How to Pitch: 6 Things You Must Know
BY Jeff Haden
Rule No. 1? Your story is never unique. So don't even try to pitch it as such. Inc.com columnist Jeff Haden on what it takes to get his attention.
I get dozens of pitches every week from PR professionals and business owners who hope to get products or services featured in an article.
I can’t blame them for trying; Inc. has a huge global reach and the resulting exposure would be great.
Too bad most of those pitches are terrible.
If you’re looking for press, forget the formulaic, cookbook approach to crafting a winning media pitch. That approach may result in coverage in a few outlets—but not the ones you really want.
Let’s pretend you’re pitching me. You can apply the following to any media outlet or writer.
Here’s what to do and what not to do:
Don’t tell me your story is unique. No offense, but it really isn’t. There are thousands of Ramen noodle stories. There are thousands of 3 a.m. “Eureka!” stories. There are thousands of maxed-out credit cards, relatives won’t return your calls, last-minute financing savior stories. Your story is deservedly fascinating to you, because you lived it, but to the average reader your story sounds a lot like every other entrepreneur’s story. Claiming your story is unique creates an expectation that, if not met, negatively impacts the rest of your pitch.
And if your story truly is unique, I’ll know. You won’t have to tell me.
Don’t tell me how much a little publicity will help you. Never waste time by explaining how this could be a win-win relationship or, worse, by claiming you want to share your wisdom because you simply want to help others. I know you want publicity, and I know why. I get it. We’re cool.
Know what I’ve done recently. It’s easy to think, “Hey, he recently wrote about mission statements… I should pitch a story about how we help companies develop their mission statements!” Um, no. I just wrote about mission statements. I’m good for the next year or so. Don’t assume one article indicates an abiding fascination with a particular topic.
On the other hand, do feel free to pitch if you aren’t a member of the choir I just preached to. For example, I wrote this Twitter post and one reader took a very different point of view; her email resulted in another post where I recognized I was wrong. Different points of view catch my attention; same thing, different day does not.
So if you really want to attract attention, don’t use the tried-but-in-no-way-true “mention something the writer recently wrote about and how you really enjoyed it” approach. Instead put your effort into finding an angle that may appeal to my interests; if you can’t be bothered to do that, you don’t really want publicity after all.
Forget hoping for a profile piece. Straight profile pieces that tell the story of a business are boring. (At least I think so.) I don’t want to know what you do; I want to know what you know. If you started a company, share five things you learned about landing financing. If you developed a product, share four mistakes you made early on. If you entered a new market, share three strategies you used to steal market share from competitors.
The best articles let others learn from your experience, your mistakes, and your knowledge. Always focus on benefitting readers—when you do, your company will get to bask in the reflected PR glow.
The more you feel you need to say, the less you really have to say. Some people think writers are lazy and look for stories that write themselves. I can’t argue with the lazy part, but I really don’t want to read a 1,000-word pitch with a comprehensive overview of the topic and every semi-relevant statistic. The best products can be described in a few sentences, and so can the best pitches.
“Women currently control $13 trillion of the world’s $18.4 trillion in consumer spending, yet 71% of women feel brands only consider them for beauty and cleaning products. Want to hear how brands can better market to women?”
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden