When did you pitch a friend lately?

I really dislike the word “pitch” in the context of PR. To such a degree that I might soon escape from the the entire PR business. And I’ve got almost the same feeling for the phrase “target group”. But – still – this is precisely the phrases that are some of the most frequently used in this business. And I’m truly shocked about that.


According to Wikipedia – the pitch is a part of “selling technique”; it is “a line of talk that attempts to persuade someone or something, with a planned sales presentation strategy of a product or service designed to initiate and close a sale of the product or service.” In the PR business we’re seldom dealing with products and services but the more information.

Oh, yes, I do understand we all would like to tell boastful stories that’s important for us, to the people that are valuable for us as influential people. Therefore we’re trying to “pitch” our story to these people we use to call “target group”.

But – hey – PR’s is all about relations, because excellent relations will give us great outcome, right? And I thought we’ve learned that it’s quite impossible to establish good relations with your audience by persuading? I thought PR was all about listening, understanding and serving? Focus shouldn’t be what we would like to say, but what we think they would like to hear.

And, from my point of view, it doesn’t matter if your audience is your customers or journalists. They need more or less the same approach in this matter. Everybody does.

I had a small chat with a marketer recently. She asked me: “What would you do with these new people that recently started to follow us (our business, news stream) as followers?

I said: “I think you should treat them in the same way in the virtual space as you would do in the physical space: Get to know them better! Try to figure out their needs and wants. Imagine you have a breakfast seminar and a guy showed up as a registered participant. What would you say to this guy? I would say: “Welcome! I’m so glad you could come. You’re journalist, right? (Listen to his answer) Interesting… What can I do for you? (Listen to his answer)… And so on. When you come to know him better, treat him as a friend. Serve him. Because I don’t think you look at your friends as “target groups” and I don’t think you’re trying to pitch them either?”

It makes me think of when I use to ask communicators who did visit their newsrooms. Guess what? They don’t know! They don’t even know how many they are. Think about that for awhile. If your newsroom was your breakfast seminar, you might would have a great breakfast, excellent speakers, informative whitepapers, etc – but you wouldn’t know who’s been there, and how many they were. You was not even there yourself!

But – as mentioned – pitching and target groups talk, is still hot topic in many discussions in different kind of PR groups in various of social networks. Within a couple of PR professional groups on LinkedIn, there are questions like:

“E-MAIL PITCHING: Given journalists’ overcrowded inboxes, does e-mail pitching work anymore? What are your secrets to achieving success with e-mail pitches?” and “Age-old PR dilemma … contact media by phone first or by email first….”

These discussions is all about how to pitch, not if you should pitch at all.

As an answer on the second question above; most of the members did say they use to pitch journalist by phone, or at least follow up their email pitches by phone. Only one of the answers came from a journalist, who said: “Email please…And don’t call to see if the writer got the email. If every pr person called to followup on every news release we would never have time to write a story!”

A couple of days after I’ve been following these discussions, I read an article (in swedish) by a journalist and friend of mine, who said:

“I have come to hate the phone. Not its functions, but it’s ringing and disturbing features.”

Jerry Silfwer, a PR consultant, but also a blogger, just wrote a post: “How not to pitch”. He says:

“Don’t be afraid to pitch me. Please do, I don’t mind. But make sure you email me as an individual and make sure that you’re not blasting me as a part of some obscure list somewhere.”

He gives us some examples what a pitcher forgot regarding av really bad pitch he got earlier:

  • What’s in it for me as a PR blogger? I need to be told that clearly.
  • Browsing your case studies is not a reward for anyone but your company.
  • Clarity. Why pitch me to participate (note: the pitch was regarding a survey) but not to blog about it?
  • How did you get hold of my address? In what email list am I in right now?
  • I have hundreds of other emails calling out for my attention. Why should I bother about this, when it isn’t even a personal email?
  • Don’t be so sure that 5-10 minutes is short for me and don’t thank me for participating before I’ve participated (note: the pitch said: “It only takes about 5-10 minutes to complete…”)

Honestly – I don’t think Jerry would like pitches as he says; I think he would like to be understood, treated with respect and served with great ideas for stories, but not as one of the target group. And from my point of view – that’s not a pitch.

One Response

  1. […] When did you pitch a friend lately? […]

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