How to sell a story to the press

26 Mar 2023

Digital marketing

Megan Boyle

Megan Boyle

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If you’re looking to make some quick cash without parting with any of your prized possessions, why not sell a story instead? We’re not talking fiction here –  so there’s no need to unleash your inner Hemingway. Many news publications are constantly on the lookout for interesting people to submit a story, no matter the topic. As we cover later in this post, anything can be a story – even something as simple as speaking about how often you eat McDonald’s can land £100 in your pocket. When you sell a story to The Sun, Mirror, or other similar tabloids, they’re often looking for entertainment rather than a serious, fact-checked report. So, this is the best and most accessible way to make money from selling a news story, as the only knowledge you need is your own. 

Want our best advice on how to sell a story to the media? Read all about how our content marketing executive was able to sell a story to the Sun for £100, and how you can do it too.

How did we sell a news story for £100?

Working in content marketing and digital PR means we often find ourselves in communication with journalists looking for stories. Whilst going about our usual workday, our Head of Content came across a request looking for a McDonald’s addict – she immediately sent it over to our Maccies obsessed content executive, Darcy. The pitch was ideal – we could get TAL Agency name out there and our content exec would gain a little extra cash to fuel her Maccies addiction. So, she got straight to work drafting a document.

“Although I write for a living, the whole process was incredibly simple and requires no writing skills – just an intriguing personality! I focused on some key parts of the story, such as how often I eat McDonald’s, my favourite things on the menu, and some unique McDonald’s hacks that I use regularly. As the story was for The Sun, I also threw in some humorous anecdotes that I knew would go down well with the journalist and their readership. This is why selling a story to tabloids can be much easier than other publications; be funny, entertaining and unique, and you have a solid story on your hands. 

We sent over my written story about being a McDonald’s fanatic and within a couple of hours we arranged a phone call for the next day. Whilst working from home, I answered the phone to an eager journalist full of more questions about my McDonald’s habit. The questions ranged from do I get trolled for it, to whether it has affected me physically. It’s as simple as just telling the truth in an entertaining way, which the journalist also made much easier with her chatty, friendly personality over the phone. The call lasted no longer than 15 minutes, in which we also agreed on a fee in return for my time. Next, I sent over my bank details and some relevant pictures, and it was a done deal.

All in all, writing down my answers and speaking to the journalist took no more than two hours of my time. So, roughly £50 an hour. Of course, it would be pretty difficult to make a full-time job of selling stories, but it can certainly make you some extra money. If you have lots of stories or have any quirks that others might find interesting, what have you got to lose? Whether you love to dress up your pet in human clothes, or you own over 100 pairs of socks, there’s a market for all kinds of stories.”

How to sell a story to the UK press

Now that you’ve read about our approach, it’s your turn to sell a story to the media and cash in on your interesting life experiences! Read on to learn how you can sell a news story to UK publishers. 

1. Look for journalist requests

As a digital marketing agency, we have access to large databases full of journalist requests. These can be pretty pricey, and won’t be affordable for most people. If you have a specific idea in mind, this may not be the best plan of action for you. However, if you would like to browse different requests and see if any apply to you, then there are free platforms such as HARO which let you join for free.

If you browse Twitter regularly, be sure to check out the #journorequest. On this hashtag, journalists from all sorts of publications are seeking people to share their stories and opinions. These may not all be paid opportunities, so check this first to avoid being disappointed. Stories about unique personal experiences that may include your name will be more likely to offer a fee for your story.

2. Reach out to publications

Have a news story idea that just can’t wait? Take the initiative to pitch your idea directly to publications. Most newspapers like The Sun have online contact forms for you to get in touch with them, or you can email them too. Make your story snappy and interesting – journalists are busy and won’t spend time on a story that doesn’t immediately catch their attention. Get straight to the point with what your story is about and why people would want to hear about it. Whether you’re pitching over the phone or on email, try to stay as short and sweet as possible, but still include all of the juicy details. Depending on the publication, you could also include some witty jokes to show that you can provide some funny lines and anecdotes. 

3. Follow up

Many journalists are incredibly busy and will receive lots of pitches every day. Naturally, this means it’s very easy for stories to fall through the cracks. Follow up with the journalist you’ve contacted to see if they’ve received your story and what they think. Always be polite and friendly – it’s up to the journalist whether or not your story is used. A quick email or phone call will usually do the trick, but don’t be offended if you don’t hear back or your story is rejected. Like we mentioned, journos are busy bees!

4. Move on

Whether your story is picked up or not, there’s no need to dwell on it. If a journalist decides not to use your story, don’t take it personally. There are many reasons why a story isn’t used – for example, the journalist is busy with other work or they didn’t think it was the right content for their audience. Journalism is a competitive industry and it can take a few attempts to get your story out there. 

However, it’s also important not to obsess over your story if it is published. Especially if you are speaking on a controversial topic, you may encounter some negative comments or discussion. Whilst you may want to see what’s being said about your story, it can be helpful to simply move on once a story has been published. You’ve made your mark – there’s no need to let your story consume you.

Our digital PR agency is constantly on the lookout for the best journalist requests for our clients, no matter their niche. If you want to see your brand mentioned in publications from the Express to Forbes, contact us for a chat.

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