I recently made a list of all the stories I wish I’d pitched into the media but didn’t.
Here’s a selection:
My experience of Scombroid (tuna fish) poisoning. Another journalist wrote about it here.
So why didn’t I pitch these ideas? Well, despite having made a career out of helping people to spot opportunities - and turn them into media coverage - I have to ‘fess up that I still sometimes get fearful about pitching.
In these cases I was afraid my experiences weren’t interesting enough.
Who would be interested in reading about being poisoned by a tuna fish, having an only child or struggling with breastfeeding?
Quite a lot of people, it turned out.
I share this because I know how much fear can hold you back when it comes to getting media coverage.
Fear can stop you hitting ‘send’ on a perfectly good email pitch, picking up the phone to talk to a journalist - or even meeting a journalist in person.
In fact, if you’re reading this article, fear may have stopped you trying to get media coverage at all.
So what are you really afraid of?
Fear can be a good thing; if you’re holding back from pitching an idea to a journalist, it can be your intuition telling you something - that you haven’t quite nailed your 'top line' or found a compelling ‘hook’ for your story, for example.
But more often than not, it’s simply down to fear of rejection. You’re afraid journalists won’t like your idea - or that they’ll ignore it completely - and that will make you feel humiliated.
Dig a bit deeper and there’s usually something else going on: fear that people don’t like you, think you’re stupid or that you’re not very good at your job, for example.
Gabrielle Bernstein suggests we deal with fear by ‘laughing at the ego’s tiny mad ideas’ and I think she has a point.
Naming your fears - and hearing how silly some of them they sound - can often be enough to get you back on track. If a journalist says ‘no’ to your idea, does that make you unloveable? Course not. Does one bad story idea mean you’re stupid? Nope. Are you really going to lose your credibility - or even your job - over one unsuccessful pitch? Unlikely.
Believing in fear is a choice that you make. So choose something different.
Stop telling yourself stories
Do you ever feel intimidated by editors?
I used to.
To me, they were God-like figures and if I felt ‘small’ or stupid around them (which I often did), that was perfectly ok. After all, to get to that position, they must be far cleverer and more knowledgeable than me.
I saw pitching as a kind of battle of wills between me and editors. Their job was to defend their publication or programme from people like me and mine was to get an idea past them.
Things changed, when I started working as a commissioning editor myself. I quickly realised that editors were just normal people trying to do a job (creating great content for their audience). And if they sounded a bit grumpy/harassed from time to time, it was probably because they were generally (a) working to tight deadlines (b) wading through tons of awful pitches every day in the hope of finding a decent one (c) panicking about what the hell they were going to fill their pages/airtime with.
It can be helpful to remind yourself that journalists are fearful too: of looking stupid in front of their colleagues, getting into trouble with their boss or not being able to fill their pages/airtime.
And when you stop telling yourself stories about journalists being 'difficult' and start thinking about how you can help them, everything changes.
Starting with the question: ‘how can I help this person create great content?’ creates a completely different energy to ‘how can I get this journalist to look at my pitch/run my story?’
And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you which is more effective.
You are not a pest
If I could give you just one tip to help with your fears around pitching, it would be this: YOU ARE NOT A PEST.
Just reminding yourself that by pitching an idea to a journalist you’re potentially solving a problem for them (i.e. helping them create content that is perfect for their audience) can create a big mindshift which can help you sound much more confident when you’re pitching.
And when you focusing on creating great content (rather than getting a ‘plug’ for your business or brand) your ideas will naturally be much more interesting to journalists.