10 pitching tips for Christmas

Pitch your way to more and better coverage in 2015 with these tips from Gorkana briefings and interviews over the last six months.

  • Go with the personal touch

Cosmopolitan’s digital beauty editor, Bridget March, likes the personal approach when being pitched to. “Blanket emails tend to be put on the back burner, while something personally addressed to me is going to get more of my attention.”

The Sun’s travel editor, Lisa Minot, says: “PRs should be aware that sending emails that start ‘Dear Sunday Mirror editor’, will only lead to one thing – a deleted email.” She is still surprised how often this happens.

The best pitches come from PRs who have looked at the site, suggested which part they saw their idea working best, and referenced similar pieces which have already run, says Maggie Hitchins, editor of Stylist.co.uk. “The blanket approach rarely works well.”

  • Be creative

PRs can help by thinking big, creative and cross-platform, according to NME.com editor Greg Cochrane. “I think it’s about thinking a little bit outside of the box and trusting us to do something cool with your artist.”

Gemma Morris, presenter of Sky News tech show Swipe, says she is always looking for great places to film the programme and getting suggestions from PRs is invaluable. “We sometimes forget just how many clients one PR may be working on and want to get ideas in for future programmes.”

BritMums co-founder Susanna Scott say: “We want to hear ideas and, most importantly, what a brand wants to get out of the BritMums community.”

HELLO! Fashion Monthly deputy editor Jill Wanless says there are hundreds of opportunities for brands in the magazine. “If there isn’t already a dialogue with someone on the HELLO! Fashion Magazine team, brands should get in touch.”

All ideas are welcome, says Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records. “If you’re thinking about suggesting a Guinness World Records attempt for your client, don’t be afraid to contact us, we want to hear from you!”

  • Exclusive means exclusive

For Newsweek, European editor Richard Addis: “The story has to be a scoop; and it has to be a scoop that Newsweek cares about.” Online content will be short scoops (around 200 words), while the print edition will feature long scoops (about 5,000 words). All long print features end up online as well.

The Sun’s Lisa Minot says if a PR can offer an exclusive glance at something like a new hotel, theme park or ride, she will definitely be interested.

The HELLO! Fashion Monthly team would like every story they feature to be exclusive, especially if it has a celebrity angle.

Getting a story first is always a great way to grab Stylist’s attention, even if it’s only a couple of hours before any other media outlet. Those two hours matter, as the team want readers to come to the site because they know it’s the first to break news.

If a tech story is covered by another news outlet, the Sky Swipe team will need to look at how much coverage it has achieved before deciding to use it – they don’t want to be seen as regurgitating content.

  • Bespoke your pitch

Oliver Davis, co-editor of film blog Flickering Myth, says: “Make sure the pitch is related to what we’re about. We’re often sent links for articles or projects that, although fascinating and well thought out, have absolutely nothing to do with movies.”

For Ger Tierney, executive fashion editor at i-D magazine, it’s always best to suggest where in the magazine the story would sit – “when it’s specific and exclusive, that’s always great”.

PRs need to have something substantial to offer when selling in to the Cosmopolitan team. If it’s a real life story, have case studies and experts ready and waiting. If it’s a celebrity story, the team will need access to talent, or exclusive pictures or videos.

Stylist.co.uk readers expect lengthy, fact-filled features with well researched information, like they find in the magazine, so pitches need to reflect this.

  • Think about your approach

John Robertson, editor and founder of The Everyday Man, says: “A large part of my daily routine involves sifting through the influx of PR emails.”

EatFit associate editor Joel Snape says: “I almost never answer my phone – email is absolutely the best way to contact me.”

Stylist.co.uk’s editor Maggie Hitchins gets around 100 email pitches a day and says the best way to stand out from the crowd are emails that are three lines long that tell her what’s on offer, what part of the site it could work best on, a reference to a similar story and strong pictures to accompany the copy.

“I always feel like a cop-out saying this, but email is best. I really do look at all the emails I receive and get back to as many as I can. Calling beforehand doesn’t make me any more or less likely to look at an email,” says Dan Grabham, editor of Lifehacker UK.

