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Freelance journos: is it ok to follow up unanswered pitch emails with a phone call to the editor?

(40 Posts)
Bitzer Tue 02-Oct-12 11:05:29

I've been writing and editing for years but mostly working for contract agencies and publications and almost never pitching ideas to editors. (In fact for years I was on the receiving end of pitches, wish I'd appreciated then how much guts it takes to keep sending ideas out into the ether...)

Anyway, have decided to try and branch out into newsstand but with v little experience of pitching to newspapers and mainstream mags I've no idea what the protocol is.

I'm putting together a really great feature, have written a tight pitch for it and emailed it to about 8 people e.g. at environment Guardian, Indi, DT & Times, but no-one has bitten. Do I:
(a) call up each of the editors I've emailed and ask if they've had a chance to think about whether they'd like to run the piece (or will that just piss them off because they're busy?
(b) try different publications?
(c) cut my losses and find a new story (v reluctant to do this because I'm confident it's a winner and I've spent a lot of time researching it).

Would really appreciate any guidance from those in the know. Thanks v much

lalalonglegs Thu 04-Oct-12 19:23:54

Yay for nice people at the Guardian!

Totobear Thu 04-Oct-12 19:30:13

Hi, I do things the other way round. I call and pitch first, with the email drafted and ready to go and then without a doubt the conversations end with a request to send further info by email, at which point I send and then either things progress by email and phone, or, you can send a further email the following week, depending upon your relationship with the journalist.

TwelveLeggedWalk Thu 04-Oct-12 21:22:44

Thanks Toto, I get the impression a few of us are still at the 'first approach' stage, would you still suggest calling first?

And yay for Guardian editors who show courtesy and respect!

Totobear Thu 04-Oct-12 21:40:50

Yes, because firstly you know that the journalist has listened to your pitch and secondly you have the opportunity to build a relationship which is like gold dust when it comes to successful PR.

You don't need to chat for long, but make your call short and sweet. The journo will be direct if not interested and it saves you hanging in limbo and clogging up their inbox.

Do make sure you don't call on deadline day or time!

scootle Thu 04-Oct-12 22:26:18

Hmmm the 'clashes with another idea we are already running' might mean they are going to run your idea without paying you. Just a thought!

Sounds like you do have a good idea though - so ring the Trlegraph quick.

Bitzer Fri 05-Oct-12 12:12:21

Totobear v interested in your comments - how do you know when their deadline day or time is? Do you ring the paper to ask?

scootle I know what you mean but they have someone based in the country that the story's about. They said he/she was currently researching a story and there would be some overlap, so I don't think they're planning to nick it but if the exact same story were to turn up in the Guardian I'll realise I was being a bit naive. Going to chase DT today.

Bitzer Fri 05-Oct-12 13:02:27

DT editor was interested and suggested I email someone else who is moving out to said country. I've done so but now slightly concerned that, as she is listed on their site as a reporter rather than an editor, she might just take the story and run with it herself. How common is that? And is there anything you can do about it?

scootle Fri 05-Oct-12 14:00:08

This is the trouble with giving newspapers ideas - it is very easy for them to use it but get someone else to write it. It's odd to get your to mail another reporter - because she is not in a position to commission you.

Totobear Fri 05-Oct-12 14:52:36

Hi, use whatever means. Sometimes you can find the info online, sometimes when I have my first interaction with a journo I ask them when they like to be approached with new ideas, and they are often pleased that you have taken the time to consider when is best for them.

It's all about fitting round them and making it as easy as possible to run with your pitch. They are the customer, so to speak.

Nancy66 Sat 06-Oct-12 16:09:59

i would rather writers didn't call me about ideas they've pitched but, then again, I am very good and quick at getting back to people.

If you don't already then always check whether the publication you are pitching to has run anything similar to your idea in recent times.

It can be annoying to be offered features that you have already covered. If you are pitching to a national newspaper this is very quick and easy to check beforehand.

Your pitches need to be detailed but not overly long. I can't be arsed to read two-page long pitches.

If you are going to follow up with a phone call - pick your moment! Calls at 6pm deadline times never go down well.

Amnewtoallthis Tue 16-Oct-12 10:47:13

Have to say I've been on both sides, and am now freelance again. Luckily I've got a bunch of work this week but I'm going to have to go on the pitch-fest again. At 10 weeks pregnant with morning sickness - aargh.

BTW - I was a very successful freelance journalist 2005-2009 (when I had my first daughter and it went a bit pear shaped and still hasn't recovered; took staff jobs as editor until made redundant last September) and I drew up a strategy of editors to contact and story ideas (which I checked had not been published) and would do a ring round of calls each week.
Even though I was known it still took a while to get things going, but keep at it.

TwelveLeggedWalk Tue 23-Oct-12 15:29:34

Thanks for posting Amnew. Again, can't decide whether to be heartened or dispirited by that...

PermaShattered Tue 23-Oct-12 22:27:49

Be heartened - don't give up! I have a second article for the Guardian hopefully going online tomorrow smile

allinagoodcause Thu 15-Nov-12 12:35:25

Hi, I've not read all the replies here but I would suggest the reason you haven't had any bites is because you haven't made it clear who your target audience is for your article. You name a lot of papers but you don't mention if this is a feature or a news story? Is it a Sunday supplement piece or a product feature etc etc. You might have more luck if you know where the article should appear and why and then target the appropriate editor. just a thought

FriendlyLadybird Fri 16-Nov-12 14:51:47

Interesting -- I've been pitching as a PR for years, and ALWAYS phone first, following up with an email when they ask for it.

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