The Art of Pitching


Anyone can draw a picture, but it takes a true artist to create a masterpiece.

Developing a pitch can be daunting. PR professionals at all stages of their career sometimes struggle to understand and create narratives that suit client messages, and there are many hurdles teams must jump to transition from concept to coverage—a successful pitch requires more than just an eye-catching hook or extensive media list.

Sage’s Vice President of Public Relations and Employee Experience Brian Kelley sat down with Agility PR Solutions to share his insight on the Art of Pitching. In his webinar, he proposes that successful pitching starts at developing employee confidence, interpersonal and problem-solving skills, and outlines 7 tips to become a successful pitcher

Find Your Way 

Regardless of where you fall on the corporate ladder, take the time you ask yourself and your teams to identify your own strengths and weaknesses as professionals. Is there an imbalance in the distribution of work? Does a junior-level employee need training on conducting cold calls? Regardless of how mundane these issues might seem, they have the potential to make-or-break you if you fail to react to them.  

Always Look for Opportunities

Legendary artists found inspiration from the world around them and public relations often works the same way. You cannot create something out of nothing. To truly identify opportunity means you must be forward-thinking on the forces already at play. Do you foresee the industry moving toward a particular technology? Could introduced legislation impact the trajectory of an entire business? We are in a proactive industry and paying attention to the buzzworthy content in the news cycle, topics being discussed in weekly client calls, Twitter, competitor monitoring, etc. will allow you find opportunities all around you that can be leveraged to elevate your client in the media, helping them meet their business objectives.

 Search for Clarity 

Do you understand how your client fits into the larger landscape? How their work impacts their industry, clients or society? Having a firm understanding of your clients capabilities and impact will give you the foresight to determine how today’s news will affect your client and will allow you to maintain an approach that continuously pushes the needle for your client. It does not require a doctorate-level understanding of how your client operates, but a clear vision of their purpose is necessary. Look into relevant case studies and recent announcements to grasp the scope of their influence. When in doubt, Kelley says, “If you are not able to describe it to your is probably time to dig deeper.”

 Do the Upfront Work

The content your teams put together positions your client for success. Those results do not come if you are launching a poorly thought out campaign and relying on a reporter to hopefully pick up the story. In public relations, a throwing spaghetti at the wall approach will not cut it. Do the research, pull briefing documents, whatever may be needed to ensure your team is ready and confident to tell a story that drives interest.

Work Backward from Success

In a world of uncertainty, think positively. Determine the ultimate goal of the pitch being put together and ensure that is the key motivator throughout the process. This will allow you to identify what will be necessary to secure that success. Are you aiming for placement in a major publication? Maybe it is time to analyze your network and see how you can become personally acquainted with a reporter. Keep your eye on the finish line and find out what it takes to get there.

Stay Fluid and Flexible

If your plan does not allow for change, it is probably going to fail. Unfortunately, nothing in this industry is guaranteed, regardless of how much preparation may go into it. We are accustomed to playing with the news cycle and having to add or drop stories based on what is making headlines. Also, not everything is subject to the Media Monster. Sometimes, a client will strike down an idea or go unresponsive. No matter how frustrating or inconvenient, it is our job to adjust and, as Kelley puts it, “...roll with the punches.”

Be Prepared to Fail...and Move to Plan B

Lastly, you could have the best pitch that is perfect for a specific outlet, addresses a hot topic in the media, and propose a compelling narrative spoken by a qualified subject matter expert...and it may still not be enough. Do not get too caught up in the points of failure, because if you laid a solid foundation before and during a pitch launch, you’ll be able to recover and move forward.

Public relations requires an intense understanding of people, unwavering determination and quick problem-solving. If it was truly as simple as clicking the send button or dialing a phone number, agencies would not be necessary. It should not be forgotten that clients are not just handing over social handles but they are entrusting us their reputation. Are you prepared to rise to the challenge?

Brian Kelley is Vice President of Public Relations and Employee Experience at Sage Communications. His 17-year career has spanned Capitol Hill, multiple associations, NGOs and the PR agency spectrum, providing senior counsel and guidance to multiple teams in the global communications industry. As a senior consultant to global organizations, Brian has provided strategic counsel and management to foreign governments, Fortune 500 corporations and trade associations and has represented a cross-section of industries including energy, IT, defense, international trade, environmental technology and consumer relations.

Sage Communications is committed to investing in a variety of external sources to enrich the understanding of the industries we work in. From guest speakers to webinars, conferences and other learning opportunities, Fishbowl will bring you analysis of the behind-the-scenes experiences here at Sage.

X-SageJim McIntyre