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Friday Guest Column: Pitching a Story

Sandy Fash is an Account Executive with C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

Ask any editor how many news releases they receive daily, and you can count on the answer being “too many.” So what can you do to stand out in their inbox?

As the number of emails editors receive each day increases, pitching a specific story about your company and its services/products instead of multiple news releases can be an effective way to catch their attention. Here are some tips to consider when using this public relations tactic:

Do Your Homework
Prior to pitching, choose a publication that reaches the audience you are hoping to target (i.e., technology coordinators vs. teachers vs. parents). Read that publication. Decide which sections would be most appropriate for the story you are trying to tell.

Know Your Target
Especially with larger publications, knowing which editor to target is extremely important. Typically, editors tend to stay in certain areas or “beats.” For instance, many daily papers have an education reporter – someone who writes specifically about education. Read some of their past articles (which you can usually find online) and search their name to see if they have other interests or professional focus areas.

Making the Connection

Most editors prefer email, but if you have breaking news, a phone call may be appreciated. You can usually find their email address online at the publication’s Web site, through a database service that tracks contact information for media, or by calling the publication directly. When emailing, the note should be short – no more than one screen of text.

Tie Pitches to Editorial Calendars

Most magazines have editorial calendars, where editorial and advertising staff members outline the topics to be addressed in each future issue. In addition to providing editors with real stories about real people, it often helps to suggest where your story might fit in their editorial calendar. (Hint: Most magazines have a long lead-time – sometimes up to six months – because of writing, editing and printing needs.)

Standing Out in the Inbox
With so many emails sitting in an editor’s inbox, creating a catchy subject line can help draw attention to your pitch. Keep the subject line short – under eight words. Try something like “Story Idea: saving teachers time and money.” This subject line indicates that the email is not a news release and hints to the content of the email. The goal is to have the editor open the email.

Catchy and Concise
Once an editor opens your email, you have to persuade him or her to read it. Create a catchy, concise opening that tells them what you’re going to tell them. Deliver your pitch briefly, and then offer to help them garner additional information. If editors like what they read, they usually will reply to request additional information.

Providing Value
The most important thing to remember is that editors are writing for a specific audience and their audience does not want to read about companies and products. They want to read stories about interesting people doing interesting things with interesting products. Provide value to editors by understanding their job – give them examples of how real teachers, administrators and students are using your products and give them contact information for those customers in case the editors have questions.

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