By Lynn Walsh, RTDNA Contributor
If you are like me and most journalists, you probably always have an idea. Story ideas, coverage plan ideas, social media strategy ideas and all sorts of other thoughts on how to provide better news coverage to communities.
So, when do you share those ideas? And better yet, who do you share those ideas with?
Sometimes the answers are easy. If it is a story idea, you probably would pitch it in the morning news meeting or send to the assignment desk if you are off. Maybe it is a longer investigative idea. In that case you may discuss the story with a news manager.
But what if the idea involves more than daily coverage or asking for time to pursue a larger story? It could be an idea to completely overhaul a specific news show or ideas on how to better cover certain areas in your community.
In these cases your pitch is even more important.
The approach. The timing and approach of your idea can really make a difference. You want to make sure you are talking to the right person. You want to make sure you aren’t going over anyones head. You also want to make sure you aren’t approaching them during a breaking news or other newsroom crisis situation. Also, consider the tone you use. You want to be taken seriously but also don’t be afraid to be casual about it. If it was a “random thought” say it was when discussing the idea.
Make a connection. For them to agree with your idea or new plan, they have to see why it matters. Tell them why it would be relevant for viewers. Tell them how this would benefit your station and your company. Will this set your organization apart from the rest. Who are the people in the community that care?
Keep it simple. While you want to make sure you have all of the information so the idea can be properly considered, you also don’t want to overwhelm. Keep it short and concise. You can always go into more details later. Make sure it is clear and easy to understand, especially if you are pitching it in an e-mail.
Consider addressing the cons. You should always know what the drawbacks are and be prepared to address them. Think about why they wouldn’t do it and be ready to talk about this. Bring up why this might be hard or something that the station may not want to do and have counter reasons that support your pitch.
Include yourself. It’s fine to pitch a plan to travel across the world for a story, but if you wanted to be involved be sure to say so. You may have a great idea for special coverage and that is great for the station, but also make sure that your idea isn’t being given to someone else. It may happen and someone else may be better suited for the opportunity, but if you aren’t clear about being involved or don’t ask to be involved then you may not even be considered.
Say thank you. No matter happens and even before you find out if your idea is going to become a reality, always say “thank you.” I am always grateful for someone’s consideration and for them being open to doing things differently.
This post was inspired by WFTV reporter Kristyn Caddell who recently reminded me that no matter how crazy an idea might sound, you should never be afraid to pitch it. They can always say no. But, if you really feel passionate about it and think it is something that could benefit the station, company or journalism, I think you have to give it a chance.
Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning journalist currently producing stories for the E.W. Scripps National Digital Desk. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information. Follow her on Twitter, @LWalsh and on Tumblr.
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