Crafting the perfect pitch
‘Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd.’ Ready or not, baseball season is almost upon us. Major league and minor league players are getting ready for spring training and thousands of adoring fans will travel down to Florida for their chance to watch their favorite players prepare for another season.
The pressure is on to throw the most strike outs, hit the most homeruns and score the most runs. For pitchers especially, spring training is a critical time to hone their skills and make sure each pitch is thrown correctly and with accuracy. This ‘practice makes perfect’ mentality made me realize throwing the perfect baseball pitch and crafting the perfect public relations (PR) pitch require similar best practices and skills.
Learn the mechanics. A baseball player doesn’t throw the perfect curve ball the first time he picks up a baseball; this requires training and practice. The same goes for a PR professional. He or she must learn how to approach a story idea. When pitching a story about tele-medicine or MIPS, research is key.
- How has this topic been covered in the past?
- What new angle are you bringing to the table?
- What’s the hook?
- Do you have statistics or results to back up your story idea?
- Know the basics of the story before crafting a pitch.
Don’t skip the warm up. Every pitcher knows his arm must be thoroughly stretched and warmed up before he even throws his first practice throw. Proper stretching keeps the shoulder, arm, elbow and wrist ready for the average 105-110 throws per game. PR professionals must prepare too:
- Before clicking ‘send’ on that email, make sure you proofread your pitch. Look for any spelling or grammar mistakes.
- If you’re calling an editor, practice your pitch a few times. Prepare with a colleague to ensure you’re comfortable sharing the story idea out loud.
Know your receiver. Communication is key between a pitcher and his catcher. If a catcher signs a fast ball and the pitcher throws a curve ball, it is likely the catcher will wind up hurt from the miscue or the player at bat will get a hit. Similarly, PR professionals must know who they are pitching and how to reach them.
- Who is the correct person to contact?
- Does the editor only accept contributed content or only interviews?
- Do he/she preferred to be called or contacted via email only?
- Share all the information with the editor up front. Editors are writing at least five articles per week, so help them out with all necessary information. Include graphics, charts or videos if possible.
- Make sure your outreach aligns with the editor’s preference for a smooth pitch.
- Follow through. The throw isn’t over once the ball has left a pitcher’s hand. Great pitchers know the follow through is equally, if not more, important than the wind up. As soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, his follow through carries him strategically into his defensive stance. Once you’ve emailed the editor, be ready for follow up questions or additional information to help secure or finalize a story. If you shared a pitch over the phone, be prepared for the editor to ask questions. Always be ready for the unexpected.
Spring training is just the beginning; there’s a long season ahead. Pitchers and other players know the importance of preparing for the season. Similarly, PR professionals have a busy season again, with tradeshows, government regulations and a new year of innovative technology. Take the time to do research and prepare for your pitches accordingly.
What other advice would you give to craft the perfect pitch?