Tuesday, 23 December 2008

#65 – When to pitch a story by phone

Or the contact that editors don’t want you to make.

As a general rule, most editors don’t like being phoned up with pitches. They get enough e-mails as it is, but at least e-mails can be dealt with when the time is right. If all of those pitches were coming in by phone, they would never get anything done.

Dealing with the situation there and then
But sometimes, pitching by phone is the right way to go about things. It can work for precisely the reason that editors hate it – they have to deal with the situation there and then rather than postponing it for a more convenient time.

Successful pitches
If I analysed it, I’d guess that a higher percentages of my successful pitches are done over the phone, rather than by e-mail. But I also don’t see the point in annoying an editor without good reason – constantly phoning up is liable to have you earmarked as being hugely annoying.

Reasons to pitch a story by phone
For this reason, I will usually only call an editor for one of the following reasons:

1. The pitch is time-sensitive/ topical, and I need a quick “yes” or “no” in order to be able to pitch it to someone else if the editor I originally pitched to is not interested.
2. To clarify confusion over a brief/ editorial requests. Sometimes a quick phone call can solve what days of e-mail tennis can’t quite manage.
3. I am following up a pitch, and they have not responded to the follow-up e-mail. And I’ll always make sure I’ve left a couple of weeks after the follow-up e-mail to do this. By this stage, it’s generally a no lose situation – you’re expecting a “no”, and it’s better to have the “no” confirmed than have it hanging in the air. If it’s a “yes”, then it’s a bonus.

Professionalism vs pestering
I think, in these scenarios, you’re on the right side of the professionalism/ pestering line. It’s probably best to not make a habit of calling up though – you may start to find that the editor is constantly “away from the desk” every time you call.

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