How to Pitch a Story: Tips from Two Top Editors

Aug 11 2016

by Nancy McNulty

pitching the story

As a co-founder of a Nashville-based PR and marketing company, I’m always fascinated by the process of the story pitch, so recently I interviewed Country Living Editor Rachel Hardage Barrett and Liza Graves, co-founder of one of the South’s hottest online lifestyle publications, StyleBlueprint. Here are some of their great tips for pitching and connecting–from an editor’s perspective–that may get you noticed by publications and help get your story submitted.

Use Social Media

Interacting via social media with Country Living magazine is a great way to catch an editor’s eye reveals Barrett in an interview at the Nashville area Country Living Fair. She says the magazine is definitely sourcing more stories using social media.

Country Living Fair with Editor Rachel Barrett and Nancy McNulty, Dana Tucker, Forest Home Media
Forest Home Media’s Nancy McNulty and Dana Tucker hosted a meet up with Country Living Editor Rachel Barrett and the Nashville Influencers at the Country Living Fair outside of Nashville. The full interview can be found on Forest Home Media’s Facebook page.

“We have a small social media team but they are killing it. (Social media) is a great tool for the magazine because you have an instantaneous read on how content does. We use it to form our editorial content. You can see what rooms resonate with our audiences and are they suddenly into tiny houses, or small spaces or ways to repurpose reclaimed wood,” Barrett said.

Known for hashtag diving, Barrett says they appreciate being tagged on projects to consider with #mycountryliving.

“I go into hashtag deep dives like #soapstonecountertops trying to find interesting spaces…We are always looking for beautiful country houses. We’d rather be inundated with projects hashtagged or photo tagged,” Barrett said.

Barrett found the 2016 February cover from photos posted by her friend and home owner on Instagram. The home is an interior design project of my spring 2016 client, Julie Couch Interiors. Check out more on the beautiful home here on Julie’s website.

Country Living Magazine, February 2016 cover
This beautiful Franklin, Tennessee home story was discovered by CL’s editor using Instagram. (Built by Carbine & Associates, with Julie Couch Interiors.)

And, click here for the full Facebook Live interview with Barrett. Connect with her on Instagram @RachelHardage.

Stories Can Sway An Editor

It is all about the story, says Graves in her tips on pitching. She appreciates someone who researches StyleBlueprint and presents a concise overview of why a project or profile would be a good fit.

“The story is so important. We want our readers to have an emotional tug, a problem solved or feel connected to their community,” Graves said. “I rarely read a news release but a well-crafted paragraph on why StyleBlueprint should be interested above the news release is very helpful. And, don’t forget to hyperlink the company being pitched.”

Liza Graves, StyleBlueprint, Nashville, TN

Follow Up

The more people who follow up with me, the better, says Graves. Now, don’t get crazy emailing her three times in four days because no one appreciates hard core.

“Sometimes if I don’t respond, it was because there wasn’t an easy answer. I do think the squeaky wheel and all that. I appreciate people who follow up and let me know if the content is exclusive for StyleBlueprint,” Graves said.

Also one to lose herself researching social media, Graves says she pays attention to conversations.

“I’m on Instagram and Facebook daily and I find many of my leads listening to what my friends are talking about. So, gaining a large personal following and having your friends talk about your product definitely helps… and pretty photos. A photo can make or break the pitch.” Graves said.

Her most recent example of listening to conversations came after seeing the post “best wedding ever.” It resulted in this romantic story of rain-drenched nuptials.

Worst Way To Gain An Editor’s Attention

Some of Graves worst pitches include: mass emails from big city publicists, folks who say “just tell me what you are working on and I’ll let you know if my clients will work” or telling her it was in People magazine so it should work for her too.

And it’s a good idea to research the editor’s background and interests. The most epic pitch fail included insulting Graves and her business partner in an all caps email with “I’VE NEVER HAD SO MUCH TROUBLE PITCHING A COUPLE OF MOMMY BLOGGERS.” Graves, a fan of mom bloggers, runs a digital media company with seven publications a day in Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville and a Southern Edition with over 300,000 unique visitors a month.

Manners Matter

Finally, you’ve gotten the gist to compose a good pitch, follow up and don’t be rude. It is also important to thank an editor (did I really need to write that?!) and to post the love to social media.

“I’m so surprised by PR people and companies who will ask for coverage, receive it, never acknowledge it and then come back for more,” Graves said.

So what are your best pitch tips? Let us know and….thanks!


Nancy McNulty View More Blog Posts from this Author

Cool, new and different is the mantra driving the public relations efforts of our company, Forest Home Media. Based outside Nashville in the historic Forest Home area, as a PR rep, I love working with a variety of home lifestyle companies including the 2014 Nashville HGTV Smart Home builder and served on the PR team for Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel. A long-time Tennessee girl with a communications degree from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, my career began as a newspaper reporter and a state agency spokesman. Connect with me at

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4 responses on “How to Pitch a Story: Tips from Two Top Editors

  1. Lark Champion

    Thank you for this information!! I am working on a press kit right now and am so encouraged to read how important “the story” is. I feel like that is what differentiates my company from others, so it’s wonderful to know that I should promote that. Always glad to see that manners matter too!
    Thank you!

  2. Amy Flurry

    Great tips! My best tip as an editor of 18 years and author of Recipe for Press: pretend you’re the editor putting together the pages you want to be a part of. Now with a critical eye, size up your pitch as well as your website. The first place an editor will go if you pique their interest is your website. They have to be able to feel comfortable sending thousands and thousands of readers to your website, so make sure it’s in good shape before you pitch.

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