PR Tips | Queries and the Art of Pitching
Just about everyone is familiar with the advice, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s true: A product’s packaging isn’t always a fair representation of what’s actually inside. In general, making an informed decision requires more than a cursory review of the options.
In the media world, however, that quick blurb – “the cover” – might be the only thing an editor looks at when deciding what to publish.
Editors at the major daily newspapers – and large online publications – receive thousands of pitches every week. Somehow they must choose a few each day. When pitching an editor, it’s best to start with a query – an enticing synopsis of your event, argument or story.
A query is essentially your sales pitch, whether you’re promoting an oped, article idea, or media event. The query lays our why an editor (or reporter) should accept your submission for publication, cover your event, or write on your issue. It’s therefore critically important for the query to be polished and engaging. Here are a couple of tips to make sure your query stands out:
1. Keep it quick. Your query shouldn’t be more than a couple hundred words. Remember, you only need to convey the main point of the piece.
2. Make every word count. With so few words to work with, each one should pack a punch. Leave out unnecessary clauses or explanations and stick to the bold or controversial points that will grab an editor’s attention.
3. Assume knowledge. The query itself won’t be published so you don’t need to get caught up in AP Style. It’s alright to use obvious acronyms for countries, government departments, etc. After all, editors don’t need you to explain to them that FDA refers to the Food and Drug Administration.