19 Dec 8 Tips for a More Interesting Pitch
Confession: I have a serious PR crush on Michael Smart. It all started when my colleague Jonathan did an in-office training on a few of Michael Smart’s general writing tips, but the full on PR crush developed when I attended a PRSA event where he spoke, and left feeling like I could conquer PR.
Now you may be thinking, ‘wow this girl is a serious nerd’. I’m not going to fight you on that. You may also be wondering who Michael Smart is and why he is so crush-worthy. To that I say, ‘wow you must have missed my awesome event recap.’
Michael Smart is a professional media trainer/PR guru, and if you work in PR and don’t follow his blog or social media accounts I highly recommend that you fix that, immediately.
In the tech industry we often run into stories that are difficult to make fresh and exciting. It’s tough to break through the noise on a topic like cloud computing when every company has something to say. Michael gave out some tips that were actually actionable, so I thought I’d share them with you, Sounding Board readers. Here are a few of my favorites:
Frame your pitch around real people
Determine the people behind the story – the subjects that readers are going to relate to. For our purposes in technology this is often the end user, the reader who will be adopting your technology. Pitching for that person and making a compelling case about how their lives will be easier because of your company/product/technology, rather than just pitching product specs, will earn you better results.
Exploit pop culture
This tip is harder in tech, but not impossible. Creating a tie between a current event or pop culture phenomenon can be a good way to convey complex concepts. I know my colleague Pete is the master of the comparison and frequently uses similes in his writing to explain complex technology. It’s a great way to get people to understand something they might have never heard of otherwise.
Okay so sometimes you can’t figure out how to make the story about the end user and sometimes it’s impossible to tie complex technologies like cloud computing to pop culture. In that case, Michael suggests taking a look at the process and how that could be intriguing. For example, if you’re pitching version 2.2 of a product you could go back through the process and try to uncover something intriguing and attention grabbing. What problem did they solve? What element did they add to make the product more useful? Focus your pitch on that, rather than just an update of product specs.
Find unorthodox beats
Well this one sounds familiar. As PR pros it seems like we’re always considering who might be interested in our story and how to make our news interesting to that reporter. Michael gave an example of a remote controlled airplane that transmits video footage remotely, that was entered in a global university competition for who could build the smallest version of the device. His team found a way to make the story not about the university competition, but about the aerospace industry. By phrasing it as the next generation of unmanned surveillance technology, he got top tier coverage of the event.
Tie to a trend
Three examples make a trend. Be the person who identifies a trend for a reporter by suggesting yourself and two other (safe) examples. This tactic demonstrates to reporters that there is an actual story beyond what your client is trying to claim as news. And, could earn you (or your client) brownie points with the other companies/technologies you suggest for the story.
Tie into a media agenda
By identifying predictable events like the Super Bowl, Olympics, or holiday seasons and finding a way to link your story to theirs, reporters who are already covering that story are more likely to include your information and talk to your client. This route can also give an evergreen story a timeliness hook that could grab the reporter’s attention.
Find a safe conflict
Journalists love conflict. Finding a controversy that is safe for your client to weigh in on is a great way to get attention. Most recently, one of our clients decided to confront the notion that open source software can’t be secure. We used that idea to secure thought leadership coverage in one of their target publications. It’s important to remember that this tip could be tricky and you need to take every precaution to be sure the negativity doesn’t rub off on your client.
Combine existing assets
Another way to establish your client as a thought leader in their space is to combine assets and present them to the media. Have they written a whitepaper or conducted a study? Put the collateral together in an interesting way and a reporter in your space could find the new angle and data interesting.
Have any of these tips worked for you? Do you have another technique that you use when you’re pitching? We’d love to hear from you!