Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Finding the Right Pitch

A big part of being in media relations is hitting on the right pitch. Sometimes that means resisting the temptation to follow what looks like a simple bit of reasoning, but turns out to be completely tasteless.

Sometimes it's timing. Pitching a disaster recovery story on September 12, 2001 was just wrong. Pitching that same story in the months that followed, as people started thinking about those issues, started to make more sense. Still, there has to be a balance. You don't want to profit off of a tragedy, but you want to make sure you get into stories that reporters are writing based on recent events.

But the tasteless pitch isn't always the PR person's fault. Sometimes you'll get a call from a VC or CEO who says "this is a great story, why aren't people writing about it?!?" and your job becomes counseling the client on the many reasons why that story is either ill-timed or simply won't work.

Of course, if the client is married to it, you end up pitching something you know shouldn't go out there.

I want to think that's what happened in this story from the Washington Post. I know, two WP stories on this blog in a week, it's a bit much. More coincidence than anything.

This poor PR person has a tough client, no doubt. And her job is to find ways to get the message out about the National Funeral Directors Association. I'm sure there are stories that are buried (yes, a pun) in among the membership, but the one described in this piece really shouldn't be among them.

Still, the Post story is an amusing read.


Anonymous said...

So are you saying that in order for a client to ultimately be successful, s/he should subscribe to your paradigm?

Or are you suggesting that there is a fault somewhere in the overall process which causes rifts between Media Relations and the goals of clients.

I'm reading here that you REALLY like to get paid, but that the trouble you're having is telling your customer, "hey, I can't provide you the service you want.... now pay me handsomely for this wisdom gleaned from experience and a college education."

I would think that this would make your business impossibly tough. That is, people hire you to nail the right pitch. Yet if the cosmos (i.e. "timing") is not aligned correctly, you don't have the slightest chance of success.

In the macro environment I can see where there is the probability of a person to be susceptible to external locii of control.

Chuck Tanowitz said...

Either you're misunderstanding me or just like to have an argument.

Either way, I'm saying nothing of the sort. Most of the time everything works out just fine, we advise the client based on their goals, pitches align and we are able to balance the needs of the media with the needs of the client. News goes out, clients get coverage, stories get in publications with reporter's we've pitched, etc.

But there are those times that you have to push back a bit, just like in any other profession. But sometimes things go wrong and you're left with what you read in the post: a pitch that is just plain wrong.