There are more memorable quotes from the year I spent as a fledgling reporter/anchor in Coweta County, Georgia than any other period of my life. The people of Coweta have a kindness in their heart and an amazing ability to turn a phrase. What they inherently know takes most a lifetime to learn, but you have the benefit of grasping one part by scrolling down the page and reading Patty Barry’s “Listening Matters”.
When leaving that job, a county commissioner was kind enough to say, “Son you always manage to get the scoop before the paper and you did it in less than a year… How’d you do it?”
Flattered and perplexed by the question, I asked one of my news sources why they provided me with information no one else had at the time. “We don’t,” he said, “You’re just a better listener.” Being a good listener paid off spades as a reporter, but no longer am I on the side of the conversation.
In P.R. we are charged with relaying stories to reporters and editors. Sure, listening is key to discovering the most effective way to impart that information, but as my brethren from the south know, there is an art to a potent delivery.
Not nearly qualified enough to break down the elements of an effective pitch (nor blessed with the innate understanding), I turn to the analysis of Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick. This must read creates a simple checklist that anyone can use when trying to impart an idea or information.
Is the message: 1) Simple 2) Unexpected 3) Concrete 4) Credible 5) Emotional 6) Story format
The book spends 257 pages breaking down each element, but before you get on the phone to sell your story ask, will this pitch be a SUCCES(s)? The more boxes you can check, the greater you’re shot at garnering coverage.
You have probably never heard a story about a detective catching people stealing cows, but my listeners did that summer afternoon in 1998. Like many of the people I met in Coweta County, Detective Mitch Gadis had a gift for turning a phrase and in the process imparting a life lesson we should none forget.
“Never steal a cow from a county with cow in its name.”