Imagine for a moment that each mistake that you make every day would live forever on YouTube, as seen in this NSFW video. Or each time you produce something, it is open for public comment and sharing (usually with a headshot of you next to it). Then imagine that you chose to do this, not for pay (because there isn’t much), but because you really love a good story.
For all of the criticism of the media (and media should be criticized), there is no reward when they perfectly deliver a story – that is just the expectation.
I say this because a small dose of empathy for the media will go a long way. And it is with that mindset that I present an addendum to a few posts I have written over the last year (Five Things to Never Say to a Reporter and Top Four Ways to Kill a Pitch).
Note: I know the following behaviors are guaranteed to piss off any editor, reporter or producer because I have been guilty of them at some point. But you don’t have to go down that road. Don’t do these:
You’ve worked hard to craft the pitch and, finally, the producer says he will go with your story. There’s just one problem, your source decided to flake – completely. And best of luck trying to explain yourself or offer other options – it doesn’t work. If you pitch a person (or yourself) as a resource or expert, know what is expected, have a strategy and talking points. Flaking out hurts your reputation more than a boring interview.
News companies operate on being first. It is their value. If you offer a scoop or tell them they would be the first to cover an announcement or story, then you need to make good on that. Avoid the greed of telling everyone after you’ve made that promise. That means you need to be strategic in whom you pitch first. You will need to read, research and find the best fit. “But I don’t owe them anything. It’s my story. I can pitch as many people as I want.” You’re right. And you can sleep well tonight knowing you are right. Meanwhile, your competitors are getting coverage.
So I have a story idea for you that will be perfect for your audience. Of course, I have said that it would be perfect to every media person on this list I downloaded, but I mean it with you. Slow down before you pitch and know: who you are pitching, why they would like it, the stats or contacts to back up your idea. Then pitch individually. You saving your time at their expense will show.
The media owes you nothing. It’s important to keep in mind when you are framing a story. They serve their audience and not you. Treat them accordingly. When I was an editor, I had people asking me when their story was going to be the cover. With that attitude, the guaranteed answer is never. You can have enthusiasm and, by all means, sell your idea. But do it in a respectful way.