PR pros: Why you need to constantly battle to make your pitches better

by Jeff Vance on October 3, 2014

in PR/Marketing


I recently sent out a query through my Story Source newsletter seeking sources for my upcoming Network World story, “How to Use Big Data to Beat the Competition.” I received about 50 pitches, but only a few were right on the money.

To be fair, most of the pitches were pretty decent. Certainly better than what I get when I post to HARO or ProfNet or LinkedIn. Subscribers to my Story Source newsletter know how to pitch the press, but now it’s time to take it a step further.

Over the past few years, I’ve been giving you advice about how to better target the press, and you’ve obviously listened. Now, however, the bar is higher.

If I had asked for just general Big Data use cases, I could have used, I’m guessing, 70-80 percent of the pitches I received.

However, of those 70-80 percent, the vast majority didn’t focus on beating the competitionKings-Faceoff

They didn’t tell me a story, starting with a competitive problem and following through to the obvious conclusion: how your client helped someone use Big Data to beat the competition.

I received plenty of pitches about how your clients’ Big Data solutions would make it easier to use Hadoop or to develop a more predictive customer service platform or to create a more responsive database for health care organizations.

That’s all great, but none of it zeroes in on the issue of competition.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself: “Isn’t competition implied? I mean, if Big Data is being used to build a vehicle navigation system, isn’t that beating the competition?”

I see where you’re coming from, but I’m fairly certain that consumers don’t make car purchases based on navigation systems, so, no, it’s not a fit.

Another pitch I received focused on streamlining a complicated Ruby on Rails document management system for a hotel booking company. It was a good pitch, but that’s a process and efficiency pitch, not a competition one.

In still other cases, such as, say, building a more time-sensitive database, I don’t consider that something you need to beat the competition but simply table stakes.

Here’s the thing: I made a promise to my editor to deliver a story about “How to Use Big Data to Beat the Competition.” That’s a results-oriented, how-to story. Look back at your pitch, could readers follow the example you give and implement it to beat the crap out of a competitor? Is there a real, measurable ROI attached? Has your client’s customer’s sales team said that this one particular feature helped them close more sales? Has your client’s customer seen its market share go up?

That’s the sort of thing I’ll need to see in order for your pitch to rise above the other pretty good, but not specific enough, pitches.

Let me give you an example of a pitch that caught my attention right away:

. . . This is an example of how Double Dutch, a private social networking application for conference and events, used prescriptive and predictive analytics within Inside Sales to increase their revenues by over 200 percent.

The problem: In 2013, DoubleDutch had to proof to its investors that they were a good return on their investment. What they did to make this happen is look for a solution that could help them ramp up their leads and accelerate the revenue coming in.

Solution: DoubleDutch found the solution in predictive analytics and Inside Sales. Within 18 months Double Dutch saw their revenue increase by 200 percent and their sales conversions rise by 37 percent. How did this happen?

They used the data science integrated into Local Presence of PowerDialer to dynamically sort targeted contacts. Essentially machine learning was used to identify sales patterns by analyzing millions of anonymized profiles and sales interactions, increasing productivity across the team and resulting in increased revenue.

I’ve attached a case study for your review with more information and here is a short and sweet video testimonial. You mentioned that you are only meeting with a few folk for this piece. Let me know if you would like to connect with Double Dutch.

I look forward to your feedback and have a great weekend.



Andrea Torres | Highwire Public Relations


Can you spot all of the triggers in that pitch? Does it sound like it was written very specifically for my query? It sure does to me.

Let’s see, we have a very compelling problem: Double Dutch needed to prove to investors that they offered good enough ROI. There’s an implied threat in there. If Double Dutch didn’t do a better job of showing measurable ROI, the investors would walk and Double Dutch wouldn’t get any more money. That’s a problem with teeth. For a startup, that’s an existential threat. It’s something startup founders lose sleep over.

Now, what about results? Revenue increased by 200 percent. Sales conversions rose by 37 percent. And machine learning was used to “sales patterns by analyzing millions of anonymized profiles and sales interactions, increasing productivity across the team and resulting in increased revenue.”

This pitch delivered exactly what I asked for, and these days, that’s what it takes to position your client as a source for my stories.

Better yet, if you fine-tune your pitches like Andrea did, when you’re pitching other journalists, those still wading through a million and one tone-deaf pitches from poorly trained PR people, you’ll really shine.

Before you send out that next pitch, look back over it, and see if you should fine tune it once more. Your acceptance rate will go up if you do.

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