The Golden Word in Pitching: Why?

Guest post by Colin Jordan of Egnyte.

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This is a guest post by Colin Jordan, senior manager of corporate communications at enterprise software company Egnyte.

Today’s PR professionals are responsible for a multitude of duties ranging from social media to analyst relations, awards nominations, and event planning. Our most stressful (and often most scrutinized) job, however, is media relations. Some PR pros love it, some hate it, but one thing is certain: it is NOT easy!

Whether you are looking to lock in a story for your company’s new product, trying to secure a broadcast appearance for your CEO, or placing an original piece of content, winning consistently is extremely difficult. We simply cannot account for every moving part and tiny but powerful variable.

However, there is one thing we DO have control over: The Pitch.

Many people in PR approach pitching with different thoughts, philosophies, strategies, etc. Some swear by using the phone while others call that a cardinal sin. Some will tell you to only pitch in the morning while others say nighttime is the best way to go. I’m not here to blow smoke and say there is ONE finite answer or that there is a “secret sauce,” because there isn’t.

What I AM saying is that many PR professionals have the wrong focus for their pitching efforts. They get so caught up in a very self-serving mode and start asking themselves thinks like “How should I pitch this?,” “When should I pitch this?,” “What am a pitching?,” etc. The problem is that they’re searching for answers to the wrong question.

The key lies not in how you pitch, when you pitch, or even what you are pitching, but WHY you are pitching.

To say that a lot of journalists can be short-tempered or easily annoyed would be putting it nicely. Therefore, everything I do in regards to media relations and pitching revolves around the word “why.” I ask cynical but necessary questions like “Why is this relevant?,” “Why does this matter?,” “Why am I reaching out to this person?,” “Why now?,” etc.

This is not a fundamental change; it is, rather, a shift in focus. Instead of being self-serving and filling out information that benefits me or my company, I am asking tough questions that could (and probably will) come from any contact I am trying to pitch.

I like to quote one of my favorite TechCrunch writer’s Twitter handle as reference, “Pitches: No. Say Hi and Tell Me Cool Things.” I would absolutely expect him to ask all the questions mentioned above, and his Twitter bio expresses that fact in a simple fashion. He doesn’t need to hear all of my self-serving propaganda, he wants to hear “cool things,” aka the “why.”

Take a step back and look at your media relations efforts. Be selfless in your pitching and think of why the opportunity you’re presenting will be beneficial for everyone involved. Whether you are attempting to secure an executive for a speaking opportunity or trying to “trendjack” the latest breaking news story, the key question is “why?”

Your answers to that question will play a large role in determining your success.

colin jordanColin Jordan runs media relations and executive comms for Egnyte in San Francisco. He appeared in PR News’ 2014 “30 Under 30” list of “rising PR stars.” Follow him on Twitter @colinjordan.