Pitching a story: Journalists

Andrew Hill: associate editor and management editor, FT
Andrew Hill: associate editor and management editor, FT

CONSUMER

Ally Oliver, assistant editor, Closer

How many pitches do you receive in a month?

Between 100 and 150, and of these I probably use about six or seven.

What are the most common mistakes that PROs make when pitching to you?

When an agency puts an intern on the phone and they are quite obviously working through a long contact list in order to just tick off the fact they have spoken to someone in the office. I find that insulting.

Advice for PROs

Never be over-familiar. Don't come up with complicated launch plans to which you expect people to turn up.

What is the worst pitch you have received?

Probably the call asking if we would like some samples of incontinence pads.

What is the best one?

A PRO suggested a certain celebrity who could give her brand a great story and us a great feature, which we otherwise could not have dreamed of getting. I can't name the celeb yet, as it's not been published, but this sort of thing, where you work together, is the gold standard.

NATIONAL

Andrew Hill, associate editor and management editor, FT

How many pitches do you receive in a month?

I receive about one a day and I estimate I use roughly one in 15.

What do you look for in a pitch?

There needs to be some weight behind it. For example, if it is based on a survey, the survey needs to be comprehensive, or it needs to cite sufficiently credible people. The best pitches are those that introduce me to interesting new people.

What are the most common mistakes that PROs make when pitching to you?

I'm never impressed by gimmicks. Also, I frequently receive pitches that refer back to last week's column. This is not a good idea, because that column is written and next week I will be looking at a new topic.

Advice for PROs

I would rather receive a pitch than miss an idea. The trouble is, I don't want just any old pitch. I want a good one.

What is the worst pitch you have received?

The one that asked if I would step in on an interview for another journalist who had put his back out.

BUSINESS

David Woodward, deputy editor (online), Director

How many pitches do you receive in a month?

I receive about 150 personal pitches, another 150 impersonal ones and the magazine inbox receives many more. I use one or two.

What are the most common mistakes that PROs make when pitching to you?

Any pitch that begins with an attempt to mask ubiquity with faux personalisation is a no-no. 'Good morning. Hope you're enjoying the sunshine?' I get a lot of these.

What do you look for in a pitch?

For a response to news, I want timely, concise comment. For a speculative pitch, I want exclusivity and a unique point of interest. Be brief and concise, promising more if required.

What is the worst pitch you have received?

Possibly the series of pitches I received about shoes. It's a long way off the patch I cover.

What is the best one?

I recently wrote a piece on the Budget. I needed rapid, relevant content and I was impressed by the number of PROs who were able to send me just what I needed within an hour of the Chancellor sitting down.

REGIONAL

Donata Huggins, features writer, City AM

How many pitches do you receive in a month?

I receive hundreds and probably use a dozen. I love receiving pitches. The good ones are extremely helpful and even the ones I don't use give me good ideas.

What do you look for in a pitch?

Relevance to my brief, timeliness and statistics. The best pitches come with a great interview or good research.

What are the most common mistakes that PROs make when pitching to you?

Phoning. I always pick up on good pitches by email.

Advice for PROs

Stop waffling. A great idea can be lost under unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. And stop pitching something I have just written about. I need new ideas.

What is the worst pitch you have received?

'Now that it's Valentine's Day, our minds turn to cycling ...' Do they? Do they really? Not to mention all those emails from people I have never met who address me as 'D-Huggs' or 'Don-don' and sign off with kisses and smiley faces.

BROADCAST

Julie Hulme, home editor, Channel 4 News

How many pitches do you receive in a month?

We receive hundreds and a very low proportion become stories on the 7pm bulletin or our website. But if something is timely, original and fits with our editorial agenda, then there's every chance it could help shape or become a part of a story.

What do you look for in a pitch?

Case studies that bring to life the national news agenda, original exclusive research and refreshing, informed guests.

Advice for PROs

Understand and pitch to our editorial agenda, and do not put awkward embargoes on research.

What is the worst pitch you have received?

A survey that has been given to everyone on a midnight embargo with only one case study for everyone.

What is the best one?

A piece of original research giving the first reading of real cuts to Sure Start centres. Give it to us in time so we can build a film around it and give it to us exclusively so that we can make a headline out of your top-line findings.

Pitching a story - have I got a story for you

PR professionals' view

Top tips on pitching sucess

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