of both sides of the coin and the ability to empathize with both reporters and brands. This month, she took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her work-life balance, how she manages deadlines and interviews, and her best advice for hopeful publicists.

This interview has been lightly edited.

Tell us about your day-to-day routine.

Each day is different, as [for] many journalists! But one thing that's always constant is that I focus on my clients, editors, and producers first. If a client emails me a question, or an editor assigns me an article, or a producer asks me for a TV segment, I work on those things first. 

I have private weight loss clients (all women!) who hire me to help them get their bodies back in a holistic and non-diet way. I write fitness, wellness, and health articles for Today.com, NBCNews.com, CNN.com, and other outlets. I am quoted in articles online written by other journalists, too. Finally, I do TV segments locally here in Chicago and also nationally on the Today show, The Doctors, CNN, and others. I also host my own TV show, Step It Up with Steph, on PBS.

My daily schedule remains pretty consistent in how I take care of myself, which is hugely important when you're working for yourself. My alarm is set for 8 a.m., and I wake up and do a 45-minute yoga flow class online or a Pilates workout and a 1-mile run with weight lifting. After that, I have a protein smoothie, and get into my emails, reply and reach out to clients, and figure out what I need to get done that day.

I drink 80 oz of water a day and eat a mid-afternoon snack around 4 p.m. so that I'm not starving before dinner time. I either play tennis during lunchtime or make eggs with veggies (yes, for lunch!). I check social media throughout the day, and in the evenings, I check out TikTok to see what's trending. This helps keep me "in the know" in other areas, not just health and fitness, so I know what the young kids are into and, therefore, the latest, most popular thing.

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

I usually work on about 10 stories a month. I pitch article topics, and then the editor decides what she wants me to write. I keep myself organized by prioritizing turning in the articles because once I turn them in, I get assigned more!

When I get assigned an article, I write my own personal due date in my calendar, which generally is a week or so before the editor actually wants it. Then, if I need to take photos of myself doing stretches or exercise moves or of food, I schedule a time for someone to come over to my apartment and take the photos. Then, I submit the article with the photos, and wait to see if the editor has any revisions or needs anything else from me.

When I turn in the articles, I also send ideas for new articles. I send out pitches weekly in general and send out pitches in the email I use to turn in an assignment.

How do you find sources/products?

Through my emails and pitches! I will search keywords, like "psychologist" or "therapist" or "doctor" or "workout" or "fitness" and see what I've been pitched! I usually look for experts to quote and sometimes write product roundup reviews.

I also sometimes resort to Google to find a specific expert and reach out to 10 of them and see who replies first. As they say, the early bird gets the worm, so once I've vetted the sources and reached out, whoever answers first is usually quoted.

I know what it's like because as an expert who gets quoted myself, I always respond promptly to journalists because if I don't reply within an hour, chances are someone else has already [beaten] me to it, and the journalist has moved on!

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

The shorter, the better! I LOVE bullet points and an embedded picture of the product. No attachments!

I also appreciate a publicist who wants to send me something—especially a non-client product, like flowers! Haha. I'll never forget that a publicist sent me a bouquet of flowers after their client was featured in an article on Today.com. I was blown away and felt so special. It was a nice thank you and, by the way, something that I do for my clients! While this is an added expense, I have even received a [simple] thank -you card on stationery in the mail and really appreciate it. It's the thoughtfulness that counts and that makes publicists stand apart in my mind.

How do you come up with story ideas?

I look on social media to see what's trending, read the news online, and go through pitches I receive. I look at the current landscape of the world and the challenges my clients face. I brainstorm with two other staff members to see what they think is popular and what they think our audiences would resonate with. 

I also write out the list of challenges that my clients face every month so that my pitches can be from my own personal experience in coaching my clients. Sometimes as an expert, I am so embedded in my own knowledge of the industry that I forget how simplistic information needs to be in order for a reader or viewer to really get some take-aways, so I try to make my story ideas simple and relevant to the seasons and holidays and what's going on in the world.

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

The hardest part of writing articles for me is quoting an expert and needing specific examples, but only [receiving] vague language! The more detailed, the better! As a journalist, I can write in vague terms about a subject matter, but I am quoting an expert for specific details that I cannot provide because I do not have the expertise in that area. 

For example, a doctor or therapist saying that relaxation helps reduce stress, calm muscles down, etc. is very vague and basic. I need details, like relaxing helps regulate the nervous system because of XYZ and here are two specific ways to actually teach your body to relax.

The best part is when I get to see the article published and people tell me that they read about X product or Y method that I wrote! It feels so good to be able to be a voice that's heard on media platforms, and even more special when I get to hear that everyday people are taking action because of something I shared with them!

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

Short email, bullets, pics of products embedded in the email. When I get an email [with] the subject line "Best mailing address," and I have no idea what the product is within the preview of the message, I archive it. I get so much stuff sent to me, and I have a closet that's overflowing with products. I don't want to try every single product, but I do want to know what you are offering to send to me right off the bat. This makes it faster for me to decide if I want to try out the product or not.