Someone in public relations pitched me a story idea and I shared it with an assignment editor. The assignment editor told me to tell the person we would file away the idea. To me, the concept of a media outlet filing away an idea is often equivalent to an employer’s letter stating it will keep your resume on file. I asked the assignment editor if she actually planned to cover the story one day. She said no. I responded that I would simply tell the PR pro the station is not interested. The assignment editor seemed uncomfortable with that option.
I told the PR pro the truth and she thanked me as if few in the media delivered her such honesty. If I told her otherwise, we would both knowingly be engaging in an unspoken contract of B.S. I’m tired of B.S. It stains too much of our world’s communications. I personally don’t want to contribute any more B.S. to our planet.
Why are much of the media afraid to tell you they don’t like your idea? Why do many journalists prefer to conveniently forget about your email and claim they will pitch it, knowing it will go “splat!” against an invisible brick wall in the editorial meeting?
The answer is no different than why many communicators in business prefer to engage in spin than straight up, keeping-it-real honesty. At some point growing up, most of us are taught being brutally honest in business is too risky. Instead, we B.S. each other and no one is fooled. We grumbled behind closed doors and each other’s backs.
I pitched the media several story ideas the week I wrote this blog. Some people never responded. Some asked follow-up questions but never responded to my answers. Did my email not get through? Did they love my idea and just forget? Should I remind them and save the day? In most cases, I advise don’t fool yourself. This is the game we humans play. Your idea didn’t make the cut. You can’t expect all of them to hit the air or show up in print. The reporters, producers and editors who didn’t get back to you, in most cases, are not jerks or bitches. They are human. Maybe they’re too busy to respond, but that’s an excuse. Not responding is much easier than writing “Thank you for your idea, but I’m not interested” or “With all due respect, your idea sucks.”
Another reason I told PR pros and businesses the truth was because it inspired new conversations. We talked about what the idea lacked. We talked about other ideas. But many in the media don’t invest in this approach. Don’t take it personally.
There’s nothing wrong with one follow-up email or phone call asking if there’s any interest in your magnificent idea that will thrill your client. But don’t dive deep into an arsenal of arguments and try to persuade producers to change their minds considering they left the conversation long ago. Don’t be a public relations stalker. At that point, the journalist is more interested in the free food someone just brought in.