Not So Pitch Perfect

By: Zoe Shapiro

Picture of Zoe Shapiro in front of her "Pitch Perfect" presentation.

As the Director of Internal Professional Development for PRSSA-UD, I host two skill slams per semester. A skill slam teaches the members an industry-sought skill that is centered around professional development. Our first Skill Slam dissected how publicists write pitches to journalists and, taking inspiration from the movie Pitch Perfect, I called it “Pitch Perfect.” 

For those who don’t know, a key part of PR is pitching to journalists. PR professionals need journalists as conduits for getting important messages about their clients out to the public. And journalists rely on PR experts as sources for story ideas and relevant information on ongoing stories. 

A “pitch” is usually executed via email – as short, personalized messages that outline the value of a story and why it should be published. And just like anything else, it’s very competitive -there are typically about six PR professionals for every journalist, and 95% of pitches are rejected by journalists. This is due to fast news cycles, unprecedented media outlets, and not customizing the pitch for the specific journalist. 

In the weeks leading up to the Skill Slam, I spent time researching the topic and creating a presentation that wasn’t just informative but creative and engaging. As a public speaking tutor at the University of Delaware, I know the difficulty of keeping an audience’s attention, especially for an hour.

When it was time to present, I had a plan. I was going to present, ask questions along the way, and finish it out with a fun activity that allowed the members to write their own pitch about a made-up company and send it to me, “the journalist.”

As I reflect back on the skill slam, I think it was a success, but it didn’t go exactly how I planned it. I anticipated talking more throughout my presentation and devoting less time to the activity. Thankfully, it turned out to be the exact opposite.

Every member pitched for the same client, but everyone wrote it differently- whether it was the information used, their writing style, or even their creative flair to make it stand out from the rest. I provided the members with tools on how you are supposed to write the perfect PR pitch, but they taught me a much bigger lesson- there is no perfect pitch. We all sat around and picked out our favorite subject lines and read the pitch, discussing what we liked and didn’t like. Everyone’s opinions varied in the responses, much as they each expressed the same idea in a unique way in their own pitch.

I thought with all my research, I knew how to pitch, but it wasn’t until I saw the variety of everyone’s responses that I realized I had been wrong. While there are tools at your disposal to learn how to write a pitch and learn which journalist to send it to, the key is personalization, creativity, and confidence.

While I was in charge of this Skill Slam, the members highlighted the importance of what PRSSA means to me. PRSSA is a community of people who work together to learn and practice professional skills in a safe and encouraging environment. It is a community that I am very proud to be in, and I continue to learn new skills every day from the members of PRSSA!


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