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What Makes a Good Story Pitch for Your Utility?

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In my day job as a newspaper editor, I receive dozens of story pitches each day, whether by email, phone call or other methods — and I immediately reject most of them.

It’s not hard to weed out most of the pitches. Some of them aren’t relevant to our audience. Others are too self-serving or aren’t really news anyway. Some pitches hew too closely to topics we’ve recently covered. Others are too vague.

So, how can you make your utility’s pitch stand out in a crowd and grab the attention of an editor? Admittedly, it’s never going to be easy — pitching is akin to making cold sales calls; the success rate is always going to be low. Do note: You always need to keep pitching, successful or otherwise.

When it comes to pitching stories that are not breaking news (those often go to the top of the list), it’s important to remember what news is. And that’s something that doesn’t happen every day.

That’s why Willard Scott used to feature those turning 100 on The Today Show. Plenty of people turn 70, 80, even 90. 100? Not so much, although even that’s changing.

So, some school kids came to tour your facilities? That’s not news, especially since you do it dozens of times each year.

But, for example, what if those kids were blind and you developed a new tour to explain how power generation works? That might interest someone.

Or how about you want to feature an employee who’s served 50 years with the company. Again, it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, it’s kind of rare, but it’s not unheard of. But perhaps the story becomes more interesting if the employee is Abraham Lincoln’s great-great-great-great-grandson or happens to have the largest collection of Hummel figures in the world? All of a sudden, it’s more interesting.

Those are random things I pulled out of the air, but you should get the idea. Dog bites man is not a story, although man bites dog might be.

It’s often a good idea to run story pitches by people who don’t work for the utility. What you find interesting might be a complete bore for those outside the company. Always think about the audience of an outlet you’re pitching.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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