The Art Of The Pitch

I’ve been helping a client source a junior media associate (think PR and social media) and so I’ve spent a few days buried under a virtual stack of resumes, work samples and social media links. (Recruiters—you have my undying appreciation for the magnitude of “stuff” you sort through every day.)

What was fascinating as it unfolded was the sheer number of people who essentially rewrote the ad to skew toward their talents.

I wasn’t looking for editors, fiction writers, sales reps, voice-over announcers, teachers, producers, on-air talent, data mavens or dry-wall installers. Yep, I got all of those.

It pains me to think of the effort they put into making their pitch—time that could have been better spent going after a role that at least had a few relevant bullet-points.

And so it is with client pitches—and every request you make where the likelihood of “no” is clearly present.

HOW you pitch makes all the difference. So whether you’re writing a proposal, asking to be a podcast guest, requesting an interview or even a blurb for your website or book, try these six tips to win over the object of your affections.

Focus on what THEY want. This means you put yourself into their headspace. What do they most want? I guarantee they have left breadcrumbs as clues even if they haven’t asked you directly for help. Reporters want pithy, fast, reliable commentary. Clients want help solving problems. Podcast interviewers want guests who will be on topic, interesting and easy to work with. Authors want platforms where they can connect with readers.

Read (or watch or listen to) their stuff. This requires a serious investment of time, but will immediately present itself in the quality of your pitch—how can you help them get what THEY want. When I meet with new potential clients, I always start with a top to bottom perusal of everything I can find on-line about them and their business, including social media. By the time we talk, I have a picture of their digital brand and can provide reliable pointers on the gaps between what they want and what is. Sometimes, they simply take that advice and go do it without hiring me—and I embrace that too. We all can use another apostle out there singing our praises…

Be clear on what you uniquely bring to the party. The best respondents to that media job—the ones we’re interviewing—connected the dots from who they are/what they do to the job brief we gave them. One candidate (with prior media experience) was busily leading travel tours—but it was her unconventional note that explained why she wanted to get back to media that drew us in (and stood out). Why not be the unexpected choice?

Show a little personality. Yes, we’re all in business, but that doesn’t mean we have to be formal and stilted. Have some fun! Just make sure your personality serves your cause vs detracting from it. Caveat: an exclamation point here and there is good. Multiple, often, is bad.

Think brevity, clarity and style. One of my favorite lawyers always looks for “brevity, clarity and style” in his networking introductions. Please don’t tell us your life story unless you’re pitching your memoir (and even then just lead with the hook). And don’t write an email where your pitch is buried in the 4th paragraph—guaranteed your reader will hit delete before getting that far. Style is all about adapting your personality to various audiences and situations while still being yourself. People remember style.

Lead with confidence (and don’t take rejection personally). Confidence—not arrogance, but natural, likeable, easy confidence is highly appealing. When you’ve done your homework, leading with confidence is your best bet. And if they still say no? Chances are high that it’s not about you. Accept the no graciously and move on to someone who can say yes.

With the possible exception of pure narcissists (whose success rate would be abysmal), pitching rarely comes easily. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a talent worth cultivating.

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