One of the best ways to learn is to teach, right?
Recently, as I was teaching someone else about writing a successful PR pitch, I realized how much has changed in so little time.
Sure, at the root of a great pitch is a compelling story angle - that will never change. With the increase of email and digital messages in our lives, however, brevity has become increasingly important.
With this change I’ve come to recognize that we seem to be losing one of the most important parts of a pitch, that which inspires the media to read the whole thing, remember it and want more: Entertainment. In an effort to be concise and cut through the clutter, we’ve lost entertaining writing - good writing that is - at the fear of it being too wordy or too “fluffy.”
So in an effort to inspire brevity without sacrificing entertaining writing, I offer the following suggestions. While written with PR pitching in mind, it wouldn't hurt to consider these in everyday writing as well. Who doesn't appreciate brevity?
Five Tips to Hone the Art of Brevity
- Being concise is different than being boring. Concise means you do not waste space. Your restaurant is not “deliciously tasty.” It does not mean you have to remove adjectives and write at a third grader’s level. Be careful not to sacrifice good writing for brevity.
- Speaking of adjectives, use your adjectives wisely. They are OK, if they really mean something. “Unique” and “one-of-a-kind” are so overdone that they hold little meaning anymore. On the other side of the argument are words that are so abstract they lose their meaning. Make your writing digestible, while not being predictable.
- Cut out the synonyms and the play on words (OK, sometimes you can keep them, I’m a sucker for a good pun, and if I were really good at them, I would have inserted one here). We don’t have enough space for this anymore. Think harder and think deeper. Use wit, be human, use uncommon words and when all else fails, try some alliteration, just a little. It makes your sentence flow and adds some grace without taking up all your space.
- Be strategic about the structure of your pitch. Outline it first to get the boring stuff out there. Then massage it until it is genuinely interesting and intriguing. I read my pitches once without paying much attention to meaning, just to make sure it flows and isn’t two pages long. Then I read it again, making sure every word has a purpose.
- Finally, read a story from someone you hope will pick up your pitch. Is it just as enticing? Just as sophisticated? Does that writer love love love alliteration? Write to the way they write and you’ll have a better chance of them loving what you write.