Do editors want your pitches?

The ability to pitch to editors is absolutely essential for anyone who wishes to use the media to convey a message. However that pitch is made – be it e-mail, phone or in person – 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 so reach your intended audience.

However, it is not easy to do well. It is a large part of the reason why companies hire PR experts – in-house and agency. They need people who know how to pitch article ideas to journalists and editors. It’s the skill that marks out the PR professional from the amateur.

And yet, very few PRs know how to do it well. From my experience as a freelance journalist, and from canvassing the views of editors I know and write for, the vast majority of pitches from PRs are poorly conceived, clumsily expressed, and very often a waste of everyone’s time.

This is a problem, not just for the PRs but also for those editors. The first thing that any PR should bear in mind when building a pitch to an editor is that the editor genuinely wants to receive good pitches from PRs. They absolutely rely on them.

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. The point is that there is only so much you can say about retail, HR, Brighton, running or the arts. And these poor editors need to fill an entire publication or section every month, or every week or every day.

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.

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 providing the editors of those publications with 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.

In my next post I’ll be sharing my thoughts on how to do exactly that (or to learn exactly how to do it, sign up to my course on Pitching to Editors – but for now, I’d like to offer this optimistic thought to every PR out there who is struggling to pitch an idea to the media. It’s always difficult, and with so many publications suffering from plummeting ad revenues and so dropping their pagination, it is more difficult than ever beofre. But it is not impossible. And the people on the end of the phone or reading your e-mails DO want you to succeed!


Filed under Journalism, PR

6 responses to “Do editors want your pitches?

  1. Thanks for the blog, Alex.

    I think the key attribute of anyone in PR is the ability to synthesise other people’s viewpoints and thoughts. Or as you say it, put yourself in their shoes. Not want you want to say but what does the editor want to hear in the first instance.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Alex,

    welcome to the brave new world of blogging

    I am looking forward to reading your insights and that inside perspective can make a blog very popular – what PRs get right and wrong pitching is always going to generate interest


  3. Nice post. It’s refreshing to see that you acknowledge the difficulty posed by the reduction of titles and the reduction of pages. Even the best PRs will struggle as what worked 6 months ago, is no longer valid.

    I feel it’s a truly exciting time to be in PR – the goalposts are constantly moving. You either skill up and take on the challenge or give up now, the weak will soon be weeded out.

    Look forward to the next post!

  4. Emma McDonald

    Great first blog Alex! Thanks for the words of encouragement to all those working in this industry. Things have changed but change is good! It is those who adapt and refine their skills, that I believe will be successful.

    Until the next time…


  5. Thanks so much for making me feel slightly less alone! I agree with the other comment about how quickly things have changed – it is extremely frustrating at the moment trying to pitch ideas to trade press editors who are so busy and under pressure that they can hardly spare the time for the phone call. In the not too distant past it was possible to meet journalists for coffee or lunch and form a relationship with them. When a news story came along then there was a natural rapport and, as a PR, I always found that knowing the journalist (at least a little) helped to inform the tone of my pitch. There’s no chance of forging these relationships in the current climate and therefore the whole process has to be rather more formal and efficient. Not a bad thing I suppose but a very different way of doing things now which we all have to adapt to. Looking forward to future posts Alex – thanks a million.

  6. Hi Alex,

    Great to see a blog that forges the link between journalists and PR’s to provide an opportunity for thoughts and opinions from both camps.

    Having worked in the PR industry for a number of years getting on the phones is part and parcel of the job – but doing it well is absolutely paramount.

    One lesson I’ve learnt (and in some cases the hard way) is to be open, honest and concise. Know what you’re selling in and why. Journalists may have little time to discuss the weather but I find they are more than happy to work with PR’s in order to find an angle that may ultimately deliver an ‘exclusive’ story.

    Understanding the media you are targeting is also imperative. Part of the problem is people pitching ideas that simply wouldn’t and couldn’t work within a title – it makes journalists sceptical of PR’s and the work we do.

    I look forward to reading future posts.


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