So last Saturday I got up at the devil’s hour of 6am to waltz down to London and attend a features meeting run by Stylist magazine! Hooray!
This was part of a readers’ contributions issue, all about Landaaan, and anyone could go. And it was free! We got to chat to the smart and lovely people behind Stylist magazine, and eventually we all pitched them a features idea. Also, it was held in the Palace Theatre, current home to Singing in the Rain! (Ohhh, I want to go see it!) I was quite relieved they didn’t have us pitching on stage, X Factor style, but we were quite comfy in our stall seats, and had a big ol’ intelligent discussion between ourselves.
They started the meeting by giving us several hints and style tips for feature pitching – which, in case you didn’t manage to hear about the event in time, I will share with you now. Just so you can really pretend you were there, here’s the team that we got to meet and talk to…
Collette Lyons – Features Editor (@lettie28)
Amy Grier – Features Writer (@amy grier)
Julia Maile – Editorial Assistant (@julesmaile)
Deborah McQuoid – Entertainment Editor (@deborahjoan)
THE STYLIST TEAM’S ADVICE FOR FEATURE IDEAS AND PITCHING:
- The three things you need: Title, tag, three lines. Go to your pitch-ee with a winning headline already thought out. As Collette Lyons (Features Editor) discussed, sometimes even an already-done idea can work if it has a new, clever title. ‘Do you have Career Dsymorphia?’ was an interesting headline she cited: it’s a unique way of phrasing and labelling a common problem, and will appear fresh and creative (and I also think a headline helps the pitch-ee to visualise the final article). In terms of a tag, or tagline, the article must be summed up in a punchy, pithy couple of sentences (as it would be printed – the grabby bit below the headline). And finally, ‘three lines’ refers to how long it will take readers to turn the page if it’s not interesting. So no slow build-ups.
- They don’t want an idea – they want an article. This may sound obvious, but they won’t find the angle of your story for you. Start with something that’s interesting to you, and pin it down to something very small – “Most articles come out of something very tiny,” Features Writer Amy Grier noted. For example, an article that revolves around food, looking after yourself and not getting ‘nourished’ might be pinned down with the question ‘When was the last time you cooked for yourself?’ It’s small, but it’s relatable and less abstract. An idea needs to be fully formed before being let loose on the world.
- Don’t pitch something they’ve/someone else has already done. Patronising advice alert. But, y’know. When every magazine has a website, it’s worth at least having a quick search for any similar ideas. And if you’ve seen the story in the media today, it’s too late – been and gone.
Julia, Editorial Assistant, led an example feature pitch for us that I really liked. It revolved around interviewing Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates and a massive philanthropist with a background in computer science, economics and business. This pitch would be a great potential for Stylist for a number of reasons, Julia explained. Firstly, she’s a smart and interesting woman – prize candidate for Stylist’s love of high achieving females. Secondly, Stylist apparently have great links with the people who do PR for Melinda. And thirdly, having done her background research, Editorial Assistant Julia knew about Melinda’s work in philanthropy and other areas – and so could give a persuasive argument to Melinda’s people for the things that Stylist would focus upon in the interview. Safe to say, it would not revolve around Bill Gates, but would aim to shed light on a fascinating character who is little known to the general public. Interesting, not over-done before, and perfect for Stylist. Bang tidy.