PR Pitches are like a Job Interview…and Sales

While exploring ScoopIt this morning I came across an article from Ragan’s PR Daily titled “A 14-Step Guide to Pitching ‘Big Fish’ Reporters”. It’s all about how to convince the reporter to want the story you’re writing; about selling your story…key word being selling here. The more I read the article the more I realized the steps are all steps we’re told to take in a job interview.

Do your homework–knowing to whom you’re pitching, reading what that person or company writes, their bio, their blogs, follow them on social media.

Stay in the genre–don’t pitch ideas to people which fall outside of their “norm”…a writing major who is terrible at math wouldn’t apply for a statistician’s job. Make sure your pitch is relevant to who you’re pitching it to

Remember their audience–companies value their customers–they’re what keep the company alive, so keep those customers in mind. For a hint look at their most popular products or popular characteristics of their company for clues as to what their customers value. It’ll come in handy during your pitch…and when you have to counter some negative feedback.

Show them you know them–this links back to the first step. Prove you did your research and ALWAYS include a compliment. Everyone loves knowing their hard work paid off or was, in at least some way, recognized.

Don’t give it all away…but make them want the rest–you don’t want to give every single ounce of information and possibilities to the “buyer” or “interviewer” but then the email or conversation ends up being so long it gets deleted or they tune out four sentences in. Be creative and concise.

Fulfill a need–people want to work with those they can trust, those that are knowledgeable, and those that can teach them while helping them. Position yourself as a valuable resource by being active in social media and content generation…it’ll help make you look like you know what you’re talking about and give you more creative ways to help them.

Don’t waste time–again goes back to don’t gie it all away. People are busy and have terribly short attention spans. Don’t waste their time. Use the subject line in emails to tell exactly what’s in your email. Don’t forget to include a subject or put an irrelevant one, it WILL get deleted.

Be professional–see my post on professional communication

Edit and Practice–whether it’s via email or phone or in person you only have one chance to make a first impression and it’s made very, very quickly. Always make sure you go through drafts of your writing, practice your conversation so you can be prepared for anything, and practice your handshake because limp-fish handshakes are the worst. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward even if it means a fashion show with your roommate or bribing them with doing the dishes to read your email.

Be persistent–some people don’t always search through their ‘boxes’ (email or voicemail) so if you don’t hear back in a few business days (weekends don’t count) resend it with a nice note. If they don’t respond after two emails…stop. Pick up the phone and call. Again know what you’re going to say, practice, and review all the other steps–know who you’re talking to. (again see my professional communication post for phone call tips).

Be nice–they don’t have to like or take your idea/services. You’re trying to form a professional relationship so treat it that way-always be the bigger person, always smile through everything and remember the adage “kill them with kindness” if/when they’re rude back.

Every single one of those steps has been told to me in my job interview preparation. I have been told to do research, to practice questions, responses and dress, to be concise, patient, kind but also follow-up and show interest. It’s the same with public relations pitches-and even service sales. You’re selling yourself or your product. Treating it like a job interview will add a whole new realm of nerves and a sense of needing to do well to the mix. That’s something that can be motivating and helpful in preparing for any possible thing.

And here I thought I’d interview, get the job, and be done interviewing….tee hee.

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