Fixes for Three Lousy PR Pitches

pitch
Image by Melvin Schlubman

We all know how bad the state of media/blogger relations is: Bad pitches abound! But there are some pitches that are worse than others, and as a blogger for the past six years, my in box has become littered with them.

Here are three that all too common, and some suggestions to improve them another:

1) The XXX Blogger Already Wrote About It Pitch

This one is really annoying. It usually comes from someone you know in a passing manner, or is a cold pitch from a PR person. It goes something like this:

“Hey Geoff. I was hoping you would write about xxxx. Joe Schmo (or Mary Doe) already wrote about it here: (INSERT URL). So you should, too.”

OK, let’s make that Super Annoying. If another blogger already wrote about it, why would I? Seriously, and beyond that, it’s insulting to infer that because x A Lister covered a story I should kowtow and follow suit (with a schmoozy link, too).

DELETE!

Suggestion: Provide some sort of unique angle or information that will make my story somewhat unique.

2) The Pre-Written Pitch with Added Fields

This one is the best, a result of publishing an eponymous blog. Invariably, it reads something like this: “Hey Geoff, we were hoping you would feature our new Facebook application in Geoff Livingston.”

I wasn’t aware I could feature an application inside of me.

DELETE!

Suggestion: Stop using email programs to send your pitches. If you don’t have time to do this and reach your full list, cultivate a smaller list so it is must have contacts instead of a list of bloggers.

3) The “We’re So Awesome!” Pitch

This pitch features exaggerated facts, hyperbole and a wonderful amount of pomposity and clichéd buzz words:

“As the leading provider of wireless widgets (which were awarded the greatest on earth by J.D. Power & Associates), Acme helped save 799,291 lives through $1 donations as part of its service.”

Of course this means I should absolutely write about said company. Um, no.

DELETE!

Suggestion: Stick to straight up facts. Instead of talking about how great your company is, talk about the relevant issue that I write about, and how your company fits into the puzzle.

What are some of your favorite bad PR pitches?

Four Storytelling Methods

Uig Locational Storytelling Press Launch
Image by Gaelic Arts

Moving from marketing to an entertaining delivery of useful information creates a much higher likelihood of successful communications between an organization and its stakeholders. Like gamification, storytelling entertains the online reader/viewer/listener, earning their interest. Compelling stories convert dry boring content into worthwhile time expenditures.

Success assumes a few of things: 1) That the storyteller understands what compels its stakeholders; 2) the information presented in the story is useful; and 3) the return on investment for an organization is asked for in a tasteful manner. Meeting those three fundamental building blocks empowers an organization to make storytelling work.

There are many approaches towards storytelling. Personification, third person storytelling, embedded journalism, and metaphors are just four ways to enliven content. Here’s a deeper look:

Personification: The old blogging method of personal storytelling can drive great interest. Well executed, the person and their audience can share experiences together (Example: Beth’s Blog). People want to understand how attending that event made you feel, or how that new technology changed your perspective. By sharing an event, an idea, or reflection, we identify with or at least imagine commonality about conceptual material, and content becomes interesting. There are certainly dangers to personification, including nihilism, over-reliance on opining, and personal branding that negatively impacts the organization.

Third Person Storytelling: This gets back to the basic elements of storytelling a la the original oral tradition of tales like Beowulf and the Odyssey. Third person storytelling is really good for causes and consumer facing companies that resolve problems. Showing how people’s lives have become better or enriched as a result of touching an organization is powerful. For many organizations, this is told via case studies, but there is nothing wrong with enlivening a story by weaving narrative elements into it or discussing trends (Example: Shel Israel).

Embedded Journalism: This approach seeks to provide a journalistic view into an organization or related external events and happenings. Similar to trade reporting, embedded journalism relies on facts, the ability to answer the 5 Ws in any good story (who, what, when, etc.), pyramid style structure, and a general tone that instills objective view points (Example: Invisible People). Of course this is the weakness of embedded journalism: By acting as a member of the Fifth Estate, companies and nonprofits immediately are suspected for pushing their wares and solutions. This means fact telling and objectivism has to be held to a higher standard.

Metaphors: Infusing metaphors into content empowers people to more easily imagine data and hard concepts. By using common metaphors that almost everyone has experienced, the ability to identify with the concepts behind a story become much more personalized. The long journey to successful metaphorical writing can involve wrong turns, potholes and flat tires, over-complication of storytelling route (plot), and more. But with practice, this can become one of the most powerful methods of communicating complicated concepts (example: Copyblogger).

What are some of your favorite storytelling methods?

Article first published as How Storytelling Betters Content on Technorati.