So you’ve got a great story to tell but no idea how to get the public to listen to it? More to the point, no idea how to get Generocity’s readership to hear about it?
Pitch it to us, of course. And while the tips we’re giving you here are specific to our news organization (and to the current editor), some of them are useful to keep in mind for pitching other news venues as well.
Tell us why this is story for us.
Just the fact that your organization’s event is happening isn’t enough — after all, my editor’s inbox floods with notice after notice of events, and you’ll just be a task to clear on my way to inbox zero unless you convince me to read past the first few lines. How do you do that?
- You tell me why our readership — mostly people involved at various levels in nonprofits, community and mission-driven organizations, as well as social impact funders and foundation members — would be interested in, or benefit from, knowing about your news/discovery/report/event.
- Bonus points for doing this in one or two paragraphs. I love long-form journalism, I do not love long-form pitches.
We’re a proudly local newsroom.
We are, definitely, interested in national and international trends and innovations, but if it doesn’t have a strong tie to Philadelphia and the five adjacent counties, chances are we won’t run with the story you are pitching no matter how well you pitch it.
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Hook me with the story itself.
If you can’t gauge the potential nonprofit sector interest, but you are just bursting to tell the story anyway, all is not lost. Not for nothing but I am a novelist in addition to an editor, and human-interest pieces with strong story arcs always grab my attention. Promise me that and I’ll be your fan forever (well, maybe until your next pitch). Here are some story pitches I’d like to see in my inbox:
- Stories about the people at nonprofits everyone needs to know — the cool, the wise, the notorious.
- Stories about what’s working for an organization, measurable impacts, with lots of data to back it up.
- Stories about breakthroughs and innovations in method, process and even measures of outcome.
- Organizations grappling in real ways with equity and inclusion, particularly those examining their own internal processes and structures.
- Organizations scaling up — the challenges, the failures and successes along the way, the rationale.
- Individuals who blow the whistle on questionable practices (or those who can credibly talk about best practices).
- Funders who engage in new ways with communities (i.e., not just with their grantees, but the people those grantees purport to serve).
- Predictive trends — what will social impact organizations be focusing on five years from now, and is it a consequence of what is being put in place (or organizational avoidance) now?
- Solutions-centered stories.
- Thoughtful, well-researched pieces looking at the history of issues we are still scrambling to address today (like this two-part story).
Here’s a a scenario to run through before pitching us: if somebody told you the story you are pitching, would you say “that’s nice” and walk away when they were done? But that’s not the test, this is: an hour after hearing the story would you have questions about it? Would it have sent you down the rabbit-hole of research? Did it move you? Did it infuriate you? Did make you think about things in a new way? Answer yes to any of those and I really, really want to have you pitch that story to me.
Facts and other ways of dressing.*
If you are pitching as a p.r. person, ask yourself:
- Is this project/endeavor/initiative really the first, or the only one of its kind, if I’m claiming it is?
- Is the number of people I’m claiming have been impacted by this project/endeavor/initiative verifiable in any way?
- Did I factcheck any data?
- Do I really have to use all those adjectives?
- Or those exclamation marks?
- Have I been transparent if this is simply a promo/marketing piece?**
If you are pitching as a freelancer and/or sending a piece on spec, ask yourself:
- Did I factcheck my data?
- Did I get the neighborhood right?***
- Did I spell the names correctly?****
- Did I link to source articles and give credit where credit is due?
- Did I avoid the clichés and code words that betray that I am an outsider writing about a community I don’t really know?
- If I am an insider in the community I’m writing about, have I disclosed any potential conflicts-of-interest or been transparent about any non-news reason I want to write this story?
Radical transparency is the new objectivity in journalism, by the way.
Entice us with photos and video.
We’re suckers for good photos and accompanying media. Sometimes, really good media will tip the scales on a pitch.
- Bonus points if the photo doesn’t include an enormous check or a group of people lined up, smiling uncomfortably at the camera.
- Double bonus points if you include accurate caption information.
We are always interested in hearing what you have to say, even if it isn’t a formal pitch. Have you signed up for Generocity Chatter yet? For the next five weeks the private SMS group is absolutely free (and anonymous) and will be a direct comment pipeline. So if you are considering pitching, or thinking about it, this new text project is a good way to both hear what I’m thinking about story-wise, and open up a conversation.
Are you ready?
Send me your pitches at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*An example of giving credit where credit is due: I stole this line from one of my brothers, Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, a brilliant news editor and op-ed writer.
** I admire your honesty, but if you are interested in us publishing promotional and sponsored content you need to talk to Vincent Better (email@example.com), the VP of Philadelphia Initiatives at Technically Media.
***Generocity is all about hyperlocal when it comes to Philly neighborhoods.
**** Full disclosure, this is one of my pet peeves: I’ve heard people claim that the ñ is just an n with a tilde, so it can be rendered as a plain n when writing in English. But not so fast — ñ is a separate letter of the alphabet in Spanish, so putting an ‘n’ in its stead is like arbitrarily swapping a p and q because they resemble one another visually. Other languages have their own rules about this sort of stuff — so always ask the person you are writing about what is acceptable/not acceptable to them.-30-
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