My last assignment (nr 7) for the London School of Journalism’s “Freelance journalism” course was all about pitching and identifying potential markets for your writing. The potential markets are either related to your specialism or your passion or your local area.
When it comes to pitches:
- keep them short and sweet, only a couple of lines is enough
- be as focused as possible so that editors can see that you have a specific idea and outline in mind
- think abut your sources, the more original they are the better; busy editors or newspaper staff don’t have the time to interview people from every sector or specialism, so if you know of someone with an interesting story or are aware of some new research published but not widely known yet, pitch your idea
- quotes and interviews are what make the difference and keep the interest alive
- after sending the pitch follow up with the editor to get something back, even if they say they are not interested in this idea but they can suggest another angle or idea
- keep pitching, it is good practice and there is learning to be gained from the process
- an inspiring example has been the story of the Butterflyist who tells her story from a mental break down to being a writer for the Guardian. She has examples of her pitches and what she has learnt.
And here is my story for this assignment
As with other modules from this course, it was great practice to put myself in the position of thinking about potential articles I could write for possible outlets.
The main outlets I identified for the assignment are related to my housing work – the Guardian Housing Network, an online network part of the Guardian newspaper and website that covers issues and news from the housing sector and Inside Housing, the housing sector’s trade magazine and online website.
My local area, where I live – the Brixton Blog, a collective blog about Brixton. Or where I work at the moment – the Fulham Chronicle, a newspaper that covers the Hammersmith and Fulham area.
My passion for photography was another area with Photography Monthly, a monthly magazine for amateur and professional photographers, being another possible outlet.
Part of the assignment is to suggest ideas about articles as well as identifying the markets. So I had to include some ideas about what I could write. Here are a few of these ideas:
Fo the Brixton blog
- local news reports in relation to schools or nurseries – being a mum this is right up my street
- a special report about a major regeneration project in Lambeth, in Myatts field, that is being delivered by the company (Pinnacle psg) I am doing a secondment with at the moment
The Guardian Housing Network
- Housing management seen from an outsider’s perspective’
- What does it mean to be a housing officer today, a front-line perspective’
- Interview with professional photographers on tips for setting up your business as a photographer’
The other part of the assignment was about suggesting an article for a chosen outlet. I chose to suggest an article for the Guardian Housing Network about a number of half-term events that were organised by Pinnacle, in Hammersmith and Fulham. I did complete this part of the assignment for the course and I did also suggest it to the Guardian Housing Network. This is the title and a proposed approach:
When housing providers have a direct impact in their community – Pinnacle Psg half-term activities in the Fulham area
A range of half term activities was delivered by Pinnacle psg who are in charge of managing social housing stock on behalf of Hammersmith & Fulham council, for the south of the borough.
These activities attended by about 100 residents, included a detective event at Lancaster Court, a magician show at West Kensington tenants hall, a ‘Bling your bike’ workshop at Gibbs Green tenants’ hall and Cinema Clubs in other resident halls.
My pitch went on about the benefits of these free events to families on low-income, how resident engagement is something Pinnacle are very committed to and how customer engagement is key to business success, in particular for private companies who are very dependent on their measured and visible performance.
I did send the assignment to my tutor and the pitch to the Guardian and was happy for a couple of days. Satisfied that I had completed another module.
The tutor came back with his comments, which were very good and constructive. And the Guardian came back saying they didn’t feel the suggestion was wide enough to cover various providers across the country. But they did suggest some other ideas, which I did follow up and maybe they may lead to something. Who knows, watch this space.
The key lesson that came from the tutor was about the length of the pitch – it only needs to be a couple of lines. Mine was almost a full page!!! Important learning there, don’t send long pitches, keep them sweet and short.
I have to admit I did write the article or what I thought was going to be the article, in order to be able to write the pitch. I couldn’t just list the ideas I wanted to cover without having them clearly set out in my head and the potential article structured between facts, quotes, observations, etc. So all in all, good practice and great learning!