How “to do” begins with a pitch.
What is a pitch? Pink says it’s a “simple, succinct, and effective way to convey a complex message in an effort to move others.”
It’s the “the ability to distill one’s point to its persuasive essence.”
The makings of a successful pitch
What are the dynamics of a pitch? What separates an effective pitch from the others?
Kimberly Elsbach at UC Davis and Roderick Kramer of Stanford spent years with a group of people who hear pitches all day long—television and movie executives.
They found that two social processes are at work when a film executive hears a pitch.
First, the catcher uses a variety of cues—behavior and appearance—to quickly form an opinion of the pitcher’s creativity.
If the pitcher is fortunate to land in a category that the catcher deems “creative,” that’s good. But the pitcher’s work has just begun.
Of course, if the pitcher did not land in a creative category, then the meeting is essentially over. (Ever been in one of those? Yeah, me too.)
Invite your audience into the creative process
Elsbach and Kramer found that in successful pitches, an additional process was at work.
The pitcher told the story in a way that invited the catcher in as a collaborator. The most productive sessions created an environment where the catcher “becomes so fully engaged by a pitcher that the process resembles a mutual collaboration.”
This research uncovers a vital lesson. The purpose of your pitch is not to simply persuade others to change their thinking and to take action. You’ll be more successful with your audience if you involve them in the creative process.
Elsbach and Kramer found that “the more the executives—often derided by their supposedly more artistic counterparts as “suits”—were able to contribute, the better the idea often became, and the more likely it was to be green-lighted.”
The sessions produced the most valuable outcome when the catcher “becomes so fully engaged by a pitcher that the process resembles a mutual collaboration.”
Thus, the purpose of the pitch is not simply to persuade others to change their minds or to take action. It’s to “offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.”
Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner
In a pitch in person to a film executive, Elsbach says it might go like this:
Pitcher: Remember Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood?
Catcher: Oh, yeah. One of my all-time favorites as a kid.
Pitcher: Yes, it was classic. Then, of course, came Costner’s version.
Catcher: That was much darker. And it didn’t evoke as much passion as the original.
Pitcher: But the special effects were great.
Catcher: Yes, they were.
Pitcher: That’s the twist I want to include in this new series.
Catcher: Special effects?
Pitcher: We’re talking a science fiction version of Robin Hood. Robin has a sorcerer in his band of merry men who can conjure up all kinds of scary and wonderful spells.
Catcher: I love it!
Now write copy that engages your reader in the same way
How would you pitch your idea if you aren’t meeting with your audience in person? When you communicate to your audience via an email sequence?
Here’s how to engage the reader through your copywriting. Include the reader by substituting dialogue with questions—both regular questions and rhetorical questions.
It would go something like this:
Remember Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood? For many people, it was one of their all-time favorites as a kid. A real classic.
How about for you?
Then, of course, came Costner’s much darker version. Lots of people thought Costner’s version didn’t evoke as much passion as the original. But the special effects were great.
And special effects are the twist you’ll find in this new series.
We’re talking a science fiction version of Robin Hood. Robin has a sorcerer in his band of merry men who can conjure up all kinds of scary and wonderful spells.
Do I have your attention yet?
The key is to pull back from your persuasive language and to give your reader a chance to “project what they need onto your idea that makes the story whole for them.”