Journalism: 5 simple tips for pitching story ideas

When you think about pitching, it sounds pretty daunting, doesn’t it? The added pressure of getting it all in a timely manner does not really help either!

Well, that’s what I spent doing for a whole afternoon recently, at the University of Central Lancashire’s cJAM: Journalism event.

cJAM: Journalism is an annual event and a very full-on day for all journalism students at my university. It gives us the opportunity to pitch our best ideas to gain work experience in the industry. In a speed-dating style, we pitch the ideas to a number of professional guests. If we are successful with our pitches, then we secure work placements with those organisations.

I took part in the event last year as a newbie, fresh into my master’s course and I was so nervous that I only pitched to three organisations. In between the waiting times, I don’t know what overcame me, but I started approaching empty seats to kill some time and had conversations with a number of guests. I found that I became more and more comfortable with the process that I regretted not booking any more pitches.

So, this year I decided it was going to be different. Oh no, this year, the challenge was on. I had to secure placements! With graduation looming near and my current employment contract coming to an end, I was hunting for something new.

Naturally, I was full of nerves, which is perfectly normal, but I managed to overcome my nerves and be successful with almost all of my pitches. Here are a few things that I learnt during the whole experience:

1. Prepare and practise prior to pitching.  

This is so important. Have notes with simple information about your pitch and think about leaving a brief with the guest. Plan your pitches according to the different organisations that you would pitch to. Sometimes you may need to vary your story ideas according to the region, or the audience or the style that different organisations demand.

2. Pitch planning:  

  •   Have a good title
  •  A summary of information that outlines your pitch
  •   How does it meet that organisation’s audience?
  • Have you got interviewees for your story already lined up?
  •  Have a why – why is this story important or relevant?

3. Do background research of the delegates.  

We were provided with a handbook with a summary of all the industry guests attending. A quick look at their LinkedIn profile, their blog or their previous work could give you a lot of information to help you plan your pitches, with the person you are pitching to, in mind.

  4. Prepare back up pitches 

Just in case they don’t like your
original story idea – have a plan B!

  5. SMILE and try to relax! 

How can you do this you might ask? The more you practise these tips then the more confident and comfortable you will feel on the day. Smile as you approach your seat and greet your guests appropriately.

You will find that it's easier when you try and enjoy the process!

Remember, you have not got much to lose by trying but you can only regret not trying.

CREDIT: UCLan Media. Presentation awards for successful pitches at UCLan cJam: Journalism event

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