So you’re ready to pitch the media, but not quite sure what to pitch? The first step is doing some research on the media outlet and their audience. Once you have an understanding of the topics the media outlet covers and the types of stories they publish, you’ll be able to determine the best type of story format to pitch.
A quick lesson about hard news versus soft news
Unless you’re a communications professional, you might not know the difference between “hard” and “soft” news. Put simply, hard news deals specifically with breaking current events, while soft news is non-urgent and is mostly comprised of background news stories and features. No matter which story format you pitch, it will probably fall under the broad category of soft news and will be a type of a feature story.
A feature story is simply a story that features a particular person, place, topic or event that falls outside of “hard” or breaking news. More often than not, it isn’t tied to current news events, and takes a more narrative approach than the straight-forward format of a hard news story. Feature stories are distinguished by their format and angle, so the key thing to remember when pitching your story is that it needs to have a particular focus. Here are some of the best story formats to pitch:
–Human Interest Story
Audiences love drama and a great protagonist – which is why personal stories, also known as human interest pieces, make great features. People read human interest pieces for their emotional impact. A person’s unique experiences, trials and triumphs make great subject matter for a human interest piece, so if your personal background and story are unique, this may be a good format to consider pitching.
A profile is an article that focuses on an individual and usually includes an interview with the subject. Some profiles provide a portrait of the subject (many celebrity profiles are done in this way), while others will focus on a particular aspect of the individual, such as the company they created or how they found success in their vocation. A personal profile may be presented in a narrative format or in Q&A style.
How-to/Informative features are straightforward pieces that teach the reader how to do something. Many How-To articles are written giving step-by-step instructions, while an informative feature is more narrative in format but still focuses on informing the reader about the subject matter.
Expert round-ups, or roundtables, involve the participation of multiple people with similar backgrounds, who each give their opinion about a particular topic. These types of pieces also focus on informing the reader about a topic, and can be presented as Q&A’s or feature quotes from each member of the group.
Trend features focus on new or current cultural trends. These are generally light pieces that are easy to pitch if you’re an expert in the trends of your industry. Examples of trend features include stories on new fashion, technology, music or social trends.
A context feature, sometimes referred to as a news feature, is an article that focuses on a topic of interest in the news. These pieces relate or provide context to a current news event in some way. Examples range from a travel piece that highlights the city where a major sports event is occurring, to a human interest piece that focuses on the people who will be affected by a new law.
-New Research or Data Feature
Features that highlight new research or data will focus on exactly that. These types of stories are great to pitch if your organization produces or is involved in any kind of research, as journalists are always looking for new information to share.
Product features are generally written in the form of a product review or gift guide. Timing is a key factor for product pitches, as product reviews usually focus on newly released products, while gift guides often accord with particular holidays.
Essays and opinion pieces are written in the first-person, and generally provide a perspective on a current news topic. This is a great story idea to pitch if your particular background or expertise can lend insight into a current issue in the news.
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