Using blogs to bring in the stories and earn commissions

No blog is an island. If you’re covering a particular field in your blog, then you can be at the forefront of that specialism. That means you can keep up with current research, stories from around the world and other developments. This gives you the opportunity to also pitch ideas to editors. Of course they may say ‘no’– they frequently will – but you are at least, upping your chances. Not only can your site highlight your knowledge, it can also reach out for new stories and help with your research.

My blog about twins and more (www.gotyourhandsfull.com) has helped me build trust with readers – mostly parents of multiple birth children. They’ve contacted me with stories which have not only made their way on to the blog, but also into the pages of newspapers and magazines. I include my email address and an appeal for people to get in touch with their stories on the front page of my blog, and now and again remind them in a new post.

How you request information or stories can require a lot of thought – make sure those who answer understand what will happen at every turn. It’s no good getting a bite from an editor, only for your interviewee to then cry off with the excuse ‘I didn’t know I’d have to be named”. You may think I’m stating the obvious; I’m not. As with the wider world, not everyone who reads a blog knows or cares how newspapers and magazines work.

Another key element to bear in mind, if you ask for stories through your blog, is making sure that the people who get in touch are who they say they are – ensuring the story’s ‘copper bottomed’as a few of my ex-bosses would say. With the sort of human interest stories I work with, I may fix up to go and see the person who has got in touch, I may already know them or I’ll carry out all the usual checks needed to stand up such a story – talking to any third parties and authorities involved.

Journalist and blogger Craig McGinty warns against straying into unfamiliar territory – on to other people’s blogs for example, especially when they are already at the centre of media focus. He says: ‘Some people still don’t realise that unless they make their blog a private space, then it is open to search engine spiders and can be found. After the Virginia Tech shootings, journalists flocked around one or two posts trying to get comments. It looked ugly and despite seeing many requests from reporters – and the backlash – more requests were left, including some from journalists based thousands of miles away.’He adds: ‘The principles you’d use when interviewing someone, regardless of how you are doing it, should be followed. Be courteous, understanding and get the facts right.”

You can also point editors to your blog when you pitch. Journalist and blogger Diane Shipley says: ‘Blogging has been very good for my writing career. Co-editing Trashionista (www.trashionista.com) gave me the clout to write about chick lit for The Guardian’s books blog. Writing for my blog as well as professional blogs means I’ve been offered two commissions out of the blue – one for Mslexia and one for The Telegraph.

“I’d pitched both editors before but it was my blogging experience that interested them, and led to other work. I recently had a piece published in Company. As I’d moved house and changed phone number and email, the editor had no way to contact me – I’d sent the piece in on spec six months earlier and forgotten about it. So she looked me up online, and left a comment on my blog saying they’d like my permission to publish it. I’m glad she did!”

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