– By Hanah Van Borek
An elevator pitch is worth mastering. The business world is fast paced and for the most part, you only get one shot to win people over. For that 30 second window of attention, a pitch must be crafted so that it is delivered with absolute conviction. It’s a huge skill to master in the world of 140 characters or less and let’s face it – you’re only as good as your best pitch. Whether it’s a formal business meeting, a phone call, a chance encounter at a networking event, or yes, a Tweet, pitching is a business skill and a skill for life.
Terri Sjodin is a business consultant who has made her fortune in perfecting this. She’s the author of Small Message: Big Impact, a “how-to” guide of developing the ultimate messaging. Recently featured in Business Insider, Sjodin summarizes some of her advice into these ideas: Know what outcome you want, let your audience know what they’re getting out of it, speak in your own authentic voice, control your movement, break down each talking point and close in an unforgettable way. These are great ideas, and there are many more offered from marketing and business experts out there.
The point that Sjodin puts forward that resonates the most for me working in PR is speaking authentically. Without authenticity a pitch sounds flat and fake. This is tricky because we tend to purport that we are speaking as experts and therefore must have a tone of an expert. We also tend to convey familiarity with our audience (in this case, journalists), which is important but needs to be carried out tastefully. The Vancouver Sun‘s Mitch Joel sheds some light on the careful balance of being friendly without being outright creepy in PR Pitches and Fake Familiarity. Of course the way to avoid this pitfall as a PR person is to do your research and to do it well. Research from the client side (know their story inside out), and research from the media outreach side (who is this journalist you’re pitching to and what do they actually write?).
To quote the founder of Levine Communications Office (LCO) and author of many PR handbooks including Guerilla PR, Michael Levine, “We are all ambassadors”. This is a mantra for PR but also for life. Our first impressions at any given time mark and identify who we are, what we do, our project and our purpose. The pitch is the pinnacle of this impression, and it deserves our utmost investment.