Whether you’re a freelance journalist or working for a media outlet, pitching is the start of any good story! Here is how to outline, create and write your pitch to transform it from idea to reality.
Outline the idea
First, write your idea in one sentence. This will help you narrow your focus. Then follow up with the who, what, when, where and why. If this is a news story you must think: what makes this relevant? Why would someone care about the story? Why now? What’s the hook? Who is my audience and what will hold their attention?
Write a headline or a few headlines that could work. You may want to do some SEO research too to come up with your headline and keywords.
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RESEARCH & format
Do some research to make sure the story hasn’t just been done by someone else. Or if it has been done, think about what’s a new angle you can take on it. Also consider what makes you the perfect person to tell this story?
How will the story look? Is it a text piece with photos or is it a video? Or both? Will there be a social media component? If it’s a visual story make sure you can get the visuals. Keep in mind even if you’re pitching to a magazine or TV station, digital is always a big component. Be very clear on what type of content you’re pitching.
Who to pitch
Figure out who you want to send your pitch to. Start with a few outlets in mind and make sure your content works for their audiences. See if they have a specific format or tone in their work. Also make sure they haven’t covered your story already. Then look for contact information. Search editors on the site, look at bylines and check on LinkedIn and social media.
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sending the pitch
Write an email that outlines all of your work. Don’t make the email too long. Write a catchy subject to hook them. If it’s your first time sending a pitch to this person, introduce yourself (add a link to your website or social media) and show you did your homework by sending a sentence about why you think your content works for them.
Most people looking at pitches are going to be really busy. I’d keep the pitch to a paragraph. What’s the story, who/what are your sources, who will you interview, how do you plan to tell it and why does it work for their audience? If the story is visual add an image or two. Be polite and think about an ideal time for sending the email – don’t try Friday night at 8 p.m., for example.
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You can follow up if you don’t hear back. But wait a week or two and don’t follow up too many times. If they don’t respond then they probably aren’t interested.
TELLING THE STORY
If the story is picked up make sure you understand what’s expected of you and if there’s a hard deadline. Figure out how much time it will take you to report the story and work with your deadline.
Also consider in advance (and discuss with your editor) how long your story will be – if it’s text, then how many words? If it’s video, then how long?
That’s your quick 101 guide on how to write a pitch!