In our productivity-obsessed society, it’s easy to feel the need to do more – and do it faster. But in PR, sometimes the best way to get better results is to slow down. Specifically, to slow your pitching.
I call this method (wait for it) the “slow pitch.”
Here’s how it works.
Don’t Say Everything at Once
When you’re reaching out to a reporter (via email), it’s tempting to say as much as possible. You may only have one shot to get in front of this person, you’re thinking, so you’ve got to squeeze every detail about the story you’re trying to tell into that message.
But here’s a hard truth: if you get everything in one email, the email’s too long.
Remember, this reporter is probably reading your message on their phone, maybe on their way home – and that small screen will only make your message look longer. Do they really have time for all these details, they’re thinking as they scroll. They don’t.
Even if they’re at a desk, a long email sends a clear message: you aren’t sure what the essence of your pitch is. And if you can’t boil your story down, why should the reporter?
Instead, offer what you have in small, digestible, interesting pieces.
The Slow Pitch in Action: Method 1
Here’s what this might look like in action.
“Hey, I noticed you’re interested in smart appliances. I’ve got a client working in that space. Do you want to hear about what she’s up to?"
Second email (if the reporter shows interest):
“Here’s why I thought you’d be interested: one of her smart lawnmowers just spontaneously performed a live adaptation of Edward Scissorhands. Pretty cool, right?”
And then proceed as usual.
What I’m not doing in this slow pitch is offering a full narrative or a detailed personal history about the founder in question. Remember: reporters like to uncover stories themselves. That’s why they got into journalism! They don’t want to be told what stories to write.
If you play your cards right, they might just Google “Johnny Depp lawnmower” and find your client’s website. This is good news: research has shown that we’re more likely to retain information when we have to work harder to obtain it. So if a reporter is doing work to engage with your story, you can assume they’re more likely to remember it and stick with it than if you laid out all the facts in a single email.
The Slow Pitch in Action: Method 2
Another way to think about pitching slow is to start your pitch way before you actually have a story to tell. Why? Because in many ways, PR is a sales process. If you want to sell someone something – even if it’s something they’d probably really like – you shouldn’t try to do it on your first interaction.
It’s better for everyone if you know each other first.
In this slow pitch method, your pre-pitch outreach may look something like this:
- Follow a target reporter on Twitter.
- Make a private list of reporters you want to connect with, and add the reporter to it.
- Over time, like, RT and reply to tweets that you authentically want to engage with and that are relevant to you either professionally or personally. (“Love this take on why lawnmowers are the new Hollywood.”)
- Tweet out articles by these reporters when you read them – and include the reporter’s handle so they notice.
- Email the reporter when you read a particularly good article, and if possible, add to the discussion with your own take.
(If you want more detail on how to tackle this method of slow pitching, check out our post on DIY PR for startups.)
Take a Cue from Mystery Writers
Ever read a mystery where the writer throws you JUST enough crumbs that you’re tearing through those pages, trying to figure out whodunit? That’s called pacing. It’s also called audience awareness. We’re all very attuned to when things are happening at the right speed – and when they’re moving too quickly.
Reporters are like the rest of us: when something feels uncomfortably fast, they lose interest. Or maybe they never had a chance to get interested in the first place.
So try the slow pitch.
Instead of getting that 200-word email out to another 10 reporters, take a Twitter break. Follow some interesting people. Engage. Six months from now, getting your startup the attention it deserves will be a natural continuation of strong and mutually beneficial relationships.