Business to business publication editors are busy people, so it’s imperative that when internal or external public relations professionals pitch a story idea to them, they avoid certain mistakes while following some key best practices. Here are three sure ways to lose an editor’s interest right away:
1. Contact them on deadline. It’s a little like asking to speak with a restaurant manager during the lunch rush. Find out when the publication goes to print from the editor’s assistant or the receptionist, and don’t call at those times.
2. Know your stuff. Didn’t expect the editor to answer the phone? Don’t have a clear idea of your story idea, or don’t have your notes in front of you? When you call editors, you can’t always expect to talk with them then and there. But be prepared if they happen to have a moment for you.
3. We already covered that. Take the time to see if the publication has covered the topic in the recent past. If they have, you’re not likely to score.
And here are six practices to follow that will greatly increase your chances of success:
1. Do your homework. Investigate the publication’s readership profile to make certain the audience is a good match for your story idea. Does the publication accept contributed pieces? What is their editorial calendar?
2. Keep it newsworthy. Make certain your story idea isn’t self-promoting—for example, “XYZ Company provides novel IT solutions to security problems”. Instead, use this approach: “Five novel IT solutions to security problems.” The byline will be all the promotion the company needs and positions the author as a subject matter expert.
3. Use query paragraphs to create interest. Start with a catchy headline, and follow it with a short description of the proposed article. Emphasize what’s new and controversial, and what questions it will answer for readers.
4. Limit the number of topics. Five is the maximum. Editors don’t want a shotgun approach, or “throw it against the wall and see what sticks.” Make sure each topic is coherent and well-thought out.
5. Let them know the company’s reputation and credentials. What makes the company worthy of space in the publication? Let the editor know about the company’s experience in the field and if they have written for other publications.
6. Fulfill your end of the bargain. Turn in a good story, on topic and on time. Follow the publication’s editorial guidelines and whichever style manual they prefer (ALA, AP, etc.). Doing so will place you and the company squarely on the editor’s good side and not in the mix with those other contributors who are always late, sloppy or both.
Following these six steps—and avoiding the three pitfalls—will help your pitch be a success and avoid the editor’s death sentence: the delete key!