We’re here at the Beyond Guest Blogging: Pitching Media Outlets session with Lynne Jordal Martin, Jamilah King, Stacy Morrison, and Susan Spencer. We’ve got editors here from BlogHer, Woman’s Day, FoxNews.com, and ColorLines.com.
Questions about how many people have blogged on a site other than her own, who has written for a magazine, who has written for a national media outlet…and who wants to.
Susan has been the Editor-in-Chief of Woman’s Day magazine for six months. The publication is 75 years old this year, with an audience of about 20 million women.
Lynne says “don’t judge” when it comes to FoxNews.com. It has a different audience than the TV channel. They are the 39th largest website in the country. She loves the opinion page. Sunday is the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death, and the site will be publishing a piece about it by Ayn Rand (!) on Saturday. She looks to work with bloggers on a wide range of content, not just politics.
Jamilah is an online news publication. They’ve been around for about 15 years, having started out in print and then going exclusively online. They discuss race and politics.
Why Are You So Valuable to Editors?
Bloggers have new voices and new opinions. Expanding women’s voices is a goal for media outlets. Stories from across the country in your community aren’t being talked about in the big city business of New York, Washington, and LA – and bloggers can bring those stories to the insular media. Bloggers have a sort of relatable authenticity that audiences love. And bloggers are a constant source of content.
How Do You Make Your Idea Stand Out?
Some pitches are fantastic, but others are just so off-base. Some bloggers make pitches that are so off-topic they’re embarrassing. Spend time researching the media outlet you’re pitches; spend two weeks, multiple visits to get a feel for what they focus on. Or if you’re looking to contribute to a print magazine, you should read 6 months of the publication to see where the columns are headed, etc. Get to know the specific section that you want to contribute to. Write what you know. “Tell me who you are.” Give enough background to let the editor know why you would be a good fit for their site.
You can repurpose popular posts you’ve written. Rework things you’ve already done, and fit it into what the media outlet could use to reach their audience.
Let your voice show through in your pitch letter. The first three sentences are what triggers an editor’s brain to determine if they’re interested enough to continue reading. Write the lead for the article you’re pitching. Relating a topic to the news cycle is very, very helpful. The news cycle moves quickly, though, so don’t pitch stale ideas. A weekend generally breaks the freshness for a site like FoxNews.com. Monthly publications aren’t tied to the news cycle, but they can provide context for past news events.
As hard as you think about your topic, you also have to convince the editor of how it should be packaged and how it will look on the page. This is third paragraph material: Is it a Q&A? Photo spread? Captions?
How are you going to spin a topic? How can you write the same story in a different way? Weight loss, sleep, etc… these topics are done to death, so they are constantly looking for new ways to tackle them. Holiday pieces are always needed, and you don’t have to wait for two weeks before the holiday to pitch an article. You can pitch it a few months ahead of time and have it held for publication.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do know the publication.
Do a little bit of research and find the most recent statistics to back up your information. This can turn a rant into commentary. Statistics make your personal story relevant to a universal audience.
Do tell an editor upfront if a reworked piece was published on a site which is not your own.
Don’t pitch multiple media outlets. Wait four weeks to approach another outlet if you don’t get a response.
Do ask how often you should stay in contact with an editor.
Don’t think a lack of response from an editor is about the personal relationship. It’s about the idea, timing, budget, and any similar pieces already in the works.
Do tighten your writing for news outlets. Watch your word count, and make your words count.
What You Don’t Know from Editors
- What we’ve already published
- Where we are in the news cycle
- If the tone isn’t a good match
- When it’s an almost-great idea
Take a piece you really love and cut it in half. You’ll discover rhythms you didn’t know. You’ll find your filler words. This will help you find focus and tighten your work.
Each outlet has its own editorial calendar. Women’s Day works 3-6 months in advance. FoxNews.com could theoretically take a holiday piece the day before, but she prefers things a month out.
Tags: blogging, BlogHer, conferences, writing