To Move Your Pitches Forward, Look Back (Way Back)
In his column, When The Rules Don’t Apply, TURNER Vice President Campbell Levy shares advice and inspiration via our Denver outpost.
PR pros are always looking to stay ahead of the competition, and the media landscape changes literally every week. But what if the secret to getting coverage for clients lies in the past?
Public relations is not a new game, after all. Aristotle’s Art of Persuasion, despite being in existence for more than 2,000 years, contains everything you need to know to be successful in PR. His maxims have never been more relevant than today. Here’s how the Greek philosopher laid it all out way back when:
“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”
Each element here is integral for any PR pro. But I’d like to dive into pathos, which is emotion; or more specifically, the emotion of your argument. Pathos is perhaps the most nuanced, and hard to teach, aspect of crafting a pitch. Why is it so hard to teach? Because only you can accurately encompass your own voice within your pitch. No one else can teach you how to convince most effectively someone else to write about or cover a brand or topic. Essentially, it’s up to you to find a voice that toes the line between authentic and pushy.
I’d argue emotion is perhaps the single most important component of a successful pitch. When dealing with media in the earned space, we’re essentially no different than salespeople. As a result, authenticity is everything. An emotion-less pitch, (or a “robot pitch” as I like to call it) is boring and reads like you were paid to write it. An emotional connection is what gets recipients excited, what moves a pitch beyond the ordinary, what tells a writer that there is something worthwhile here.
Which brings me to another point: you DO want to imbue readers with your conversational voice! A pitch isn’t a press release where dry, technical writing trumps all. Nope, this is where if you can make your target chuckle, or agree with a feeling you’ve described, you’ve succeeded!
Maybe Aristotle should have added one more element to his Art of Persuasion: gelos — laughter.
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