Have you ever picked up a magazine, noted the cover story, and asked, “Why didn’t I think of that?” That happened to me once on the walk back from my mailbox.
Seriously, my husband is a mattress professional so we get Sleep Savvy magazine each month. I read it regularly and have yet to pitch them because I’m still trying to come up with those perfect story ideas. Then there’s one in my hand, on the cover no less—with someone else’s byline!
I have come up with perfect story ideas for other publications, though. And, formulating them can take some effort. Let me show you a couple quick ways to develop the perfect pitch.
2 Ways to Reslant 1 Idea into Many Story Ideas
Who Else Needs to Hear This?
The story on the cover of Sleep Savvy is a perfect example for this question. In a magazine targeting mattress professionals and furniture store owners, most of the content is on meeting the needs of the customer. The story that caught my attention in this issue of Sleep Savvy was “Dangerous Flying Mattresses: Too many consumers lose their bedding purchases on the roads.”
In the story, journalist Barbara T. Nelles covered the dangers of not properly securing loads when transporting furniture on the highway and the tactics (marketing) furniture store owners could take to encourage their customers to do so. The points in the story were 1) securing loads and 2) market responsibly. Obviously, Barbara beat me to the punch writing about these topics for Sleep Savvy.
Playing on her ideas, though, I could pitch responsible marketing to a brewery trade pub, supplement manufacturers, or even farm equipment companies. And, I could pitch how to secure hay bales properly to an ag pub (which I did and sold it). Or, I could pitch how to secure loads, whatever they may be, to Costco Connection. Bingo!
Use the Headline as a Template
Another way I reslant story ideas to generate even more is to use the headline as a template. I mentioned this technique briefly in a previous post on finding story ideas. It works like this. I had the story Country Kitchens Require Kitchen Tools published in Grit magazine. Using that title as a template, I could also write Five Must-have Tools for the Woodworker, Five Essential Tools for the Dairy Barn, or Six Things the New Mom Doesn’t Need. (How’s that for a twist?)
I wanted to break into Family Handyman. But looking at their print pub, it appeared that most of their content was written in-house or by professional craftsmen. So, I thought, “Heck, they have a ton of online content. I could try to get in that way.”
The first thing I did was subscribe to the Family Handyman email newsletter and start reading it. Then, once I felt comfortable with the kind of content they posted, I sat down and opened a ton of their newsletters and copied down the headlines. I copied down pages of headlines until I saw a trend. Once I saw it, I used those headlines as templates for my own ideas. Then, I pitched them to the editor.
The result? I’m in like flint!
I just learned about the HubSpot Blog Topic Generator. You know what it does? Give it five nouns and it spits back five headlines, following a format. If you give it five different nouns, it gives you five more headlines using the same format as the first five. Hmmm. Seems I’ve been onto something for a long time.
What about you? Need more story ideas? Try my Idea Fountain: 5 Days to 30 Article Ideas Challenge. Just click the button below to sign up!