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In my world of all things public relations, “pitch” is the MVP of my lexicon. As a verb, “pitch” lies at the core of my business: it’s what my team does for virtually every client on my list, and it’s arguably the single-most strategic action in launching a full-blown marketing campaign. As a noun, “pitch” is the actual written asset we produce: we throw something into the big wide media net and hope it hits its mark.
“Hope” is not a word I like to emphasize. My clients don’t want to hear, “I hope I can get you press coverage” or “I have high hopes that we can place your product announcement in this magazine.” No, what they want, what you want and what I want — for all our businesses — is to produce pitches that get noticed, get read and get picked up right out of the gate.
The mission is clear. Accomplishing that mission is a whole other ballgame.
Is there a secret formula for effective PR pitches?
Many things go into a good, solid pitch. Presentation matters — it should look crisp and clean, use an eye-catching but easy-to-read font and be laid out nicely, sure. Length matters — too long, and the reviewer will likely just skim over it; too short, and you won’t be able to generate a message with any real substance. Tone matters — overly formal comes across as stuffy, boring and antiquated; overly informal comes across as too casual, amateur and unprofessional.
But if I had to narrow down my recipe for a potent, compelling, attention-grabbing pitch, I’d zero in on five staple ingredients that form the base of all of my firm’s pitches.
Five action steps to craft a results-generating pitch
#1: Do a deep dive. Do not go in blind. Do not “wing it.” Do not sit down at your desk and tell yourself, “Something will come to me once I start typing.” Instead, do some research. Then, do some more research. A pitch with an informed viewpoint and data-driven assertions will hit the target over vague, general “rah-rah” pieces 10 times out of 10.
One of my strongest pitches ever? It was about burgers. I studied the ins and outs (pun intended) for hours on end — what people in the food and beverage industry had already written about burgers, what went into the best burgers and what consumers cared most about in their burgers. My pitch was thoughtful, well-founded and had style. The journalist picked it up right away, writing back to me that it was the best pitch he’d ever received.
#2: Ensure impeccable grammar. Never underestimate the power of a typo … to sink your pitch right into the mud. Though I’m long on vision, I’m short on the finer points of the English language, so nothing leaves my office that hasn’t been pored over by a grammar and punctuation expert on my editorial team. Draft. Edit. Proof. Repeat.
Remember that journalists are writers; they respond to good writing and toss faulty writing directly into the trash can. When your pitches are well-written, grammatically correct and error-free, they will align so much better with the brand you’re promoting and will allow the messaging (not the avoidable mistakes) to grab the spotlight.
#3: Adopt a newsworthy angle. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep on saying it. To get in the news, you have to bring something new to the table. You have to infuse the well-traveled terrain with a breath of fresh air that feels refreshing and interesting to the media rep.
To find a novel angle, return to the research board. What hasn’t been said yet? What hasn’t been considered? What intriguing spin can you put on your subject matter that will capture your reader’s attention and pique their curiosity? Unless you’ve settled on an angle that will direct the course of your pitch, don’t start randomly clicking away at the keyboard. Wait until you’re inspired by your own approach to increase the chances that you’ll inspire your audience.
#4: Turn selling into storytelling. Let’s face it: what a pitch is really doing is trying to sell something. You’re trying to get the media to “buy” what you’re peddling, to take the bait so you can get them on the hook. But a soft sell almost invariably beats out a hard sell, and the key to soft selling is the narrative technique.
It’s one thing to tout a revolutionary new skincare product on the basis of its chemical composition, regenerative properties and competitive price point. It’s quite another to actually illustrate its life-changing qualities through the words of Janice, a new convert who is obsessed with its silky texture, delicious scent and mind-blowing results around her eyes.
Facts appeal to the intellect. Stories appeal to the emotions. When you’re trying to reach people, the emotional route will often get you to your destination more persuasively and dynamically.
Related: How to Write a Winning PR Pitch
#5: Add your own flair. Enough with the AI and ChatGPT already. We’ve barely gotten started in this arena, and I’m already encountering far too much copy that sounds generic, robotic and soulless. There is a place for personality in the business world, for a singular voice and vision. And a pitch is an excellent vehicle to transmit your particular flair.
Some pitch writers go for humor, some seek logic and some chase the utterly perfect tagline. Me, I’m a heartstring-puller. That’s just my default mode when working with clients, the press, anyone. So I write from the heart when I’m pitching, with the goal of touching another one. Don’t be afraid to imbue your pitch with passion; people react to that when they sense it’s authentic.
Don’t neglect this final step
Do you know how full your inbox is? Well, the media’s boxes are positively overflowing. So don’t wait to be “discovered” amid all those written proposals. Pick up the phone to follow up on your pitch. Invite the recipient to coffee. Try to develop relationships with media contacts. Like you, they’re looking for the next big success story, and if you add this final step, you just might find it together!