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Pitching: Being Professional & Personal

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by Stefán Sigurðsson

Much has been written about pitching best practices, the do’s and don’ts, and how to increase the likelihood of your pitch grabbing the attention of your desired audience and yielding results for your clients.

All good. All valid. All necessary.

I can’t speak for the profession as a whole, but I know I’m not alone in regularly researching my press targets, trends, tips, themes, and prevalent problems to be aware of as a PR person. At the end of the day I want to do a good job and leave the office feeling proud of the quality of my work. Furthermore, I want make sure I’m not going to bring on the wrath of a journalist that hates my pitch for XYZ reason.

My ultimate nightmare is to end up as one of those PR people who are put on blast by a writer on social media for a stupid mistake. Because mistakes happen, even stupid ones. If you think you’re above making your fair share of stupid mistakes you are either delusional or Beyoncé.

We all want to adhere to these best practices at all times, but when you have 12 things to do at the same time, as is often the nature of a PR job (and countless other professions), you are bound to make a mistake and you just pray it’s not a career-affecting, life-altering, humiliating one. Because people are no less forgiving than the internet. It hurts to realize you’ve made an embarrassing mistake, because most of us do our due diligence and are ambitious professionals. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation.

Having gotten that off my chest, what I haven’t seen much written about is the role personality plays in writing and reading pitches. Does it have a place in pitching at all?

I sometimes find myself pitching journalists, who are more often than not people my age, in too formal of a tone for either of us. It just makes me wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way and if there’s simple way to make pitching both more effective and even enjoyable.

Dare I hope to think that if I’m providing you with all the information you need in a concise and succinct manner, that we can both be efficient and enjoy talking with one another? We both have jobs to do, we both know what’s up:

Me: I want to introduce you to a product/person/service. I hope you like it/them and I hope you write about and share it with your audience. That’s no secret.

You: (I’m assuming based on personal experience now, so bear with me) A writer who wants relevant content for your audience. You want something new, timely and appropriate to write a feature story on, to include in a round-up or to incorporate into something you’re working on.

Maybe that’s wildly presumptuous? I hope not. My experience with showing more personality in my pitching has brought me great success. I’ve forged stronger relationships, prompted more responses than before, enjoyed my correspondences significantly more, and over all upped my job satisfaction as a result. I do hope the feeling is mutual among the people I work with on a regular basis.

Detractors might say that there’s a time and a place for everything and that a more formal tone and writing style is needed and expected when you’re a professional communicator. In my opinion that is 100% correct – but only sometimes. There are several instances and scenarios when you need to polish yourself and put your absolutely best foot forward. Certain topics, individuals, circumstances and even specific publications command a certain level of respect and seriousness, as they should.

But being more personal does not mean that politeness, proper grammar and general decorum goes out the window. My point is rather that being professional and personal are not mutually exclusive concepts. There are so many opportunities for us to have genuine conversations with people even though the primary nature of the relationship is professional. Everyone’s experience is unique and one formula doesn’t work for everyone – but I urge you to try in a way that works for you.

Don’t forget that there’s an actual human being on the other side of your computer screen and that it is possible to successfully operate at the intersection of professional and personal.