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Don’t Pitch. Yell.

August 5, 2009

LAF Note: This is a guest blog post by Stuart Foster. Stuart Foster is a marketing consultant in the Boston area. He specializes in brand management, social media, and blog outreach. He authors a blog at Thelostjacket.com and is a Social Media Strategist at Mullen.

You should never write anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable yelling as loud as you possibly can in a crowd of people. (Great advice, which I still adhere to.)

yellingHowever, each of us have different comfort levels when it comes to doing this. Some are fine with yelling @#%* and others would be worried about anything that didn’t fit into an example from Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”.

Brands are the same way. Each company will want to portray themselves in a different light. Some will want to use “Extreme”, “Awesome” and various other late 90’s slang in their copy writing (Please stop doing this). While others will use the proper scientific nomenclature and never abbreviate anything…ever.

The effect that this has on public relations is two-fold: First, we are hamstrung. How can we be transparent and authentic if we have to stick to a certain style? Second, you have to learn to work within that framework and still be effective. This separates those who can only promote themselves (or what they are comfortable promoting) from those who are truly bad ass PR people.

Suffice it to say: You must be able to pitch bloggers, journalists and any other media outlet in the voice of the company. Otherwise, you will be doing your client a disservice. Can you augment your clients approach with your own unique perspective? Absolutely. (In fact, if you didn’t then you are missing out on a lot of success.)

These tenets also apply to any sort of event planning, press kit creation or any other relationship development tactics that you choose to utilize. Each piece of outreach should be a part of the larger integrated (consistent) message.

So, I’m sure you’ve gotten to this point and gone: “Great Stuart, tell me something I don’t know.”

However, there is a method here: Your outreach will be successful only when you can effectively blend your personality and the client’s brand personality into one and the same. It’s impossible to fake and by far the most effective method of pitching that I have come across. It works in all mediums (both short and long form) and has a much higher rate of success.

Blending your client’s voice, your own, and PR best practices can be extremely difficult. It can be downright impossible at times. However, if you can pull it off: You’ll be able to yell it at the top of your lungs.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Keith Trivitt permalink
    August 5, 2009 9:24 am

    Hi Stuart – Great point about blending your own personality with that of your own organization or the clients you represent in various PR pitches, press kits, etc. I’ve really focused hard on this recently with work I have done on press kits for clients. To me, it makes no sense to try to instill a PR firm’s “personality” into press materials for a different company. The point of creating press materials for a client is to provide background information about that company. Therefore, in my opinion, those materials should completely fit the personality and business approach a client has (granted, you need proper AP style, formatting, etc. in the materials for it to all work properly). Thus, when working with clients on such materials, I try really hard to think of how they work and interact with consumers first, before trying to instill my own unique perspective, or that of my firm.

    Secondly, integrating both your own personality and that of your clients into pitching and other PR work will actually make you happier at your job, and hopefully, a better PR person. Trying to be someone you aren’t in your pitching just will not work out very well for you, and in the end, I believe you will get frustrated by the lack of responses you get, and eventually, you will lost motivation for some of your work.

    Keith Trivitt (@KeithTrivitt)

  2. August 5, 2009 10:49 am

    Great post.

    While there’s a certain comfort level (for the company) being when one of its people can be easily dropped into another’s slot (or cogs within a machine) the transition can never be seamless and trying to make it seem so can only hurt a pre-existing relationship.

    This is more true as each of us (flacks) works on building our own personal brand realizing the day will come we’ll hop jobs or establish our own shops and need to have built relationships as ourselves with the press, not as a rep of another agency.

    To only speak through the voice of the firm when building your press relationships means they have no idea who you really are when you’re at a different shop or on your own.

  3. August 5, 2009 10:57 am

    Cog brings up a great point.

    It can be very difficult to commit yourself to your brand’s image when you consider the face that eventually, you’ll be working somewhere else. I think in order to really fuse the employee’s brand and the company’s brand, it comes down to the company culture.

    Employees have to be comfortable and proud to represent the company. They should feel that either, the content they’re pushing for the company is something that they would push for themselves, or at the very least, that they had a fair say in how the content and processes were developed.

    @DavidSpinks

  4. August 5, 2009 11:05 am

    D and Cog: Would you say, though that this is why it’s important for your personality to fit the brand – so you really don’t have to change? This way, you’re already proud of the brand because it reflects you through company culture.

  5. August 5, 2009 12:31 pm

    There’s so much to say about this topic. First of all, just the idea of attempting to blend one’s personality and voice with that of the brand you’re representing is a brilliant, albeit, difficult endeavor. I think, though this obviously would affect how we do our jobs in traditional media and blogger relations, that conflicting voice and personality shines through so much more when we’re talking about social media and community based platforms steeped in one-on-one dialogue. Then the confusion between personal and brand voice becomes so much clearer. I wish I had the time to think and write more about this. It’s something we all struggle with every day, but don’t necessarily acknowledge as an issue to be dealt with and attempt to reconcile those two voices.

    Thanks!

  6. jaykeith permalink
    August 5, 2009 1:21 pm

    I think that this is an interesting topic and discussion. I think that on the whole, really what this boils down to is being honest and a bit open, while also keeping the company messages in mind, and what they want to accomplish. Basically, keep the BS to a minimum, when and if you can.

    The problem is, what if you work for the company that you’re also pitching and talking about? When you have to truly consider and keep in mind the company’s goals, branding and messaging, it can be even more difficult to be “honest and open” when pitching. What you might shout about a client, you might not shout about your own company, especially if it’s a public one.

    I think that as a company spokesperson, or someone who directly represents the company, the rules change a bit. As someone working for a client, I think there’s a sense of detachment and probably a little more leeway in what you say and how you approach people. You don’t have to be AS aware of messaging and branding, the long terms goals of communication, etc.

    Just another issue to mull over. But a good topic. I always say to myself after writing something “how much of this is BS, and how much of this would I NOT want to hear as a reporter.” Usually gives me a much tougher red pen when editing.

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