Real fans of baseball understand that pitching requires a number of unique talents:
- Power: You can’t teach a 98 MPH fastball. It’s a gift that few people are lucky enough to have. But if you possess it, it gives you a huge advantage over the opposition.
- Variety: Even the guy with the 98 MPH fastball will get into trouble if he doesn’t have any other effective pitches. Nolan Ryan’s fastball looked a whole lot faster because he also possessed a devastating curve (check it out in Steven Ellis’s blog).
- Patience: If the batter fouls off seven of your best pitches, don’t get frustrated and throw one down the middle. Keep coming at him with your best pitches, and eventually things work out.
- Homework: A great pitcher knows the tendencies of every hitter he faces–which pitches the hitter jumps on, which ones make him uncomfortable and which ones he just can’t resist. Armed with this knowledge, you can make far smarter decisions regarding pitch selection and timing.
- Start small (and work your way up): It is the rare pitcher who bursts on the scene as a 20-year-old phenom. Most pitchers hone their craft in the minor leagues, going up against higher and higher levels of minor league competition until they finally reach the majors.
These same principles can be applied to pitching the press. Anyone pitching the press on a story idea had better come armed with power, variety and patience, and must definitely have done his homework.
- Power: When pitching the press, the real power comes in the quality of the pitch. The most powerful pitches come from sources who are real experts in their field, have a unique perspective on an issue, or have information that is pertinent to a trending issue. You can’t create expertise out of thin air. But, if you have truly useful information for the media outlet’s audience, then rear back and hit them with your best.
- Variety: Like a baseball pitcher, what you think is your best pitch isn’t going to work for every media outlet. Be prepared to pitch a number of story ideas, and be flexible enough to bend your pitch to each individual outlet. The same basic pitch can be presented in multiple ways.
- Patience: Getting your company recognized by the press (in a positive fashion) is a long-term proposition. Often, making a successful pitch is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Remember, the same media outlet that ignores your first 10 pitches can suddenly jump at No. 11.
- Homework: Just as a baseball pitcher can get in big trouble by not knowing the opposition (i.e., the guy feasts on low and inside fastballs), a source pitching the media makes a huge mistake by not knowing everything he can about the media outlet and the specific reporter he’s pitching. Nothing turns reporters or bloggers off faster than getting a pitch that has nothing to do with what they write. When you pitch a reporter, you should not only be familiar with their publication, you should read a number of the stories written by the reporter and see how your expertise fits with their beat.
- Start small: When starting out in your media outreach efforts, it is often smart to go after smaller publications and blogs. Odds are, you are not going to land in The New York Times on the very first try. Research the blogs that cater to your target audience and pitch them first. You’ll find that the smaller outlets will be more receptive. More importantly, the more you get your business out into the smaller media, the more likely you will get the attention of bigger and bigger media.
Like the legendary pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball, the great media pitchers are the ones who have the power of a great story to tell, the variety to hand media outlets multiple options, the patience to know that nobody is successful 100 percent of the time, the discipline to do the homework required to make the perfect pitch at the perfect time and the humility to start small and work their way up!