Finding the perfect pitch

As professional communicators, it is an understatement to say our job is varied. Agency life throws different things at you every day, and that variety is the thrill that many of us relish.

One aspect of client campaigns, though, involves a job that can strike fear in the heart of many a junior – and the even odd senior – practitioner: pitching. It is a skill that must be honed over years, and quite honestly, it suits some people’s characters and not others. People either love it or would rather walk over hot coals to avoid it.

So, for those who don’t take to it, are there any hacks that can get you by in a pinch? We spoke to the Indaba team, who are tried and tested experts at hitting the phones and getting results, to get some of their top tips.

Stand out
The truth is the journalists you are pitching to, are also being pitched to by many, many other people hoping to get their stories published. It is vital to stand out amongst the noise. You have to be better than the rest.

Keep it short and simple
Because there is so much competition, journalists don’t have time to read tomes from everyone, so make sure your pitch is clear and concise. Is it really innovative and ground breaking? Really? Err on the side of avoiding overused buzzwords and needless jargon.

Be accurate
It goes without saying ensure you are always accurate. Don’t overegg your pitch. You aren’t doing yourself or your client’s reputation any favours, as you will get found out. Bottom line? You can’t magic up something that doesn’t exist.

Know your stuff
This is so important. You have to know your clients’ business, their product, service or story, inside out. It needs to come naturally to you as you speak, rather than sound like you picked up a script a minute before you got on the phone. If you aren’t convincing, you won’t convince anyone else!

Know the media
Talk to almost any journalist and one of their main bugbears is that people pitch them stories that simply are not relevant to their readership – largely because they haven’t done their research. This is just lazy and has no place in a professional agency. Do the work, know the media and journalists to whom you are pitching.

Pitch the story
Make sure you have something to pitch. Don’t pitch a concept or a kernel of an idea, unless you really know the journalist well and have that sort of relationship with them. They aren’t there to be sounding boards for you.

Don’t be afraid to say no
There are times when the client insists a story is worthy of going to the press, but you know it is not. Don’t be afraid to push back; not everything a client wants at top of the news agenda actually should be. They may not like it, but if you can provide solid justification and an alternative strategy, the results will almost certainly be better.

So, while hitting the phones to pitch is indeed daunting, like many things in life the hard work comes before the pitch. If you go into with confidence and a strong story, it is much less scary. And the upside is you might even get some great coverage!