Take your expectations and triple them: Negotiating tips from Martyna Starosta

Martyna Starosta, in the field

As a negotiator you are an inspiration to me and to so many people in your life. what are your most important negotiating tips for anyone working in journalism?

I taught a class called how to use your journalism skills for negotiations.  A lot of journalists who I encounter, mostly women, say they don’t know how they negotiate. But if I ask what skills they bring to the negotiation table as a journalists, they say I know how to do research, I’m a good communicator, I’m persistent, and I know what I want. They already possess most of the skills. They can research standard rates in the industry. They’re extremely persistent usually — they know how to email the same source five times and at some point knock at their door. And people already have a lot of communication skills; they know how to be assertive and respectful at the same time. A lot of women are good negotiators for a team, but not good negotiators for themselves. So it might help to tell people that they’re not negotiating for themselves but for their families or even for social justice movements if they want to donate that money.

What are your greatest achievements as a negotiator?

When people think about negotiation they think about the big milestones – they think oh my god now I have to negotiate a salary. I think of negotiating like going to the gym. You go the gym and have a bad day and you go again and have a better day. So I do Zumba and tap dance, and I’m good at it now. Each day you can find opportunities to negotiate. Even if there’s a negotiation coming up that makes you really scared and nervous; think of it as an opportunity to build your muscles. My biggest advice is you can negotiate everything at all times. One time I signed a contract that specified my crew member role — it was director of photography and editor. During the shoot I found myself directing a lot so after the shoot I requested a co-director role, and I got it.

Last advice is think of your target goal and triple it. Ask for that.


Text by Alleen Brown, Fall 2018 Guatemala Reporting Fellow