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Feb 16, 2011 10:55 AM, By Don Kreski

How to pitch stories to publications.


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Submitted Stories vs. Story Ideas

As you study a new publication, pay attention to whether they publish stories from various people in the industry or seem to rely on the same writers each week or each month.

If the publication will accept them, consider submitting (or offering to submit) a finished article, even though it takes more of an investment on your part to write the piece or hire someone to do so.

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The most important advantage of submitting a finished story is that you maximize your control over how it is written and how your company is portrayed. An editor may trim or rewrite the piece if he or she thinks it’s too long or too self-serving, but with practice you should be able to write articles that provide interesting and useful information while, at the same time, promote your company as an industry expert.

If the publication assigns its own writer, try to be as helpful as you can, returning calls, arranging interviews promptly, and sending photos and other materials as requested. Be truthful in everything you say. Trade magazines are not muckrakers, and you don’t have to worry about them going out of their way to blast your reputation. On the other hand, if there’s a dark side to a given story, maybe you should think of another idea, rather than trying to spin something your way. Or consider being candid about both the wins and losses. You can be sure your readers can relate to both, and your insights may be more valued if they are more real.

Because deadlines tend to be tight once a story idea is accepted, make sure you have any permissions you may need lined up before you approach the press. Most likely your client will love being featured in the press, but you can’t make that assumption.

Don’t expect a trade magazine to send a photographer out to your site. You will need to provide photos and/or diagrams to illustrate your stories, and often good photography is the difference between getting a piece published or not. Take the photos before you approach the press or at least have your client and a photographer lined up in advance, so you can get the images shot on short notice.

Writing a Pitch Letter

Once you have the story or story idea, prioritize who you will offer it to and then go after them one by one.

Most people find it difficult to approach a magazine for the first time. Editors and writers are busy and may not want to give you the time of day. The process is very similar to making a cold call, but if you’re professional and persistent, you can definitely succeed. Once you begin to establish some relationships, everything gets a lot easier. It’s also worth noting that just because you did not get a response to a pitch, it doesn’t mean an editor is not considering it. Further you may be making an impression for future opportunities; editors remember companies and individuals who are trying to be industry resources and in time you will stand out in their inbox.

Rather than starting with a phone call, I usually write a pitch letter or proposal outlining the key points of the story I have in mind and the reasons the editor or writer may be interested. If it’s an editor I don’t know, I usually don’t send a finished article, even if I’ve already written one, but instead suggest what that article might include. That way the editor feels more free to ask for changes or assign a writer if he or she prefers. For that reason, you may save time and headaches by finishing the article only when it’s been accepted.

It’s often helpful to write the first few sentences of your story proposal as though you were writing a lead for the actual story and then follow it up with the most important details you would include. Take your time and write your proposal carefully. The editor will not take you seriously if it’s not professionally written and interesting in and of itself. If you have some special expertise on this topic, say so, or include the names and expertise of the sources you intend to use.

Be sure to include the fact that you’re offering the story on an exclusive basis and mention that you will be providing high-quality photography.

Send this pitch letter as an email, preferably without attachments, since including an attachment will be more likely to trigger a spam filter.

If you don’t hear anything in two or three days, call, and consider sending another email as well. I will often send low-resolution photos, if I have them, as a follow up, since good photos can get as much attention as the original proposal.

Unfortunately, you won’t always get a “yes” or a “no” to your inquiries. If, after a couple of weeks you don’t have a reply, move on to your second priority publication.

Keep trying. It takes time to gain acceptance by the editors and writers, but if you’re honest, straightforward and helpful, they will accept you and the process will keep getting easier.

Don Kreski is the president of Kreski Marketing Consultants, which offers marketing services to the AV industry. You can reach him at www.kreski.com/contact.html.



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