The Dos and Don’ts of Pitching a Story
Producers and editors get dozens of story pitches a day and it can be hard for your idea to stand out above the rest. However, at Storyhunter, we’ve seen what can set you and your story apart — and this is what our data shows:
DO research the company’s brand before pitching.
Commissioning producers want to know that you get their brand and angle. Then, they don’t have to spend as much time explaining their brand to you before or during production. Plus, they might dismiss your pitch even though a slight adjustment on the exact same story could have connected the dot for them. Sending the same pitch to five different companies is not a good strategy. Instead, tailor your story to the client.
DON’T forget to keep your profile up-to-date with your best work.
If your portfolio or Storyhunter profile doesn’t show off your best samples and skillset, then it might not matter if you have an amazing story. If the client doesn’t feel like you have the experience, then they won’t be interested in working with you. Whenever you create new pieces that you’re proud of or pick up new skills, such as shooting in 360°, you should add them to your profile.
DO show that your story is unique and has strong characters.
This might be the most important thing you can do when pitching a story. Even if you have the most interesting idea in the world, it won’t sound like that if you can’t communicate why it’s unique or compelling.
“One thing I truly value and that catches my attention is a unique idea. We can usually find a way to fly someone somewhere, but really great story ideas remain precious and scarce.”— Adam Ellick, Senior International Video Correspondent and Reporter at The New York Times from 5 Attributes Media Companies Look For In Freelancers
DON’T over promise.
Sometimes freelancers see a call for story pitches on our platform and feel like they need to submit a pitch, even though they’re struggling to come up with one. Then, if they don’t get a response from the client, they feel like they wasted their time doing research. If you don’t have a story idea already in mind for the call and would have to spend serious time coming up with one, then skip it for now. Instead, keep a log of all your story ideas and possible characters as you come up with them. Then you can refer back to this later when you see a call for pitches that might fit it. And don’t always feel like you need to rush to get a pitch in. Most calls for pitches on our platform are open for a few weeks at a time.
DO be descriptive and concise.
On Storyhunter, you only have a few hundred characters to pitch your story. Even if you’re not pitching a client on our platform, you should keep the pitch short and strong.
DO communicate whether the pitch is urgent.
If you only have a short time to cover a story, put “Urgent” in your title or subject line. This will give clients a heads up to review it in a timely manner.
DO respond to the client’s questions.
If you see a client asking for you to state what camera gear you have when you pitch them a story, make sure that you do it. Or answer any questions that they ask in the call for pitches. If you don’t, you’re basically showing them that you didn’t bother to read their instructions.
DON’T pitch a story to multiple clients unless you let them know.
You can learn more about this in our article on reusing a story pitch, but it’s a simple courtesy to let the clients know. If they’re interested in the story, they’ll try to hire you first.
DO rescind your pitch from others when it’s accepted.
Along with letting clients know that you’re submitting a pitch to multiple publishers, rescind your pitch when you’ve been hired to produce the video. If you don’t, and you allow multiple publishers to hire you for the exact same story, you can run into problems. For example, on our platform, our standard freelancing contract states that the publisher who commissioned the story owns the rights to the footage. If you use that same footage for another client, you’ll be breaking the contract and ruining a relationship.
DO check to see if the publisher has already done a similar story.
This comes with doing your research and having a unique story. If they’ve already published a story on the topic you want to pitch, then they probably won’t commission it again unless there is a fresh angle.
“VJs should bring us stories that haven’t been covered in video before, that are character driven, that have strong visuals, and that will resonate with our audience.” — Japhet Weeks, Executive Producer of News Video at Fusion from 5 Attributes Media Companies Look For In Freelancers
DON’T get hung-up on response time.
Clients often receive way more pitches than they have time to immediately respond to. And they may not want to decline a pitch just in case they want to follow up with it at another time. It’s okay to send them a follow up message after a couple weeks have passed, but don’t continue to pester them. Unless the pitch is urgent, move on and submit the story to others.
DO ask for feedback if your pitch is declined.
Not every client will give you feedback, but it doesn’t hurt to send them a follow up message asking for the reason and how you can improve. And if they do tell you why, make sure you take their advice when revising the pitch.
Want to get more insights into freelancing and video production? Sign up for our newsletter here!
By D. Simone Kovacs, Storyhunter Editor