In the slot
On the infrequent occasions when a nascent travel journalist asks me for pitching advice, my top tip is always the same: aim low. Rather than pitching a 1,500-word feature on Prague or Peru, try for a 300-word slot — a regular or ever-present in a particular newspaper or magazine.
That’s not because I don’t rate the writer; rather, it’s a double helping of pragmatism. Firstly, an editor is unlikely to trust a newbie with a big feature. Way too risky. Secondly, everyone pitches big features; according to my understanding, far fewer freelancers suggest ideas for slots (aside from hotel-review ones).
I say all this because the second half of that logic is one which I feel PRs could take on board. Pitch an idea specifically to one section — the Independent’s ‘Travel Trends’; the Daily Mail’s ‘Britain at its Best’ — and you’ll have many less competitors. You’ll also be making an editor’s life easier by saving them the mental consideration of where this piece might fit, plus you’ll be showing that, refreshingly, you actually read the section/magazine. Even if commission doesn’t follow, brownie points likely will.
Don’t, however, try to shoehorn a client into a slot – it’ll be obvious and look crummy. Only pitch a slot idea if you can genuinely imagine it in there; if it would make for a similar sort of piece to those which have appeared in the past few editions.
As an example, take the My Hols column in The Sunday: a travel-focused interview with someone famous, written up as running copy. The celebs never talk awkwardly about their current projects; the content is strictly their travels past, present and future. If you want a small plug for a current venture, that’s possible in the italicised credit afterwards, but not otherwise. So only pitch genuinely high-profile people, and be clear that the chat will be travel-focused, not a chance to hear at length about the app or flip flops they’ve just launched.
Pitch to a slot appropriately, with the subject line of ‘[insert slot name] pitch’, and you’ll have a good chance. Of brownie points, if nothing else.
What Richard thinks…