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

How to pitch stories to publications.

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While most publications welcome well-written news releases, editors have another need that a press release can’t really address. Editors need longer, more informative—and exclusive—feature stories that their readers will value and that set them apart from competing publications.

You can tap into that need by approaching editors and writers one-on-one with story ideas tailored to their specific publications. The tactic is not new, but it is not often done well. A story that acts strictly as a marketing piece for your company will rarely work for an editor. What you want instead are education-driven stories, certainly including information about your product or company but putting the focus on data or insights about technical or market trends. Try to write a story that you yourself would read. It should offer valuable ideas you would want to share with a valued colleague. If you communicate like an educator you will be seen not as a salesperson but as a potential partner.

How To Approach an Editor

At Kreski Marketing, we have found that there are six steps to making this one-on-one approach work:
1. Read the publications in the industry or market area you’re interested in. You can learn a lot about almost any trade magazine from its online edition, but consider subscribing to those that best fit your target markets.
2. Look at the types of stores they publish—length, level of expertise, breadth or narrowness of focus.
3. Brainstorm with others in your organization—your sales force and project managers in particular—to identify story ideas that might make sense for you and for one or more of these journals.
4. Identify the editor or specific reporter most likely to be interested in each idea, then email or call.
5. Offer your ideas on an exclusive basis. That is, promise you will not share the story, prior to their use of it, with any other publication going to the same target readership.
6. Do your legwork on art and graphics and be prepared to include art with the pitch; strong imagery, whether photographs or charts/diagrams goes a long way to set you apart from other pitches the editor is seeing.

Types of Stories

There are several types of features trade journals publish regularly: case histories, “how to” stories, explanations of a new or poorly understood technology, and analysis of trends in the industry.

Not every magazine publishes every kind of story, and each has its own style and individual approach. But the common thread is that they publish stories they think will be most useful to their readers. If they like a case history you submit, it most likely will illustrate how an expert (like you) has solved a problem that their readers commonly face. If they pick up a story about a business trend, it’s because it helps their readers cope with changing conditions.

Almost every magazine publishes an editorial calendar, and it can give you a good idea of what the editors will try to emphasize in each issue. Look for it on the publication’s website or call and ask for a copy. Note, however, that editors will often publish stories that don't fit the calendar if they are otherwise timely and interesting. Also note how far in advance most editors plan their schedules. Don't expect your story, once accepted, to appear in next month's issue. It may take two to six months or even longer.

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