Knowing what news desks and editors want is absolutely essential for anyone who wishes to use the media to convey a message. In whatever way your pitch is made – be it email, phone or indeed face to face – if you can persuade an editor to run your idea for an article you will be very well placed to get good coverage in that article and reach your intended audience.
However, it is not easy to do well. You’ve got to have ‘a knack’. The vast majority of pitches that editors receive from PRs are poorly conceived, clumsily expressed, and very often a waste of everyone’s time.
This is a problem, not just for the PR but also for the editor. The first thing to bear in mind when pitching to editors is that they genuinely want to receive good pitches from PRs. They absolutely rely on them.
Why editors want you to succeed
Put yourself in their shoes. Their publication is well-targeted – perhaps on a trade such as retail, a business activity such as human resources, a geographical region such as Brighton, or a hobby such as running. Even if they work for a national newspaper they will have a section they edit, such as the arts, media, or personal finance. The point is that there is only so much you can say about retail, HR, Brighton, running, or the arts. These editors need to fill an entire publication or section every month, or every week or every day. That’s why, as a PR, your pitch has got to hit the nail bang on the head.
After a while every editor runs out of ideas. Unless they can find a good source of new ideas they will start repeating themselves, their publications will become stale and their reader numbers will fall. Once reader numbers fall so does revenue from subscribers and advertisers. It is a vicious circle that can prove fatal to any publication and many regional newspapers and magazines across the UK have succumbed to this unfortunate set of circumstances.
So, they need to find new ideas. They try everything they can to generate them themselves – brainstorming in editorial meetings, asking ad sales colleagues, scouring the Internet for ideas, networking at conferences, and so on. But no matter what they try they will always be reliant on third parties for fresh article ideas.
That’s you and me – PR professionals and freelance writers.
Without us, most publications you see on the news stand would rapidly become very dull. We play a vital role in giving the editors of those publications new ideas that will stimulate their readers and boost their advertising revenue.
So, they want you to succeed. When they open an e-mail from you they want to see a good idea that they can use.
However, this doesn’t mean that they’ll accept any idea you send. You are up against stiff competition – hundreds of PR professionals and freelance writers, to say nothing of the hundreds of amateurs who want coverage for their cause, story, or business. So, you need to know how to stand out from the crowd.
Next week – the ten elements of a good pitch.