Oct
02

I have been a journalist for over 20 years, writing for a number of publications, as well as a magazine editor and a PR/communications specialist. As a result, I have a pretty good idea of what a good pitch is — and how to get an editor’s attention. That doesn’t mean that the editor or writer is going to run with the first idea you pitch her, just that I know how to write and target a pitch so I get a personal response back and start a conversation, which often leads (eventually) to getting an article published.

I also know, as someone who is always being pitched stories, what does NOT work, that is what an editor or writer will immediately delete from her in box.

So, as a public service to those of you who are looking for some free publicity (which is what being in an article is), here are some basic tips on how to pitch a story to an editor or writer.

1. Target the right publication(s). Before you send an email, write a letter, or place a call to an editor or writer, do some research to figure out which publications are most likely read by your target audience.

2. Study the publication or publications you plan on pitching. What does that mean? That means actually reading several issues and at least skimming the last year’s worth, so you understand the tone and style and what kind of articles they publish.

3. Check to see whether or not the publication has run a story like the one you want to pitch in the past year. If they have, unless you have a totally new angle, they are going to pass on your story — and you should pitch to a different publication.

4. Figure out which editor or writer you should pitch to. How do you that? Go to the publication’s website and click on the Contact Us section — or look for a link along the lines of How to Submit an Article or a list of editors and the departments they are in charge of.

If you are pitching a print publication (though most of them now have websites), scan the masthead/editorial page and look for instructions (often in small type near the bottom of the page)  about how to submit an article query.

Another way to figure out who the right person to contact is to call the publication and ask. You may even get connected to the right editor there and then. If so, be prepared to give your 30-second pitch on the spot. So make sure to have a 30-second “elevator” pitch prepared!

5. Make the most of the subject line. Chances are you are emailing your pitch, so your subject line has to create some buzz/peak the editor’s interest if you want her to open your email. So you need to come up with a great, SHORT (15 words or less, with less being more) subject line that encapsulates your story, or teases (in a good way) the recipient into opening it. And be sure to type the words “Article query:” or “Story idea:” at the beginning of the subject line.

6. Write a really great, succinct (no more than a printed page) pitch, which includes your name, the name of your business, what it is you are pitching and why, and why that publication is a perfect fit for your story. If you are selling a product or service and have a great customer story, be sure to include it or allude to it in your pitch. For example:

Dear Katie,

I loved your article “I Got a Baby — and a Rash! Coping with skin problems during pregnancy and after you give birth,” about moms who developed skin sensitivities either when they became pregnant or after they gave birth. In fact, it inspired me to start a line of products just for these moms and their babies, which I bet your readers would love to know about!

I am the owner of Atta Baby Baskets, a company I created two years ago for moms and babies, after several of my friends started having babies. The company sells personalized baskets filled with unique and unusual products for moms and babies — and has really grown up a lot since then. Just last month a friend of Jennifer Lopez’s ordered a personalized baby basket for Ms. Lopez and her twins — and sent us a note saying what a hit it was! As a result, we got over 50 new orders!

But what I am really excited about, and think would make a great follow-up article for your readers, is our new line of organic personalized baby baskets, put together for moms and babies with sensitive skin.

Would love to chat with you about.

Best,

Shiela

Shiela Jones
President, Atta Baby Baskets
555.555.5555
sheila@attababybaskets.com

NOTE: A pitch is not an article. Let the editor or writer do her job. Just send the editor or writer your pitch, not an article, and let her take it from there.

7. Make sure to check spelling and grammar and fact check your pitch. Misspelled words, particularly the names of people, products, and companies, as well as poor grammar, are BIG turnoffs. Show the editor you really care by submitting a polished, well written — and spelled — pitch.

8. Have someone else look over your pitch before you send it, someone who has the guts to be honest with you if it needs work. Always, always have an editor. Everyone, even the best writers, can use a little help — and often don’t see their own mistakes.

9. Be sure to include contact information: Your name, the name of your business, a phone number (can be home, office, or mobile, whichever is the best one for reaching you), and, very important,  your email address.

10. Only target one editor/writer/publication at a time; NEVER send an email blast. Nothing makes me hit “delete” faster than a press release that was clearly blasted to anyone and everyone.

When you are ready to send your pitch, send it first to the editor/writer/publication you want most to publish it, or the one you think will most likely publish it. Be sure to include a personal salutation and *extra points* mention an article from the publication in a similar vein as the one you are proposing, one that you really liked or one the person you are writing to wrote (as in the example, above).

You know the saying “flattery will get you everywhere”? Well, it may not get you everywhere, but it goes a long way — and in this case shows you’ve done your homework.

11. Follow up. Check to see if the publication has a stated policy about how long responses to article queries take. Typically it is 4 to 6 weeks. However, if there is no stated policy, wait at least a week to follow up.

When you do follow up, do not be pushy. Just re-send your original email putting “Following up: article query” at the start of your subject line. Then, in the body copy, write a very brief note along the lines of:

Hi Katie!

Just wanted to make sure you got my query.

We just got a great endorsement from Dr. Jane Doe, an OB/GYN who has appeared in your magazine, who said she would be happy to be mentioned in an article and talk about new moms and skin sensitivies.

Let me know if you are interested in finding out more about Atta Baby Baskets or how to help new moms deal with skin problems. Would love to chat with you.

Best,

Shiela

Shiela Jones
President, Atta Baby Baskets
555.555.5555
sheila@attababybaskets.com

If you have still not received a response after sending the follow-up email, call the editor at WORK. NEVER call an editor or writer at home.

12. Lastly, respond quickly to editors if or when they contact you. Unresponsiveness and lack of availability are two of my top pet peeves. Oftentimes I receive a press release or pitch I am interested in, contact the PR person, and then hear nothing — or have to follow up. That is unacceptable. Equally bad, receiving a pitch and then being told the person I want to speak at the company is not available. Then why did you send out a press release? ARGH!

As a result of these faux pas, I refuse to work with certain PR people who continually send me pitches and then do not get back to me in a timely fashion or cannot get me interviews with people (or the right people) at the company they are trying to publicize.  So if you are serious about promoting your company, be prepared to jump when an editor emails or calls you.

A SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT SUBMITTING A PITCH THROUGH HARO: One of the best, easiest, and cheapest ways to get some press for your business is to sign up with HARO (Help a Reporter). I cannot tell you how many times HARO has helped me find great sources for my articles. That said, if you want to get a reporter to respond to your pitch, make sure you provide the information the reporter asked for — as well as your name, contact information, and URL within the pitch. Do NOT provide a pitch that says, “I know a lot about this topic and would be happy to help you out.” GIVE EXAMPLES. Also, do NOT write, “I know this great guy you should talk to.” If he’s so great, get him to join HARO and submit a pitch. Also do NOT use the pitch to advertise or sell yourself or your business. The best pitches, i.e., the ones reporters respond to, directly answer the reporters question(s), and make it easy for the reporter to find out about and contact you.

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Comments

Cierra on 12 March, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

I’ve never given this a try, but I think it’s about time I do.


jennifer on 12 March, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

Good luck, Cierra!


Bushe on 9 August, 2009 at 5:07 pm #

Would you be interested in writing for The Neave Online Publication? I love your writing style and I feel like you would fit in perfectly with the other writers.


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