How and when to pitch

Listen here:

You have your story, but where should you pitch it? I’ll share all my pitching tricks – how, when, finding where to actually send it – and you’ll have an opportunity to write your first set of pitches, amended for different publications. 

We now have your story ready to pitch out. So, where are you going to pitch it, when and how?

Firstly, have a think about the publications and websites you like that accept story pitches, and have previously published articles along the lines of the one you’d liked published. There will be papers/ mags/ websites that focus on your field of expertise (eg. food, fashion, fitness etc) but also the national newspapers and magazines that will take personal stories.

When I wanted press for The Early Hour, I knew that there were parenting blogs that would be appropriate, that did q&as with founders. But I also knew that the Guardian published first-person pieces, and did features on women in business. So I spread the net far and wide. But I started at the ‘top’ (ie. my dream publications).

If you’d like to tell your story in one of the nationals (Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail etc), start here. Think about which section it would fit best in. Should it be the business section? Tech? Health? Or perhaps your line of work has its very own section? Women in Leadership at the Guardian (focusing on women in business) was a good fit for me.

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to pitch, find out who commissions the articles. They will be called a commissioning editor and a quick google should usually lead you to them. I’d google: Telegraph lifestyle commissioning editor email address (for example). You may find their email address pops up but otherwise, unless they are freelance, they’ll have a standard format email address…

eg. Guardian is: firstname.surname@guardian.co.uk

If you’re not sure, phone the newspaper and ask. It sounds old-school but it’ll save you some time. Or contact them on social media. Once you’ve got their email address, get in touch. Create a good subject line for your email. They should be able to read this and see it as a headline that would make people want to read your story.

I wanted to write a piece for Metro and had seen on Twitter that the editor, Alex Hudson was looking for good stories. I’d recently been speaking to my grandma about how lonely she was, so she was going to coffee shops for company but being ignored as everyone had their heads in their laptops. I put this in the subject line of the email:

Stop typing. Say hello to the old person who just sat at your table

Alex opened the email, read my short pitch and commissioned me to write the article for Metro and also asked me to make a short film interviewing my grandma. I did both, submitted it and the headline of the article was…

Stop typing. Say hello to the old person who just sat at your table

(You can see it here).

I’d made his job easy for him by pitching an article that hadn’t yet been written, that would draw people in and that he could envisage on the website/page, as I’d come up with a headline for him.

Another example: I wanted press coverage for these online courses, so I decided to send a pitch to Guardian Money about the fact that my husband has decided to help me grow my business, and look after the kids, rather than continuing with working Monday-Friday as a builder. Here was the subject line of the email I sent:

My husband quit his job to help grow my business. More men should do this

And when it was published, that was also the header. Again, the editor read the subject line, felt intrigued by the story and after reading the pitch could see how this would look in print (and online). So subject lines really do matters. Make yours good; make sure it tells a story.

Things not to do in subject lines:

  • DON’T USE CAPITALS (it won’t stand out, it will be instantly deleted)
  • Avoid exclamations marks. Use good words instead
  • No emojis – or in any of the copy, ever

Once you’ve written your excellent headline, it’s time for the body of the email. Always use their first name, so start:

Hi Alex

And then keep it as brief as you can, because editors are busy people. Here’s the rest of my Metro pitch…

Hi Alex,

I’ve got a story for you.

My 90-year-old grandma told me over Christmas that she goes to her local coffee shop so that she can have a conversation with someone. Otherwise, she might spend days without any human interaction. My granddad died eight years ago, and since then she’s lived alone. 

But when she arrives at the coffee shop, it’s a sea of laptops and mobile phones. She asks to share someone’s table and they barely look up. She then feels like an inconvenience as she sits there, drinking her coffee. Being partially deaf means that she finds loud phone conversations or audio from the computers quite confusing.

The younger generations are screen-obsessed. We work online. We socialise online. But what does it take to close your laptop and have a five-minute chat with an elderly person who is clearly looking for someone to talk to? I wrote a tweet about this and it seemed to resonate

I wondered if it might make a good piece for Metro; about the importance of disconnecting every so often, and having some human interaction. Especially with older people who aren’t online, live alone and are in desperate need of company. Do you think this could work?

Many thanks,

Annie 

Once you’ve written your pitch and found the right person to send it to, think about timing. Mondays are busy. Fridays, people slow down or leave early. I’ve found a really good time to pitch is mid-morning Tuesday or Wednesday. This is a quieter time for editors, so they’ll be more likely to read your email.

The information contained in this course is intended only for the course participants. Please do not reproduce or redistribute any of the above materials. Copyright © 2019 Annie Ridout