Daily Journal column: No apologies in making perfect pitch

Published Nov. 13, 2012

Everyone knows that Richard Branson is somewhat of an icon when it comes to business and entrepreneurship. How does he do it? With more than 400 companies ranging from a record label, airline, kiteboarding competitions and even a health bank for research, the simple fact is that Richard Branson not only has the capital and the ideas, he knows how to get people on board.

Lindsey Barrett of Charleston-based Rawle Murdy
Lindsey Barrett handles media relations at Rawle Murdy. (Photo/Provided)
Recently, in an interview with Forbes Magazine, Richard Branson shared his secrets to the “perfect pitch.” Sure, he is talking about business and how to get investors on board, but this is largely relatable to almost anything you are trying to accomplish. Ultimately, you need the support and backing to make your idea happen — and getting coverage on that “unclear news hook” brand story, is no different!

Here’s how to accomplish the “perfect pitch.”

What’s in it for them?
Just like investors want to know how they will make money and what’s in it for them, media want to know how your story works for them. How is it newsworthy and most importantly, how is it relevant? It’s critical that you lead with what it means to them or their readers — not what’s necessarily most important to your brand message. Yes, it is an important balance, but if you lead with self-serving motives, media will see right through it and will consider it another promotion or “free” brand advertising.

Be concrete.
Winning the trust of media is just like winning the trust of an investor — once you waiver; it gives them reason to not trust your current pitch, and will likely put you on their long list of “quick delete” emails. Your message needs to be clear, concise and consistent. Show them your client or brand is transparent and wants to provide them with information on a great story that will be relevant to their audience — and even give them exclusive information when possible.

Be unapologetically disruptive.
“Emphatically explain how your new company will give your customers a better deal than your competitors.” — Richard Branson

The main reason we call it “strategic public relations” is that the story needs to be strategic and needs to make an impact. A quiet story of how a brand gives back or a new product needs to be made stronger and be delivered in a loud way. Maybe it is a visual stunt giving broadcast a strong visual image, or maybe it’s not just a donation to a nonprofit, but the largest donation they have ever received and a personal interest to the brand and its employees. It doesn’t have to be a Red Bull jump from space, but it needs to be memorable and something different for the industry.

Prove that growth is sustainable.
While this is a very business-focused tip, it is crucial for any PR pitch. If it is clear that a brand is only doing something to make headlines, media will either not give it the attention it deserves, or ignore future pitches with the assumption that they are self-serving stunts. Whatever the angle, it needs to make sense for the brand and have a place in the future for the brand. Maybe it is a part of ongoing community engagement, or a drive toward new technology. There needs to be a long-term reason why this is important to the brand, and ultimately to the public.

Demonstrate bench strength.
Just like you want to do business with strong leaders and financially sound investors, a brand needs to partner with reputable organizations and spokespeople. The people involved in the overall brand story need to have the support behind them to make them relevant. This is done all the time is press events — inviting the mayor or other elected officials, along with a few recognizable names and organizations, can make your story go from a short blurb, to a headline on the local or business section, or dare we even say it — front page. Showing support for what the brand is trying to accomplish will give media a reason to care.

Just like in business, the perfect pitch can make or break a story. You only have one shot, so make sure it’s right the first time.

Lindsey Barrett develops strategic public relations campaigns, manages grassroots and community outreach, and handles media relations at Rawle Murdy, a Charleston-based marketing, advertising and public relations firm.

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