Michael O’Connor Clarke mentioned a great analogy for pitching to me when we were chatting at work today. He says pitching is like throwing a stick for a dog. Michael actually wrote about this years ago from a slightly different perspective; I’ll try to put a new spin on it.
Confused? Let me explain.
In an ideal world, you throw a stick for a dog and the dog immediately runs after the stick. Mission accomplished.
Sometimes, the dog won’t get it immediately and you’ll need to point them in the right direction.
Sometimes that works.
Other times you’ll stand there pointing at the stick, but the dog has no idea what you pointing means. As Michael puts it:
“A dog has no way of interpreting what the human gesture means – you’re just an alpha dog showing them your finger. The finger of this alpha dog is, for the moment at least, really interesting. They’re probably going to comment on it in their own doggy way: with a tilt of the head, a waggy tail, and a curious expression.”
You’re trying to point them towards your stick; they’re focused on your finger.
Transfer the context over to the world of public relations and, more specifically, pitching.
Sometimes jurnalists or bloggers will just latch onto your story without you having to do too much. Jackpot. Other times, you’ll need to point them in the right direction.
If your approach (and news) is good, the journalist might go for the story.
If your approach isn’t so hot – and especially if you don’t do it right – the person you’re pitching is far more likely to focus on your “finger” – the pitch – than they are on the story.