How to pitch your story

Person speaking Kira Cochran is the incredibly busy editor of Comment is Free at The Guardian. She recently joined a session with the columnist Suzanne Moore to give her perspective on what editors are looking for in pitches made by journalists and PRs. We were lucky to get a ticket.

Kira gets about 1000 pitches a week and admirably tries to scan everything. However, making a good pitch is essential to really get her attention.  She started as a freelance journalist so understands at a personal level what it’s like to pitch. She had some sound advice.

  • Identify where your idea will fit in the publication or website and email the right editor.
  • If you don’t know who does what call switchboard and ask for the editors’ administrator. Always be pleasant and friendly they’re influential.
  • Address the editor personally. Bizarrely, Kira still get emails addressed to ‘Dear Sirs’.
  • Don’t start a pitch by telling an editor your story is amazing. Let the story do the work.
  • Pitch in two short paragraphs. Make it direct, capture what’s interesting and give the bones of the story.
  • Explain the peg for the piece, in other words why now (more on this point here).
  • If you’re pitching as a PR say who will write the piece.
  • Make the subject line interesting and something that’s easy to find in a busy inbox. Something titled ‘article idea’, however good, isn’t easy to spot.
  • Deliver what you promise in your pitch. Ensure it isn’t simply 200 words plus a lot of waffle.
  • Make sure you have a good reputation online. If an editor hasn’t worked with you before they want to get a sense of who you are.

Kira’s final point was that pitches were strongest when the writer was the best person to tell the story. Of all the advice given this really struck a chord with us. We have a list of questions we consider when we work with clients to develop interesting, newsworthy stories. Now we have a new one for our clients: “Are you actually the best person to tell this story?