No word on your pitch? How to cold call

by Leo Wiles
31 January 2014

If you’d rather have root canal than chase an editor about your story pitch, you’re not alone. Most of us dread picking up the phone and touching base with a stranger. And if your mama ever told you strangers are only friends you haven’t met yet, she clearly hasn’t spoken to a grumpy commissioning editor on deadline who you’ve just interrupted.

Pitching can be tricky, especially when you pitch and don’t hear back. Although editors may have good intentions to reply to everyone who pitches them, many may be inundated and if your story is topical or you simply want to know either way so you can re-submit it elsewhere (if it’s a no), then it’s perfectly fine to follow up with a call if you don’t hear back within a couple of weeks. So here’s my guide to making a cold call (and getting results):

1. Understand the schedule of the person you’re phoning. If they’re working on a weekly then chances are mid morning after their news conference is best.

2. Smile – sure they can’t see your pearly whites but your voice will be friendlier and more engaging.

3. Sit straight or even stand, and it’ll help you sound more confident on the phone.

4. Have a script ready or practice what you want to say if you’re feeling nervous – that way when it comes to crunch time you won’t trip over yourself.

5. Don’t ring while the kids are screaming or if you’re in a busy café. Find somewhere quiet to make your call, away from interruptions or distractions.

6. Always ask if you’ve caught them at a good time. If they say they’re busy ask when a better time for you to call might be.

7. Understand they may be short on time so be succinct; ask if they’ve had a chance to read your pitch and if not, see if it’s OK to touch base in a week.

8. Even if they hate your ideas, thank them for their time because now they know your name – and next time it may be a yes.

9. Chase again if you have to. If someone said they’d call you back but you don’t hear from them after a week or so, give them another call. Chances are they’ve been busy and forgot to get back to you.

If an editor doesn’t respond to your pitch, what’s your next move? Do you email, call – or assume the ideas weren’t of interest and resubmit them elsewhere?

2 responses on "No word on your pitch? How to cold call"

  1. Linda Moon says:

    Thanks, great article. What’s your advice on what to do after you’ve cold-called them and they’ve promised to read your story and email back – but they haven’t. Would you send a polite email and how would you word that considering inwardly your fuming and wanting to move on with the story?

  2. Leo Wiles says:

    Hi Linda,
    Choose your time carefully to call and say; ‘Hi I’ve been having some IT issues and just wanted to make sure you received my email’.
    ‘It was regarding xx pitch…’
    Follow with; ‘I appreciate your time, I know how busy you are.’
    If they say they’re not interested you can mention; ‘Thanks for your honesty I just wanted to make sure before I shop it around elsewhere. But while I have you on the phone how would you feel about a piece on xxx?’ OR get off the line if you can feel it’s not the best timing.

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