Attention PR and freelance writers! If you are pitching a story that
you think needs to be written by a reporter or written a major blogger,
there’s no magic formula for getting it accepted.
Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s skill, sometimes it's who you know.
there are several sure-fire ways to get your pitch pitched -- directly
into an e-mail trash can, unread and unwanted. Follow a few of these
tips and you will better your chances with a professional editor.
- Update your contact list
I get a press release that starts – “Dear Becky,” usually I don’t read
much further. If you are pitching a story to a media outlet or want to
write for an editor, you might want to know their
name. Even better, know the editors’ responsibilities. If you are
pitching a sports story to the business editor, you aren’t going to get
much traction. A simple call to the switchboard can make a world of
- Don’t overhype
Here is the subject line of a press release I got this week:
“LIFE CHANGING INFO , YOU MUST SEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
It wasn’t from a Nigerian lottery scam or some phisher. It was from a
legit PR firm. If you look like you have no anchor in reality, you are
going to get flushed. The same goes when you are a freelance writer. If
your pitch is that you’ve written the “best story ever about subject
X”, you’re not letting the editor judge for themselves and frankly
you’re coming off as arrogant. Don’t be that guy.
- Be locally relevant
these days of contracting media, more outlets are looking to be as
interesting as they can to local readers. So, if you are making a
pitch, you better make it very specific to the editor’s audience, not the audience you
want to attract. Don’t call the paper in San Antonio and ask if they
would be interested in listening to the teleconference about the
exciting new yogurt stand in Manhattan.
- Don’t argue
to take no for an answer - really. An editor understands that you have
a lot riding on a pitch, especially if you're a freelancer looking for
some cash to pay the bills. But sometimes, the time isn’t right in the
outlet’s budget, there isn’t a reporter available to get to your event
(having more than a day’s notice helps) or there’s not an acceptable
If you get shot down or don’t get a response, don’t
question why. Just say thanks and hang up. You want to leave a good
impression for the next time.
- Be patient
when an editor says “we’ll think about it,” they really mean it. But
you’ve got to give them time to think. While you’ve been taught to be
persistent and follow up, there’s a fine line between doing it
judiciously and being annoying. Best to live by the “don’t call us,
we’ll call you” motto. If you haven’t heard back in a week, try then.
Most editors are working at most two weeks ahead in the newspaper
business, a month ahead in magazines. If you check in on a Monday or a
Friday, they will be staring ahead at a blank slate. Take advantage of
- Follow their rules
publications and blogs have guidelines that will help point you in the
right direction. Don't just send an email blast to every email address
you can find, look for their submission guidelines and try it their way
Written on 11/26/2008 by Mike Koehler. Mike
Koehler is a multimedia journalist in Oklahoma City working full-time
to save the newspaper business, while helping his wife raise three kids
under age 8. In his spare time he sleeps. E-mail Mike at email@example.com.
Photo Credit: futureshape