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March 17, 2010


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You're always selling a story (your solution in narrative form, never a product) because that's what people identify with.

I was at Expo West, the nation's largest natural and organic product expo, this weekend, and asked similar questions. Far too many booths were only able to rattle off ingredients and numbers, rather than actually telling me what their supplement/bar/product did for the consumer.

Seeing as such I really don't care what b-12 actually is, it was refreshing when I did hear a good narrative.


Never pitch a product pitch a solution!
Great advice dmscott

justin locke

well david truer words was never spoke . . i saw this so much in the classical music industry. musicians would spend so much time perfecting their F# major scales that they just assumed that the audience MUST adore them . . if the audience didn't, it was the audience's fault, or perhaps the public schools' fault for not teaching enough "music appreciation." I never once heard the word "customer," even as a professional player. it's universal tho. no matter what you make or sell, "audience-ology" (customer-ology?) is a separate area of study, and all too often it is simply not taught anywhere. having the courage to look up and see yourself from someone else's point of view-- that's the problem *I* solve for MY customers (you did ask that, right ;-) ? - jl

Natasha Attal

Great blog post. It is important to tell potential clients how your company can solve problems instead of selling your product. It's a softer sell and it's far more effective. Similar to company blogs - don't sell your product or services, provide interesting content that informs your reader and allows you to engage in a conversation with them.


Right. Instead of feature, feature, feature. Talk benefit, benefit, benefit. And, why would your blog readers, other bloggers, and/or your traditional media readers care?

It's a great point you bring up about "what problems do you solve" and one often overlooked. Good post. Great reminder.

Chris W.

It always amazes me how few people understand this marketing truism. People don't buy features, products, etc. They buy what will bring them happiness/relief from pain/the sunshine on the other side of the locked door they're stuck behind.

anne sorensen

I like to say that I'm in the health business! (Helping our clients to better business health via sound, considered and cost effective marketing strategies and services.) If their business health is in good shape - it usually tides well for their personal health (calm, control and peace of mind). It's an ongoing discipline - to speak in terms of problem solving rather than mere services, but it's powerful. Thanks David for reminding us! :)


Great fundamental tip, David. Have you ever checked out Rafe Needleman's (@Rafe) "PR Pro Tips" blog? (http://proprtips.com) It's equal parts valuable and hilarious.

Tasha L. Mayberry

This is a great PR pitch tip. It seems to me that it would be common sense to pitch someone that writes about or has an interest in what you do. Why waste time with someone that is more than likely not going to read past the first line or two? One of the first steps that I did with our PR campaign was to make a list of all magazines, newspapers, etc. that reach my company's target audience(s) (TA). If it reaches our TA, then the chances are the writers are publishing articles related to what you do. It's important to single out reporters that specifically write about topics that you do as a company. Read their articles and "get to know them."

Moving forward, I recently wrote a blog about valuable content (which I referenced you and your book, "New Rules of Marketing & PR"). There is nothing worse than a constant sales pitch about a product - as you state in the book, content should not be product driven. Instead, show that you are an expert and provide educational & helpful content to keep the reader engaged, interested and coming back!

Great post and thank you for all your solid direction. My title changed to VP of Marketing & PR because of your book. Once separate roles are now very much two roles in one.

Have a great day everyone!
Tasha L. Mayberry


You are absolutely right on this approach. Managers and business owners should take this advice and get their employees up to speed with this. They will increase sales b/c if a customer asks a question and gets the correct answer they will buy the product more times than not!


Great point TDhurst "You're always selling a story (your solution in narrative form, never a product) because that's what people identify with." I almost shut down when force to hear a blunt product breakdown. Story matters so much more.

Jodi Kaplan

In other words, sell holes not drills.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks to all for your comments.

I'd like to draw a subtle distinction here. There is a difference between SELLING (what a salesperson does to sell a product to a customer compared to PITCHING (what a PR pro does to convince the media to write something).

When I suggest that you tell reporters, editors, bloggers, and others how you solve problems for customers that is not the same as selling benefits to potential customers.

It's about stories. What story can you tell about how you help customers?




In my experience, I would like to point out one thing: Call it a Pitch - Call it Selling a solution - You are still trying to give something to someone they are not sure they want!

The "Key" is to give your target the respect they have earned. Until you are able to subtly find out "What THEY Need" to solve "Their Issue" - a deadline, a story on a certain topic, information on a certain angle - only then will they be receptive to receiving what is being offered.

Customers - Editors - Reporters - Makes no difference. It's all about respecting the relationship. Thanks again...

justin locke

so by offering a story about customer uses, one is essentially solving the problem of the journalist, by giving them something interesting to publish about you? - jl


I was a journalist for nearly 20 years before I went into communications, and I couldn't agree with you more. I spent nearly all of those newsroom years listening to boring/bad/worthless/irrelevant pitches that went nowhere. What a great lesson in how to do my new job.

caitlin findlay

Great post. Particularly important for the waning luxury industry.

RuthAnn Bowen

Agreed, David. I have never understood the mass media pitch...which is why you received pitches irrelevant to your world. The mass "mailing" approach proves ineffective and a waste of time and money. Publicists should research the journalists/reporters in their industry, build a relationship with them and then tailor the pitch when relevant. This approach is not a guarantee of coverage (then again, nothing is) but it certainly helps the percentage.

Thanks for the insightful post.


As everyone else here has noted, you are spot on. This is precisely why when asked what I do as a public relations consultant, I say "I solve problems." Plain and simple.

And I tell students and young practitioners whenever I can that as long as they can solve problems, they'll have a job. We may use a somewhat different bag of tools than other business and organizational consultants most of the time, but the bottom line is we solve problems for our clients and/or organizations. We should do the same for journalists we contact. They have a problem, of sorts: what will I report? Our job is to make their jobs easier by providing a workable and tailored solution.

In short, "Tell me less about how it came to be and more what it means to me."

Roger M. Friedensen, APR
President & CEO
Forge Communications, Raleigh, N.C.

David Meerman Scott

I'm loving all these comments. So many interesting perspectives. Thanks to you all.

Stephen Koenigsberg


I used to be appalled that there are numerous PR professionals who don't know what a story is and don't effectively answer the two basic pitch questions: "Why should I do this story?" and "Why should I do it now?" These days I just look at it as less competition.

One additional note: the client occasionally dictates the product pitch and won't allow the communications person to weave a story around it.

Steve Koenigsberg
Stephen Koenigsberg Public Relations
Denver, Colorado

David Meerman Scott


I always wonder about those occasions when the client insists on a product pitch. I suppose if an agency needs to work that they should go a long with the demand. But a good publicist should also educate the client on the realities of getting ink.

Thanks for the comment.


Susan Young

Bingo David! Sales pitches are for advertising depts., not newsrooms. Speak directly to the audience and be the medicine that helps ease their pain/challenge. I know this from being a radio news reporter/news director for years in NJ/NY. Glad you are sharing the gospel with those who have not been on the other side of the pitches.

Wendy Kenney

The way I see it, as a PR person, my job is to help the media discover news that is of value to the general population. I am a partner. Because of that, the pitches I send are tailored to the people and media that I send to. It's worked well for me, and the media. And I couldn't imagine doing it any other way. Thanks for the insight David! Hope to see you in Phoenix soon!

Alan Green

Journalist need compelling stories that can make them sell well their content.
So don't pitch, but help them to write a good story. If possible your product could be insinuated.

Pablo Edwards

Such great advice about not pitching a product... People need to throw out the smaller picture for the larger one.

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