Do Us All a Favor - Think Before You Pitch!
Every generation has a few dates that are forever burned into their memory. For my parents and relatives, it was the shooting of President John F. Kennedy, for others it may have been the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster, and for many now, it is 9-11. This is not a post about that day, or the tragic events that impacted so many lives, and still do to this day. However, that event, like many others serve as a reminder, especially to those in communications and the PR community, of what not to do.
While many were hastily trying to get a hold of friends, relatives or loved ones, or stuck in front of TV sets watching in amazement at the day's events, someone in the PR community thought it might serve as a good compare and contrast to the rising cost of college education. It's not important to name the client, the PR person or the pitch itself, but suffice it to say that the email pitch provoked widespread condemnation from many, including many media who correctly called it out for being one of the most tasteless pitches in recent history. Fortunately, this was before the day of robust social networks. While that particular pitch went viral, you can only imagine what it might have been like today. The pitch effort itself finally made its way to the pages of the Wall Street Journal, bringing peanut gallery comments that at least the individual that sent the pitch got a WSJ hit out of it.
At the end of the day, the whole moment served as a good reminder of, what is worth pitching, what a good hook should be, and the importance of timing and forethought. The sad thing is that in almost a decade, there are still moments in time, where cooler heads do not prevail and the lessons learned do not carry forward. We see example after example lately where a timely event is woven into the pitch process. Only last week, another PR practitioner was left to apologize for tying a pitch around the launch of an editor's series to the London riots. And of course, few can forget the effort of one name brand fashionista for leveraging their Twitter channel to tie in their spring launch to the explosive situation in Egypt.
Which leads me to the point. If you explain what you are doing to friends, family, colleagues, strangers, and they wince at what you're suggesting or saying, chances are there's a reason for it. Take a step back, leave the pitch in your draft folder, or on the drawing board and figure out if there's a better and more tasteful way to make your point. Chances are there is, and for those of us watching events unfurl, we won't be left wondering why some in PR do what they do.