The panel was presented by BlogHer Editor-in-Chief Stacy Morrison (moderating) and three editors – Jamilah King, News Editor, Colorlines; Lynne Joral Martin, Editor at Fox News; and Susan Spencer, Editor-in-Chief Woman’s Day.
While all the editors had different takes on what they’re looking for specifically in a pitch, a few commonalities emerged:
1. Know the outlet. The more you know, the better you can pitch. Read as much as you can to learn about the publication’s tone and the topics they cover.
2. Understand the publication’s news cycle. Online sites may be able to publish something you pitch relatively quickly, whereas a print magazine that comes out on a monthly basis may need something several months before print day. Understand the timing of the publication, so you can pitch the right story at the right time.
3. Give the editor a compelling reason to say “Yes!” to the idea you’re pitching. Can you demonstrate that a similar story resonated (i.e., retweets, comments, shares) with the audience on your own blog? Maybe you can direct the editor to a story that has done well elsewhere, and explain how you will take a different position covering the same engaging topic. The bottom line? Make it easy for the editor to see why she wants your piece in her publication.
4. Be detailed. Provide information like the article’s word count and verification of any sources cited. Disclose if the piece – even in a different format – has run somewhere else already. It’s OK to rework your content, just make sure that all parties (including the one that already ran the piece) know what you are doing.
5. Build relationships with editors – but remember they are primarily interested in the ideas your bring them – not you.
6. You can rely on some topics to always be of interest. As one panelist said, “You know every year there is going to be Thanksgiving. There’s going to be Christmas.”
7. Even if you don’t hear back from the editor, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t almost a yes.Maybe the editor loved your topic, but had already filled her space for that topic in the upcoming issue of the magazine. Don’t be deterred. Try, try, again.
8. Always tighten your writing. One of the panelists suggested trying a writing exercise where you take something you’ve written, and then cut the word count in half.
9. When negotiating a contract, ask for the due date, the word count, and the fee.
And last but not least, the panelists agreed….
10. It’s fine to write for free, but it’s even more fine to write for a fee.
Do you have tips on how to pitch editors at media outlets? Please share them below!