How to pitch (an article or blogpost)

So, you’re a young academic or practitioner in international law; maybe you’ve had some articles published in the academic journals. And now you’re probably thinking about how to get yourself more widely known. Why? Because you know about something current, you have views that you think others would benefit from hearing, and maybe – just maybe – you’d like to be acknowledged, whether now or in the foreseeable future, as some kind of an ‘expert’?

I’m an editor: I commission and accept pieces. I also read various international law/justice/commentary blogs to see who’s writing what and who therefore might make a good contributor. I’m also a journalist myself and tuck away ideas for interviewees on a subject, future guests for my podcast, people to invite to take part in events. 

I’m going to try in this post and the next one (which will be published on Thursday), to give you a helping hand with pitching and blogging in the international law blogosphere. I’ve reached out to some colleagues and contacts to ask for their input. This isn’t comprehensive. But if you’re thinking about taking the plunge and writing for a wider audience about your chosen subject, here are some tips.

Journalists are used to pitching – check here and here for solid pitching advice professional journalists give to each other.  

If I can summarize some key points for you:

  • Editors can receive dozens of pitches in a single day, so your subject line is the first crucial step in grabbing their attention.

  • Pitching gets easier with practice. 

  • Explain in the pitch why now and why you

  • Pitch more than a simple idea – it’s a story

 Here’s a suggestion for how to put a pitch together (adapted from a journalism site):

  • Paragraph one: Set it up – Why is it important?

  •   Paragraph two: Newsy hook – what makes this blog timely?

  •  Paragraph three: My angle – how this fits into current discourse.

  •  Paragraph four: Who I am, why I'm well-placed to write the story, link to my identity.

Priya Pillai is on the team of the esteemed Opinio Juris she says she looks for  “timeliness and relevance of the piece, and unique or different legal issues,” in a good pitch. The Just Security international law and security blog warns though “Our very lean editorial team receives a large volume of guest submissions and we are selective about which pieces we publish.”  In Thursday’s insights, I link to their specific and useful advice on what they are looking for in a blogging piece. 

Iva Vukusic, Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at the University of Utrecht and Visiting Research Fellow in the War Studies Department, King's College London has been published in many blogs. She says “It helps to pitch to publications you read yourself. Then you have a good sense of the content, tone, length. “ Also importantly  she adds,“ I also tried to present myself and build a relationship BEFORE the actual pitching so the editors have a sense of who I am (may be as simple as an email 'hey I read your publication, it's great / refer to actual examples')”

International criminal lawyer, Danya Chaikel has also been published in many blogs. She says, “I've pitched but organisations have also approached me. I write a blog when an issue resonates with me and I feel that I have something new to say about it. I don't look for issues to write about, or write for the sake of it. When I've pitched (to various blogs) I've always had a positive answer and I think it's because I've already thought and written about something that I care a lot about, rather than randomly asking if I can write something. The times that I've been approached it's been related to an issue I've worked on so I'm keen to look into the issues more deeply.”

Journalist and communications expert Benjamin Dürr states, “I’m pitching all the time. In fact, that’s how I got a foot in the door at Der Spiegel and Al Jazeera, and publications in most other outlets.” He advises “find a match between idea and outlet (needs both a clear idea or thought, and a good understanding of the outlet). Then identify the right person, the editor who covers or writes about similar topics. Never pitch to info@… addresses.” 

 I get pitched to regularly – here’s a successful example, slightly anonymized: “I have a new article out on xxxxx, which can be found here xxx, and I was wondering if it would be possible for me to write a piece about this for JusticeHub?” That’s all I need, when I know the person, know their expertise, know they have something new to say.

So what happens if you get rejected or – even worse - don’t hear from them at all? I’ve had no response at times and I hate it!  Dürr agrees that “No response is worse than a “no”. It’s frustrating: “sometimes I'm 100% sure an idea would fit perfectly with an outlet, found the right person, but never received a response. “ Vukusic thinks it’s best to just move on: “I am a very non-introspective writer. I have no memory of a rejection, even though I am sure it happened - I just brush it off and forget about it, maybe I approach someone else. - one may be suitable and accepted in one place and rejected at another”

On Thursday, read the my next insight to – hopefully – get a response and get yourself published. 

Janet H. Anderson is the manager of JusticeHub which is about to relaunch with a new website and will be looking for contributors. She also writes for JusticeInfo. Together with Stephanie van den Berg she’s launching a new podcast shortly focusing on women in international justice. We will be featuring it on the Atlas website. Stay tuned.

Sareta Ashraph