Back before Tribune Tower was sold off as a real estate investment, and Alden Capital got its hooks into the Chicago Tribune like so much roadkill, I remember pacing a hole with the 5th-floor newsroom wider than Rahm Emanuel’s ego. Some days, it was just tough—tougher than tough—to come up with good story ideas.
Yet there was a problem: If I opened up the floodgates to pitches from PRs, I might as well run screaming out into the street wearing an archery target as a costume. Besides, why would I lean on the media relations field when, on any given week, I had hundreds of emails flooding my inbox with some of the most inane story pitches you’ve ever heard? Like: “How to help your pet handle a divorce” (a human one, I’d assume). Or: “July is National Awareness Awareness Month.”
Having lived through this kind of froth and fluff, I’m delighted to share that soon, Qwoted will introduce a new tool that smites idea block and keeps the inbox manageable. It will more finely target the kind of ideas that you want to hear. It won’t force you to suffer the embarrassment of turning down a PR person who counts on your reciprocity: so often a problem when they deliver ready-to-go quotes.
Over the next few weeks (speedier, at least, than passing that infrastructure bill), Media users on Qwoted will have access to a new Ideas Request feature. I’m geeked to talk about this update (in no small part because I’m eager to use it). Writer’s block, I don’t get. Ideas block? That’s a different story … idea…
How the Ideas Request Works
In the journalistic order of things, the idea almost always comes before finding the source. When that’s an exception, reporters often hit some tasty home runs; “hot tips,” we used to call ’em at the Trib.
Regardless of whether you’re looking for a hot tip or cool suggestion, that’s what the new request type is all about. New to Qwoted? No sweat. The process begins when you sign up and provide some basic information about you: name, outlet(s) and the topic(s) you cover. Once you do that, relevant experts in Qwoted’s community are notified that you’re on the hunt for story suggestions.
There will be no guilt attached to this either; save that for your third donut of the day. The underlying principle is pretty simple: While your request is delivered to a large group of experts within the field you cover, you’re not under any obligation to answer anyone, use anything, or show up anywhere.
The wisdom of backward pitching
The conventional reporting process sometimes makes it difficult to pull opinions out of people. Once you get them on the phone, in a video conference, or in front of you at a coffee shop, they may just decide to dummy up. Or by nature, the person may not want to make waves.
But when you solicit for an idea, you invite color from folks who call it as they see it. Readers would rather see someone making an educated guess or taking a contrarian stance. So if you see an idea pitch like, “My client at Citi thinks the housing bubble is about to burst and here’s why,” you know they’re not sitting on the fence.
People willing to put themselves out there—PRs and experts alike—also make logical candidates for relationship building. Or course, that happens all the time when you put the angle out there. But when someone else offers it, at your invitation, you now have an ideal opportunity to align with like minds, even if the offering can’t be used immediately.
Here’s an idea: Reap the benefits
It’s our goal to make sure that this new ideas feature is:
- Convenient. Qwoted is putting this tool at your fingertips as a member of the media, so you don’t have to organize the solicitation process.
- Effortless. You ask for ideas. They land in your mailbox. Stat.
- Intelligent. Great ideas are provided to you.
- Commitment-free. Again: You don’t want to engage with the PR? Or the expert? Or the idea? Don’t. How often does a storyteller get to feel that exclusive and important?
- Relationship-based. When you move forward, you don’t just score a byline. It’s also a chance to bond with someone who might just impress you as wicked smart. Not as smart as you are, maybe. But who is?
If you’re wondering why we’ve gone to all this trouble, then I’d submit that the “why” is not so important as the “what,” as in “now what?” Use us for all we’ve got, that is. And assuming you really want to know the why, it’s as simple as everything else we do. We value relationships. We value the craft. We hate bald-faced exploitation for the sake of turning your data into fuel oil. And we’d rather see fun, useful ideas hit the ground running than subject them to micro-examination and senseless use cases.
What kind of ideas will you and I get? It’s my hope to share some of the ones I receive as I put this feature to work myself. If there’s more to share about making this feature work even better, I’ll share that, too. Suggestions? We’ll take ’em.
February 14, 2023