When Keith pitches a story idea in a morning news meeting, it’s as if he’s staring into a countdown timer with big red numbers and everyone around the table is slowly drifting into their own worlds. If he doesn’t grab their cynical attention spans within the first few words and seconds, he will quickly lose his audience and hear himself cut off by the next great idea.
This is what marketing and media have in common. We all have a brief window to pitch our ideas and pitch them well. But Keith recently received an email pitch 7 paragraphs, 456 words long. The next one was 17 paragraphs, 718 words long. This is not a high school English class in which you don’t know the material well but hope to sound smart and interesting by being longwinded. This is not a debate in which you hope to win your argument by wearing down your opponent with a speech that builds its case over time.
Reporters are not asking the PR world to do anything they don’t do themselves. In fact, reporters might face a tougher assignment. They typically present their ideas verbally amid distractions without the advantage of relying on a carefully crafted email that can hide the fact they’re having a bad morning.
Practice your pitches in three lines. Consider it a headline, not an essay. Reporters and producers more likely will read it. (Opening an email to see 17 paragraphs is immediately tiring on the eyes.) Twitter is great practice. Twitter forces Keith and me to make our point, seriously or in jest, in 140 characters. So consider your pitches sophisticated Tweets. If you’re good at it, a reporter will always want to know more.
Here’s another way to look at it when trying to pitch a sexy story: Show them just enough leg to grab their attention and get them wanting more. And in this art of seduction, shorter is better.
We want to hear from you. What are some of the best and worse pitches you’ve seen?