Monday, April 10, 2006

In the Meantime

Yes, it's slow going, here at the Good Pitch Blog. The PR world is - as usual - too busy to toot its own horn. "Cobbler's children have no shoes," etc. And, that is fine with me.

This site was only ever intended as a resource for PR newbies to get some ideas, and to counteract some of the negative backwash that occasionally gurgles against the PR world. Whenever I have the time, inclination or (gasp!) a new Good Pitch submission, I will continue to post to this blog. (Meanwhile I hope you'll pay a visit to the site that takes up most of my brain juice.)

There are, of course, plenty of great spots to "git edjumicated" about how-to be a great PR person:
  • First off, I'd suggest a visit to our inspiration, the BadPitch Blog. When it started, I was afraid it was going to be wholly negative (and so I started up this site) ... but actually the BadPitch Blog evolved quickly to offer the best of ALL worlds: bad pitches and good pitches, and plenty of good advice all around, too. Bookmark it.
  • I'd also suggest frequent visits to WetFeet PR, Blake Barbera's site for discussing day-in-the-life episodes of a PR exec's agency life.
  • Lastly, a terrific new entry in the PR blogosphere is the Forward blog, from a group of all-star contributors, brought together by some of the smartest smarties at Auburn University.
  • (And if you have 1,370 hours to kill, click every link in the blogroll at PR Squared. Go on, I dare ya.)
As I toddle off into my semi-retirement, I want to thank the many supporters who sent along their pitches (the good and not-so-good) and their best wishes. I'll continue to throw things up here as appropriate, and I hope you'll stop by now and again.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Evolution of TWO Lovely Pitches

Team/Agency: Not disclosed

Significance: Got a twofer for yaz. The PR team in question first went out with a generic holiday-themed pitch, but due to a diligent watch on industry news they were able to scramble out a brand-new pitch. All of the ideas are the same, but this approach shows the importance of keeping your ears to the ground. The 1st pitch was just fine but the 2nd pitch got the lion's share of the resulting ink.

Pitch #1:

Subject: The Way to a Woman’s Heart…is Through a Web Site?

Hi (Editor),

Flowers. Chocolates. Perfume. Jewelry. They’re the standard Valentine’s Day gifts from men to women every February 14—often purchased last-minute.

But this year is a little different—instead of rushing into a store on February 13, many guys will turn to the Web to do their last-minute shopping (and hopefully get a little more creative with their gift-giving). In fact, Valentine’s Day is rapidly becoming the second-largest retail holiday. V-Day 2006 is also seeing a surge in the purchase of search terms that will drive shoppers to retail Web sites and, hopefully, that perfect gift.

(CLIENT) is available to speak with you about the love in the air—and the traffic across the Web—this Valentine’s Day, and how retailers are able to control their own holiday business booms by having the right strategy in place to service customers, no matter how many last-minute orders come in.

Would you like to speak with (CLIENT)?

Pitch #2:

Subject: Covering Valentine’s Day Site Crashes?

Hi (Editor),

I’m writing to check in and see if you are covering the greeting-card site crashes that occurred yesterday due to Valentine’s Day traffic. Hallmark.com and Bluemountain.com were both down several times yesterday due to traffic overload, according to the Washington Post.

This outage not only affected lovers trying to send greeting cards via the Web, it also affected would-be recipients. In fact, a woman I work with got a call from her mom last night, who thought she had been forgotten on Valentine’s Day. My colleague actually sent an e-card at 8:30 that morning—but it didn’t arrive until today.

(CLIENT) is available to comment on the havoc that poor planning has wreaked on these well-known sites, on one of the busiest e-card days of the year. (CLIENT) can also address how these sites could have strategized to handle this traffic, and what they can do differently to ensure success during the next big e-card rush.

Would you like to speak with (CLIENT)?

What's To Like About This Pitch: As noted above, the PR team was able to leverage current events to further their client's relevant perspectives. The lesson here is to never rest on your laurels. You can't blast out 50 pitches and cross your fingers. Instead, you ought to consider an approach in which you blast out 10 pitches, then check Google News and Technorati to see if anything's changed in the world that might make the next 10 pitches more timely and relevant.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Naked "Charticles"

If your client has little to say, say it with a "charticle."

A "charticle" is a made-up word (thus the quotation marks) for MSM articles that rely completely on the results of client-sponsored surveys. Reporters seem to love surveys and factoids; they can use these data-bytes to tell a quick, compelling tale, and better yet, they can usually include a pie chart or picture (which counts for another 1,000 words).

Here's a tidbit from SonicWALL's latest survey:
About 39 percent of (telecommuters) of both sexes said they wear sweats while working from home, but 12 percent of males and 7 percent of females wear nothing at all, according to a survey of 941 remote and mobile workers worldwide conducted by Insight Express and SonicWALL, a provider of integrated network security and productivity solutions.
Yes, I am sure that people who buy "integrated network security and productivity solutions" truly care about naked telecommuters. NOT.

The survey did go on to tell a good story to tell about the less-than-rigorous standards of network security among telecommuters, but, clearly this point wasn't as - well, sexy - as the naked telecommuter tidbit.

Say you're the PR pro who pitched this story. Would you be proud of the resulting ink? Will SonicWALL's CEO or Boardmembers be excited by the "naked charticles"?

The lesson? "Charticles" are good, if the coverage that results is of-interest to your client's prospective buyers. "Naked charticles" are not so good, unless you run a porn site.

