Getting Editors to Greenlight Your Story Idea

Clients are always looking for the “big story” on their company, the glowing profile and photo shoot. But the competition for this sort of coverage is pretty stiff, to say the least, and often times, there is a disconnect between what a client envisions is newsworthy and what an editor knows will pique his or her readers’ interest enough to stop and read beyond the headline.

Getting that green light for your story idea is where your PR person comes in, to help the client uncover their best stories and present them in a way that is:

  • In keeping with the publication’s editorial priorities

  • Timely and relevant to the readership

  • Presents the company brand in the best and most accurate light possible

As a PR practitioner, I need to answer two preliminary questions for an editor when making the pitch:

  1. Why will my readers care about this story?  

  2. Why should I do this story now?

But it takes more than that to get an editor’s attention.

Getting to Green

Aside from relevance and timeliness, editors are looking for a business lesson or insight into how a challenge was overcome, an executive with a compelling story that readers can relate to, and something more intangible—the element that makes the reader wonder and want to delve further or compels them to share the link with friends and colleagues. It is impossible to describe, but an editor knows it when it crosses their desk. And a good PR person will know to hang a pitch on it when they hear it from their client—or draw it out before crafting the pitch.

Other important considerations when looking for that desirable profile coverage:

  • Editors want to profile companies that are willing to candidly share their challenges, gaffes and hurdles because we learn the biggest lessons from those stories. Editors want to impart a business or life lesson in their coverage.

  • Make sure you put your company story in the context of what is happening in your industry more generally.

  • Editors look for transparency – ALWAYS be honest and don’t worry so much about giving away your trade secrets. It is not likely that competitors will be able to replicate your “secret sauce” from a few lines in a magazine. However,  the benefits certainly outweigh the risks—again, editors want their readers to take away a lesson from your experience.

  • Consider talking about what you know versus who you are to build that relationship with an editor before pitching a profile.

Slow, Steady and Strategic Won This PR Race

Our client was an unknown as far as the media and his own industry were concerned, but we believed his track record picking stocks was worthy of a profile… eventually. He came to us wanting a full-page profile in one of the most influential financial publications out there --right off the bat. We knew he had to establish credibility before getting an editor to consider a profile, so we set out to do that by offering near-weekly tips on how the stock market would perform days or weeks in advance, without expecting a quid pro quo or coverage. 

After a few spot-on market calls, editors started to sit up and notice. Then, they interviewed him on the record for their columns and he became a regular guest on CNBC and Fox Business. Eventually the media were calling us to have him serve as their on-air stock market expert and that’s when we knew we were ready to pitch the profile. But, even with this track record, it still took several months to get the editor to greenlight the profile.  

The client got his full-page profile in Barron’s, and the editors were so impressed with him that they did a half-page follow-up story just months later.

If you have a good story to tell or you are knowledgeable about an issue or area of business that you think editors would be interested in, let’s talk about ways to tell your story. Contact me with your ideas at