The magic of a profile pic


How do you turn a pitch from jumbled organizational minutia into a compelling idea your target journalists want to run with?

Look at their profile pic.

That’s the essence of how I did it yesterday, working with an Inner Circle member. I’ll set the stage, and then explain.

Her draft pitch got bogged down right away. I knew immediately why – she’d been given a document by her bosses, and they told her, “Get this in the media.” She had read the document several times. So naturally, the language and terms and style of writing bled into the pitch she used. But that style doesn’t work for pitching.

Lots of proper nouns – names of people, names of organizations – cluttered the opening paragraph. It was all about the issue her organization wanted to promote. Nothing about what this particular editor needed.

So we took a step back and Googled him… third item down was his LinkedIn profile… clicked it… and there he was, looking back at us.

Salt-and-pepper hair. Confident bearing. Trendy glasses. His bio and work history showed a distinctly NYC flavor. This immediately informed the pitch, which had originally had a suburban flavor.

But the most important benefit of looking at his photo was the shift it created in us. No longer were we (even inadvertently) focused on her employer’s program. Now we were focused on him. What does he know his readers need? Where is he right now in his magazine’s production cycle? What do we have that’s going to earn him page views?

Then the edits flowed naturally. A new first sentence that focused on him and what he’s trying to do with the magazine. A new second sentence that spelled out clearly what we have to offer, and why we’re approaching HIM in particular. Then we distilled most of the original pitch into three bullets.

The draft pitch was already really strong at the end. She had cited some web metrics that proved that this topic and expert she was pitching were interesting to this editor’s target audience. And she closed with a strong call to action that had a deadline associated with it.

These edits trimmed about 2/3s of the original pitch, but what was left was entirely focused on him.

You can go back through this email and see almost a sentence-by-sentence guide to crafting your next pitch. But that’s not the point. All of those sentences flowed naturally from applying one principle. And that principle was symbolized in one action:

Looking at his profile pic.

Start with that, and everybody wins.

This article was originally published on Jun 07, 2018.