Disclaimer: SonicWALL was a client of ours, years ago - and for what it's worth, I hold a high regard for their current agency. (Doesn't mean this particular initiative panned out, though.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Reading Is Fundamental

In the post-Bubble days, R.I.F. meant "Reduction In Forces" - an Orwellian euphemism for lay-offs. But when I was a kid, R.I.F. stood for "READING IS FUNDAMENTAL." As I recall, the R.I.F. program was a "library on wheels," a literacy program for kids that advertised during the Saturday morning cartoon hours. Apparently they are still around, god bless 'em.

I miss those simpler days.

If you never return to the Good Pitch Blog, remember this lesson (which we touched on in the last post): in order to be a good pitcher, you must be a good communicator; in order to be a good communicator, you must be a good reader.

A quick lesson that newbies learn at our shop is that "reading is part of the job." No one is ever made to feel weird about reading a newspaper at their desk (in print or online). Hell, read War & Peace for all we care, as long as you are reading. We even encourage folks to peruse "trash" like People, the National Enquirer, etc. - it's all about finding connections to the past and staying on top of the present, popular culture.

If you read a lot you will know a lot. You will be able to add color and context to your pitches.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Straight From The Horse's Mouth

Guy Kawasaki posted an interview he conducted with Adam Lashinsky of FORTUNE.

Guy sure gets around. Venture Capitalist. Entrepreneur. Marketing guru. Blogger. And now, Good Pitch evangelist! (Funnily enough, his blog description says something about how blogs are written by people with nothing to do for people who have nothing to do. Ironic, in his case.)

The Lashinsky interview contains a few gems for our purposes:
Q. How would you describe the perfect pitch?
A. The perfect pitch would involve a major corporation with a great, tension-filled story with the offer of an exclusive opportunity to interview all the relevant people at the corporation. Short of this, a pitch that would work would involve high-level access and a story line that is relevant to my readers, not just the PR firm’s client.

Q. What's the most common mistake that companies and their PR firms make when they pitch you?
A. The most common mistake is not having a knowledge of Fortune. You've got to know what I'm interested in and cold calling to ask me isn't the way to find out. You would think that these companies and PR firms would at least read my last few articles. Is that too much to ask?
Nope, not too much. Especially in a world of RSS, et al. Thou Shalt Read Before Thou Shalt Pitch.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Humanize The Stats

Team/Agency: Michael Sommermeyer of Clark County's Eighth Judicial District Court, Las Vegas, Nevada, Court Information Office. See his blog at wordymouth.com

Significance: After two child deaths involving child abuse and neglect in Las Vegas, the Court Information Office saw an opportunity to identify current trends in the Eighth Judicial District Court pointing to an alarming increase in the number of Child Abuse and Neglect cases being filed and adjudicated in Clark County. Recent statistics compiled for the court for 2005 and the first months of 2006 showed a marked increase in child abuse filings. The Court Information Office pitched this story as a criminal justice problem that was receiving little attention.

The Pitch:

Subject: (subject line not submitted)

Editor,

I know you're not interested in our current case activity numbers; I know they're boring and hard to understand, however, I think you'll want to see a couple numbers that indicate a societal problem, and perhaps, an area of community neglect.

As you're well aware, the community's been reeling from the tragic death of baby Jane "Cordova" Doe, and last week's death of the Ayala baby. The Coroner believes both deaths resulted from Child Abuse and Neglect.

While we always point to our record criminal case filing numbers, which are approaching an increase of 10 percent again this year, alarmingly the case filings for abuse and neglect are up nearly 30 percent from January 2005 to January 2006.

I'd like to bring you these numbers and connect you with Judge ABC, to provide some context and make these numbers come to life. In addition, I can help you connect with the people on the front lines, to develop this piece. From what they tell me, the increase can be attributed to population growth, an increase in drug use and the initiative to place more cops in the community. Could it be said that we're spending too much effort of building a city and not enough effort on building a functional society?

Think about this and let me know if you want to pursue the story. As always, we're ready to help you do the research and connect the dots.

What's To Like About The Pitch: Tearjerker, first of all. Who doesn't want to help those poor children? In this pitch, Michael and his team are trying to put a human face on scary statistics that might be boring on their face, but, the pitch acknowledges the dry stats and goes on to tell a darker story about the city's meteoric rise in population. They are empowering the reporter access to experts, like a local judge, who can tell the official tale. Lastly, this is a story with national significance but, it's being pitched with specific, local details to a local cadre of reporters.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Swift & Sure Suck-Up Strategy

As you saw if you followed the linkstream in the post below, there's been a li'l maelstrom in the PR blogosphere about the future of the press release. Our team took a stab at re-formatting an existing release based on the specific requests of journo-blogger Tom Foremski, and sent it his way with a pitch. Lo' and behold, he used the pitch and the document as an examplar of how (he thinks) press releases ought to look.

I am not using this space to promote the press release version, but the PITCH.
Hi Tom: We took a whack at re-formatting a release that's already gone out, to comply with some of the ideas from your blog. We've also attached the original. Is this "Foremski-style" version close to what you had in mind? (Please keep in mind that we were constrained to quotes that had already been approved by client and analysts, and, that this is a privately-held company, so the financial data is as robust as we could reasonably make it.)

What do you think? Feedback welcome.

What's To Like About The Pitch: This was a good example of jumping on a timely, controversial event (Foremski had grumbled about the archaic press release format less than 24 hours earlier), and, customizing a pitch to suit the interests of a specific reporter.

Yeah, this is a self-serving example but, the tenets are sound and usable for any client situation. The lesson? Monitor the wires, the blogosphere, news alerts, competitive websites, etc., every-single-day, for the tempests-in-a-teapot that affect your clients. Institute a Rapid Reaction process that empowers you to proactively pitch your clients' spin on each of these news bits, and watch the ink flow.

And lest you think we were sucking up to Tom: well, duh - we were. But that's not always been the case. Not by a long shot. We just happen to agree with him this time.