Love Sunday’s Zoe Cripps finds it tricky if PRs contact her by phone, especially if it’s deadline day. It’s always best to send information via email so she can refer back to it at any time.

  • Timing is everything

Wesley Johnson, chief news editor at the Press Association, gets in at around 7, check the papers, social media, news sites and overnight wires before morning conference with the rest of the agency.

For NME’s Greg Cochrane, the day starts as soon as he wake ups when he checks what’s going on in the world of music. In the office, team NME begins the day with a cross-platform content meeting, which is all about sharing ideas, resources and planning. Before that, he’ll meet with NME’s development team in its daily stand-up.

Stylist mornings begin with the team scouring competitor news websites, going through social media channels and checking emails to work out what the big news stories of the day will be. The rest of the day is spent producing evergreen content around beauty, fashion, lifestyle, food, books.

BuzzFeed’s Tabatha Leggett gets in at 9am, checks yesterday’s stats and gets on with commissioning, editing, and writing posts. She usually leaves the office at 5pm.

  • Know the deal breakers

Susanna Scott at BritMums says that PRs should never refer to the BritMums community as “Mummy bloggers”. The correct term is “parenting lifestyle bloggers”. PRs should take into account that Mums blog about everything – from lifestyle, politics, travel, food, fashion and crafts, as well as their roles as Mums.

Elise Holman, sports producer for Al Jazeera English, says PRs need to understand what the channel and news style is about. “Most of the time I’m approached by people or companies who clearly don’t understand what we might be interested in.”

“Avoid sending giant high res images when we haven’t asked for them, and teeny tiny postage stamp-sized ones when we’ve asked for high res”, says Gay Times editor Darren Scott. “And don’t call me to speedily read a press release you’ve just sent me. Sometimes it’s like talking in tongues.”

  • The rise of video

The Sun’s travel team is always on the lookout for strong video content, but it can’t just be a glorified advert, a marketing tool or over branded. Some branding is fine but it needs to be balanced. The Sun also has a very good in-house video team so if a PR can provide footage, there a lots of things they can do to make it work for SunOnline.

Cosmopolitan.co.uk regularly works in partnership with PRs on original content. Digital fashion editor Jess Edwards wants to increase video content for the fashion section. She’s keen to try out ‘how to’ videos and wants to hear from PRs with ideas.

In the last year NME.com delivered several firsts; an interactive video map guide to Damon Albarn’s debut solo album, a 10-minute career retrospective mini documentary about Blondie, and the team live streamed the NME Awards for the first time in the magazine’s history.

  • Make your events stand out

After work launches and first thing in the morning events are always better for Zoe Cripps, beauty writer at Sunday People supplement Love Sunday. But if there’s a glass of wine offered somewhere in the invite too, all the better.

When it comes to big tech events, PRs should let the team know months in advance so the Sky Swipe team can work out logistics. Deciding on which events to attend comes down to what will look best on screen and how many people will be affected by the story.

PRs need to put themselves into a mum or dad’s shoes when thinking about working with BritMums. Between 3pm and 8pm are the busiest time of the day with the school run, home time, dinner and bed so 6pm cocktails won’t work. The “sweet spot” during the week to connect with bloggers will be 10:30am to 1pm. If it’s a weekend event, make sure there’s something for the kids to do.

  • PRs are essential

“The team could not produce Swipe without PRs,” says Sky’s Gemma Morris. “Where would we be without you guys?”

Lisa Minot says PRs are essential for the travel pages at The Sun. “The pages would not exist were it not for a good relationships with PRs. I need you as much as you need me.”

Of the content produced in one week at Stylist.co.uk, about 30% was generated by PRs approaching the team with ideas.

“I always try and be as helpful as I can,” says Gay Times’ Darren Scott. “I need them, they – sometimes – need me…You never know which big contract or company they’re going to work with next. And if you’ve been rude before…”

“The rise of branded content means that PRs have a much stronger role to play in what makes it onto a site these days”, says High50’s Stefano Hatfield, but means they have to know how digital journalism works inside out.”

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