failureThis is a real email I received a couple of days ago:

Hi Shonali,

I came across your company Shonali Burke Consulting and wanted to connect with you with regards to how you handle your issue/topic tracking in the media.  Recently, I have worked with organizations who have needed help during issues or major events in their history to promote and protect their brand.

<REDACTED> has worked with similar large organizations such as Disney and Burger King to support their efforts to effectively manage their brand.  I would like to set up a 15 minute phone call with you to demonstrate how <REDACTED> helps with:

Please let me know when would be a convenient time to set up this call. If you are unable to connect; however, feel there is another individual who would be more appropriate to connect with please let me know and I will connect with them appropriately.  Thank you in advance.

Additionally, I will be sending out periodic communications regarding this topic – please feel free to unsubscribe at anytime.

Kindest regards,

<REDACTED>

To which I replied:

<REDACTED>,

Since I have not opted into any communications from you, I shouldn’t have to “unsubscribe.” You do not have my permission to put me on any mailing lists. So please don’t.

Also, it is clear to me that in “coming across” my company you haven’t done any further research on who I am or what I do, else you would know that I am an agency of one (which is clearly stated on my website, had you taken the time to read it/do any research), so therefore there is no other “individual who would be more appropriate to connect with.” Or that my business is nothing like a Disney or Burger King.

At this time I am not interested in a <REDACTED> demo. If I am, I will get in touch with someone.

Shonali

I get a couple of emails like this almost every day. You probably do as well.

And what floors me (though maybe it shouldn’t) is that it’s not just bad publicists whose pitches suck.

It’s people like this – business development managers, and so on, who find our names on some list, or maybe see them on Twitter and, in their urgency to check off as many boxes as possible on their prospect list, do so in the most ham-handed fashion ever.

I get that, as businesses, you have to keep looking for new business, keep trying to open new doors, keep trying to form those relationships that will one day lead to a sale, or a new customer.

But this is not the way to do it.

If you’re going to personalize your email (at least it wasn’t an HTML email, thank God), then how about actually personalizing it, showing the recipient you understand who they are and what they really do?

And if you don’t know, even something like “I’d love to learn more about what you do and see if _____ might be of interest to you” would have been better.

Junk the “it’ll only take 15 minutes” line. That’s a lie. It always takes more than 15 minutes. 

And for heaven’s sake, don’t ever ever EVER presume that anyone is going to want to be on an email list they never opted in to in the first place.

Pitching isn’t just for publicists

When we talk about how to pitch or not to pitch, we often focus on the media/blogger pitches we receive/hear about. But the truth is that the ability to write a good pitch is a skill that everyone in your business needs to develop.

And it’s not just email pitches that you need to learn how to write; it’s how to pitch people on social networks, such as Twitter, as well.

Just this morning, I saw a DM from someone I only “talked to” for the first time yesterday during #VocusChat. I followed this person because it seemed we were interested in the same things. Next thing I know, I get a DM from her (the first one ever) which seemed suspiciously automated, inviting me to tell her more about me and “like” her Facebook Page.

Come on. Really?

You want to open new doors to your service or product? Approach the people you’re pitching as if they’re human beings. Because, shock and awe, they are.

Focus on building community. Be polite. Be patient. Be persistent but recognize when “no” means “no”… though if you are smart and stay in touch with a delicate hand, you’ll convert that “no” into a “Sure, I’ll take a look at it,” and maybe you’ll create a devout fan. At the very least you won’t be the bile that rises in their mouth any time they hear your business’ name.

That’s how Courtney Vaught approached me regarding Traackr. It took several months before I tested the system, and now I can’t say enough good things about it.

The spray and pray tactic may work for a while, but increasingly, it won’t. And if you’re not going to take the time to get your relationships off the ground in the right way …

… well, that’s how to fail in business without really trying.

What do you think? Have you had similar experiences? If you work with businesses regularly on honing their pitching skills, what tips can you leave? Do share.

Image: clasesdeperiodismo via Flickr, CC 2.0

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke