It’s counterintuitive. When you need to impress someone, it’s only natural to start dropping in all the competitive advantages you’ve got into the short time you’ve been given. Chasing the credibility, many founders don’t notice when their pitch starts doing more harm than good. An overdressed pitch is like a teenage girl that puts on those fish-net tights plus the brightest make-up plus her Mom’s shiny jewelry on her first date. An overdressed pitch looks cheap and defeats the purpose.
You don’t want your pitch to be looking cheap, do you? Keep reading, as below I’ve collected a few cheap flashy catchphrases to avoid in your pitch at all costs.
The six-figure talk
Why avoid it: If your company is actually breaking six or seven figures, you know it better than anybody — there wasn’t one magic trick that brought you to this point. There were hundreds or thousands of mistakes, lots of wrong turns, lots of right decisions and few breakthroughs. Editors know it as well. Today, six-figure turned into such a buzzword, some magazines use it in their spam filters, so pitches using those words never even get to the editor’s inbox.
What to do instead: Media are usually looking for small, bite-size chunks of information. Practical and ideally — something that their readers can learn from. So instead of flashing an editor with a magic trick that brought your company to six figures, think about just one of those steps that you experienced along the way. Talk about your point A and point B. Breaking news: your point B does not have to be all shiny and glamorous. I recently wrote a story about a copywriter who went from $5 to $50 per hour on Fiverr. It’s small. It’s specific and most importantly, actionable for any copywriter who might be struggling with the same problem as she did.
The best-selling author glam
Why avoid it: Amazon algorithms are a curious thing. Technically, everyone who reaches the top of just one Amazon category is a best-selling author. No wonder when journalists and editors see the 100th person in a row who is a best-selling author, that byline does not look as attractive anymore. And to top that, there are the multi-author book models, where one book reaches the top of Amazon for just a couple of minutes and 20–30 people can instantly add the best-selling author title to their name. Sadly, what once was a genuine achievement turns out to be more of an algorithm game, and writers who you are pitching can see right through it.
What to do instead: Of course, yours might be a genuine best-seller, loved by an army of raving fans. Don’t lead the pitch by your best-seller status, instead focus the pitch on some ideas that made it a best-seller. One of the clients from my agency got her publishing deal with Hay House because her self-published book was ranking higher than their book in the same category. For her new release, she hired my agency to generate some press and we decided to reach out to Psychology Today. Instead of pushing her as a best-selling author, my team picked key ideas from her original book, paired it with her personal story and reached out to a writer in Psychology Today. Of course, our client’s book was a genuine bestseller, with a strong community behind it. Yet, it’s not the status that interested the writer who ended up covering it. It was the ideas expressed in the book.
Superlatives and absolutes
Why avoid it: Your product is the most innovative, your company is experiencing the fastest growth and your app is simply the best. At least in the eyes of your Mom. Anyone except for her listening to a pitch filled with superlatives would raise an eyebrow and a fair question — and by which criteria? Edit the superlatives out of your pitch, unless you can clearly answer this question: Was your product named the most innovative by a panel of a competition? Was your startup named the fastest-growing project among other startups in your accelerator? Did your app reach the top of the app store? These details can make or break your pitch. Superlatives outside of context are an instant pitch killer.
What to do instead: When my agency pitched one of our wellness clients to Marie Claire, we offered a journalist to write not about the specific company, but instead share with her readers about the trends that they represent. Instead of saying our client was leading that trend, we provided the journalist with objective information — told her about celebrities who tried the practice, named a few competitors and gave relevant statistics. Naming competitors is completely counterintuitive in any other form of marketing. Yet, in some PR pitches, it can actually help your case, because you get closer to providing objective information that journalists are after.
Media has a great power to bring awareness to your product. So before hitting send on your media pitch, just take a look at those pitch parasites. Don’t be afraid to lose some glam and give a real story instead.
Originally published at https://www.entrepreneur.com on December 6, 2021.