Having gone directly from DreamWorks Animation to Sterling Communications, I have found there’s a common element to getting both client news and movie ideas noticed that they don’t teach you in school: You have to be able to sell. In the same way that movies are pitched to a roomful of deep-pocketed bigwigs or a building full of animators and production staffers (as at DreamWorks), PR professionals have to know how to really sell an idea to media and analysts. Here are 6 key elements to effective pitching that are as pertinent on Madison Avenue as they are on Melrose Avenue.
(1) If you build it, they will come.
* Make sure you’ve built up a good hook, and know what you’re pitching inside and out.
* Think through your entire pitch to be able to answer any question thrown at you.
* The media, like movie executives and investors, will challenge your claims, so be ready to provide validation.
* Similar to Hollywood execs, reporters are often in a rush and only have a limited amount of time to listen to your message.
* Get to the point quickly, ideally in the first sentence of your pitch.
* Generally, keep pitches short, but be willing to provide more details if asked.
* Reach out to media contacts appropriate to your pitch, in the same way one would target studios making like-minded movies.
* Be aware of the recent work that your targets have done, and position your client as part of those current trends.
* Act as matchmaker between the reporter and your client, and have them see the connection to their typical coverage area but also the unique, never-before-covered angle.
* If you’re gracious and open, even if they say no at first, media and movie execs alike will often keep you in mind for other projects.
* Tell them the pitch that you’d tell your friends over a beer, NOT the pitch you’d tell your friends’ parents to impress them.
* If all else fails, kill them with kindness.
* Listen to their feedback. The input you receive might actually make your idea better.
* Every so often, your feedback will come in the form of your pitch being published verbatim (without notice and hopefully in a positive way). For example, I recently had a pitch published, email subject and all! So give your pitches the same level of thought and attention to detail as you would a published piece of work – because you never know when something you write may actually end up published.
* Prepare to receive more nos than yeses at first, as is the case at movie pitch meetings as well.
* Be tenacious, and don’t give up.
* On the other hand, know when to pull back. There’s a fine line between being assertive and being annoying. You need to push, but don’t burn a bridge.
For any pitching strategies that I missed, feel free to add your own in the comments field below to continue the discussion. And, with that said, go out there and make an offer they can’t refuse!
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