Pitching Stories to Trade Magazine Editors—The Insider’s Guide

By Gideon Scanlon

Toronto, Ontario — In this era, where capricious customers can put a permanent dent in a business’s reputation with a single online review, good press is gold.

While some consumers make decisions based on online reviews, most are aware these reviews provide something of a fun-house mirror impression of a business. The vast majority of these postings are, after all, written by outliers—the happiest and most irritated of clients.

An approving article from a publication will—in almost every case—be held in higher regard in the minds of would-be clients.

Warm coverage in trade publications is often taken even more seriously by clients than in the popular press. While trade magazines—like Collision Repair—might not be written for mainstream readers, their stories are just as searchable. Informed consumers generally recognize that, when a specialized publication prints a glowing story about a business in its field, it is putting itself at far more risk than a mainstream newspaper.

Of course— publications only have so many pages to fill, so it isn’t always easy to find ways to feature every business deserving of good press. That’s why trade magazine editors everywhere dread one question more than any other.

“When will my business get featured in your magazine?”

In my two-and-a-half years as editor of Collision Repair, I did my best to avoid a clear response.

Now, as I hand-off the baton, I figured it was only fair to give readers a straight answer.

Build a relationship with your publication of choice

Here’s a tip—don’t be afraid of reaching out to our team by phone.  We love getting cold calls from our readers.

It isn’t just that we like knowing that someone is paying attention to our work. If it weren’t for those members of the industry prepared to give us front-line insights, our ability to provide coverage worth reading would evaporate.

This contact doesn’t have to come by phone—but phone calls do have their advantages over face-to-face meetings at an industry event or by email. Phone conversations don’t get drowned out by crowds or lost in inboxes.

Make a killer pitch

An irresistible pitch does three things.

First, it explains why a story would be relevant to our readers.

Collision Repair would not, for example, run a story on a political figure’s personal life. No matter how salacious the details were, our readers want us to cover news related to the automotive aftermarket—not parliament.

It would, however, consider running a news story on, say, the child of an industry figure being drafted into the NHL. While not directly connected to the aftermarket, such human interest pieces are fun for our readers.

Second, the pitch should highlight something unusual—or, as editors say—newsworthy about the piece. “Dog bites man” isn’t a headline. “Man bites dog” is.

On the other hand, when a sports charity names a major award for youthful athletes after a collision repair facility, the story is what catnip is to cats—irresistible.

Third, we will want to know exactly what type of story is being proposed. There are a few other editorial rules of thumb available for different kinds of stories run in trade magazines.

Pitching News Stories

Perhaps the piece is more of a news story. If there is something that makes it time-sensitive—like a businesses upcoming annual event—it gives us a good reason to put a rush on getting the story ready.


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