Meet the Media: Scotty Reiss, Founder of A Girls Guide to Cars

I’m the founder of A Girls Guide to Cars, the leading automotive site written for women. I also contribute to, ForbesWheels, PureWow and others. I moderate panels and fireside chats for Reuters Automotive Events, and I am on the board of Women in Automotive, I serve on the Steering Committee and as a juror for the World Car Awards and am on the board of the International Motor Press Association. 

Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?

We create content— written, social and video— about all things automotive through the lens of how women live their lives in cars: Reviews, news, technology, maintenance, travel, family, car gear, style, and stories about the people, especially women, who engineer, design, build and sell cars. That last category is especially close to my heart because it underscores the reason we exist: To connect women, by far the largest purchaser of cars, to one of the most expensive and important purchases they make. There is a huge cultural disconnect between the two. Our mission is to change that by empowering women with information that will give them confidence when buying and maintaining a car, and to change the conversation about cars to one that is engaging for women. 

Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.

I started my career at Adweek covering the television business and competing against huge established newsrooms like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. We were small but scrappy and had big goals including breaking news ahead of our competitors. I had a few big breaks in those days; probably the biggest was when I broke the news that Rupert Murdoch hired Roger Ailes to start Fox News. It was a thrill to land a story like that, but the nature of news can lead to burnout. After a few years I needed to move on and became an editor, a role I really enjoy. Now, in addition to writing and shooting video, I have the pleasure of working with more than 40 female writers, most of them new to automotive. Seeing them develop a voice and a point of view in the auto space is quite rewarding.

Another crazy chapter is more recent: I joined the World Car Awards advisors committee, a group of jurors who offer to lend a hand with projects, shortly before the pandemic hit and the New York Auto Show was cancelled. That meant the annual awards ceremony was cancelled, too. We had phone call to discuss how to present our awards and the question was asked, if we live stream our awards ceremony, who can help? I volunteered and ended up being one of the leads on the broadcast— not something I was familiar with, as I didn’t do a lot of video. I found myself presenting segments along with other very seasoned broadcast pros, including leading Indian news anchor Sid Patankar, top Latin American auto journalist Carlos Sandoval and George Notaras, whose MotomanTV is one of the leading YouTube auto channels. That broadcast became World Car TV which is now in its third season; I co-host with Sid and have just taken over as executive producer. 

What story or stories are you most proud of?

I really love the perspective we take on car reviews. To dive into a vehicle and find its finer points, the little things that make life good, the value proposition that makes it a good fit for a buyer’s life, the thoughtful touches that will drive a women to love her car, those are the things we look for. We hear all the time from our audience that the details we share are ones that they never hear anywhere else and they greatly appreciate it. 

What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?

We look at every story from the point of view of the person who will buy that car. What will matter most to her? What will she love? What caveats should she be aware of? What insights will connect her more closely to the car and the brand? What will make her feel good about being in that car every day? When you buy a car you become part of the brand “family” and for many owners, their car is a member of the family. Buying a car is an intimidating process, so our goal is to deliver information that will give our audience confidence as they shop for a car.   

How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?

I started right after graduation from the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia. I was a reporter and editor at Adweek, then left to start a family. When our two daughters were young I wrote freelance articles for The New York Times, Town & Country, Entrepreneur and others. I loved the idea of “content” and called myself a content curator before “content creators” were a thing. I produced white papers and executive guidance for management consulting company LRN, conferences for American Express Publishing’s Luxury Summit, the Luxury Marketing Council and PR Week’s annual conference. In 2013 a friend suggested we start an automotive site for women and I declined; I didn’t see the automotive market as very friendly toward women. But in doing my homework I was struck by the disconnect between the number of cars women purchase and the media dedicated to this pursuit. I realized that A Girls Guide to Cars was a much needed outlet. 

Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …

Writing, shooting video and working on projects for World Car Awards, Women in Automotive, the International Motor Press Association and other interests. As an entrepreneur you never really leave work at the end of the day, but we live in a very creative and inspiring time, so work tends to be a passion for me, too. 

What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?

This may be dangerous to say, but we try to say yes to everything. We see that as an opportunity for our writers and editors to build their experience and archive of automotive content. We also believe that relationships are incredibly important. I want to help you to find the right audience for your story. It may be our audience and our site, and it may be another outlet or organization; if we can help you get there, make that contact, we will. Last, please don’t send us irrelevant or poorly conceived ideas. And at the risk of sounding angry, I would like to slap the person who sells the database of editors names and emails to SEO agencies; I get dozens and dozens of emails every week offering “free, well written content.” We don’t take unsolicited content and we won’t publish irrelevant links or paid links; every item we publish is written by assignment by one of our writers and every link we publish is to provide service to our audience.  

Any pet peeves with PR people?

It’s been tough building a business from the ground up in a content sector without a business model and that is new to me—A Girls Guide to Cars was my first foray into automotive. This meant we had to meet people and build relationships from scratch, too. Many people were incredibly warm and welcoming, giving us car loans so we could produce stories, inviting us on press trips and sharing insights and story ideas. However, not everyone has and that’s been disheartening. Some refuse to return calls and emails, others are polite but won’t engage with us. That list is dwindling; in order to serve our audience we have to provide content on the cars and topics that are meaningful, whether or not a brand’s PR department wants to participate. I realize that we have to prove ourselves to them, and we strive to do that by sharing our metrics (we reach more than 2MM consumers a month across all our channels), content links and more. And we’ll keep at it because serving our audience is what matters most to us.

Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, some fact about you that few people know, etc.)

I live in Austin, TX, a recent relocation after raising my family in Greenwich, CT and working in New York. I love life in Texas— the winters are wonderfully mild—and it’s an easy flight to anywhere, which is good because I travel quite a lot. I love spending time with my daughters who are 20 and 23, my husband and our extended family in Austin. I grew up in Charlotte, NC, where the public school system began desegregation when I was in first grade. My life and beliefs are shaped by that experience: the friends, teachers and leaders, many of them Black, who I came to like, understand and value. I consider myself an ally for diversity, equity and inclusion, and strive to help bring new voices and opportunities to those who don’t feel like there is room for them at the table. There’s not always a seat at the table for me, either, but I’ll always work to make room for myself and others. 

You can follow Scotty on Twitter at: @scottyreiss

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