Pitching a journalist with many hats

I’ve agreed to participate in a Public Relations Society of America panel discussion later this month on how to pitch to freelance journalists and others like myself who write for multiple publications. I end up wearing quite a few different hats to make ends meet, and I imagine that makes me a confusing target to pitch.

I’m trying to brainstorm some coherent advice to share. Some initial, rough thoughts: Understand that the “news hole” one freelance journalist has influence over is relatively tiny, and a lot needs to happen for a story pitch to be successful via a freelancer. Not only do you need to successfully sell the writer on the idea, but then that writer needs to be passionate enough about the idea to successfully sell it to an editor. In my experience, it rarely happens that way. Focus story pitches on assigning editors.

The best opportunity for a return-on-investment is after a story has been assigned. Journalists are increasingly using social networking sites, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn, to alert sources and colleagues on what they are working on now. My favorite PR sources are the ones who follow those updates and suggest potentially relevant sources for story assignments that I’m actively working on.

Fellow independent journalists: Any thoughts on what else I should share? I’ve pasted the program description below. The event is Thursday, June 18 at the University of St. Thomas.

As the media landscape changes we are seeing fewer journalists but yet increasing amounts of media channels and Web-based outlets. With all of these changes, it’s easy to be left in the dust without knowledge of how to reach journalists for the multiple outlets they write for or target the right channel within an organization.

Join Mpls St. Paul Magazine’s Lifestyle Editor Christy DeSmith, and business journalist Dan Haugen as they talk about targeting your message to the right person for the right outlet or medium. As the lifestyle editor, DeSmith draws from personal passion for fashion and lifestyle trends to manage blogging, updating information on the Mpls St. Paul Magazine Web site, and pulling-off a monthly magazine. Haugen brings a freelancer viewpoint on the business side to the table. Not only is he writing for more traditional print outlets but he’s started a hyper-local news blog, is plugged in and using Twitter, and writes on a regular basis for Minnpost.com.

How can you reach influential journalists that are working on so many platforms? If you pitch them for one outlet do you need to create angles for the others?  Where does the line blur between journalists and other online participants? Take away best practices for pitching ideas to not only a long-lead print publication but also blogs, Web sites, e-newsletters and other print/web-based outlets. Learn how to better target your pitch and make it relevant to the journalist allowing for the highest probable chance for interest in your story from one of the media outlets they serve.