Whether you’re a PR professional selling your company’s story, or a freelancer enticing a magazine editor, understanding how to pitch well is vital.
I’ve enjoyed success as a journalist and media relations professional for a reason.
1. Keep your pitches to 5 sentences or less. As a freelancer trying to get published in a magazine, I received my best advice from a senior editor at TIME Magazine. Here it is:
Keep your initial pitch to one paragraph (I suggest 5 sentences, tops).
- If you’re a freelancer, follow-up with a brief description about your experience (places you’ve been published, years of experience), as well as why YOU should write this story.
- Cut and paste any additional material, such as a news release, into the email body after your pitch. As a backup, attach the document.
I’ll never forget the editor’s words from TIME, “We are too busy to open any attachments. If it’s not in the email body, we won’t see it.”
2. Forget sounding fancy. Cut to the chase: the five W’s. As a newspaper reporter, the best way to entice me to DELETE your email, was by developing a fancy first sentence. I only cared about the WHAT of your story–so I could decide immediately if it was newsworthy.
- My number one tip from my last post on writing engaging content was to keep your article lead less than 30 words. Apply that rule to any story pitch.
- You will lose the reporter’s/editor’s/producer’s attention if don’t tell them upfront the Who, What, When, Where and Why.
3. Make it relevant! Is your story timely? Localized? Who’s the audience? TIME Magazine would rather publish a national trends article, whereas Phoenix Magazine (from Arizona) would seek a feature on a high school coach who’s changed the school’s morale.
Regardless of whether you’re a freelancer or PR professional, do your research.
- If you live in California, but are pitching in Connecticut, run a Google Maps and get an idea of the geography.
- Read through your target publication to understand its style before pitching (hint hint: you can work that style and relevance into your pitch).
4. Follow up via phone in two to three days–not the same day. Most editors will get hundreds of emails a day, maybe more. IF they read your pitch, it won’t be the same day you sent it, so give them time. When you call a few days later, start with this:
“Hi ____, my name is _______ and I’m a freelance reporter from ______ following up on a story I emailed you a day or two ago.” Then immediately launch into your story idea. Most likely, if they haven’t seen your email, now they’ll open it.
Above all else, never forget the WIFM: What’s In it For Me? Always put yourself in the editor’s shoes and ask, “Why would I publish this story?” Whatever the answer is, will be your news hook.
Good luck! And stay tuned for another blog, on my old college professor’s secret on finding important magazine editors (yes, she was a magazine editor too) . . .