When great writing kills your pitch

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Sometimes great writing skills can hurt your email pitch.

I saw this while helping one of my Inner Circle members refine her pitch. We worked on it, and then she placed the story in the Wall Street Journal :). Read on for the details.

This counterintuitive problem occurs most commonly among former magazine journalists. But it can afflict any strong communicator with a story they’re excited about. They love storytelling so much that they accidentally turn their cold email into something that feels more like a feature story.

Journalists are trained to notice a great story – “game recognize game.” But they are often so busy and overwhelmed that when they open your overly long email, they delete it before they even notice the well-crafted prose.

Elaine Iandoli is a successful PR veteran who already has NYT and WSJ placements on her track record. She submitted her draft pitch as part of the monthly pitch review session we do inside my Inner Circle membership program.

I applauded her ambition, because she was attempting to do something quite rare and difficult – get top-tier coverage for a medical research study before it’s completed. Ninety-nine percent of the time when you pitch top medical writers in this situation, the best result you can hope for is: “Get back in touch when the results are published.”

Elaine had crafted some beautiful language that put the reader right into the story. When you read it, you could see the imagery she was describing in your mind’s eye and hear the sounds she recounted.

But the core elements of the story were buried under those burly paragraphs, however elegant they were.

The good news is there is a simple solution for this. You weave those core elements into the first sentence and suggest they could make for a good story. And then add, It could look like this:

And then you carry on with a truncated version of your original “feature” pitch.

Here’s that core sentence I suggested Elaine use after she greeted the WSJ writer:

“I’d like to offer you exclusive access to an ongoing NIH-funded medical school study of how dance helps preserve brain function. Here’s what that could look like:”

She edited the pitch accordingly and sent it off. Three weeks later, she posted the happy result in our members-only Facebook group:


I hope this simple technique breathes new life into some of your great writing that you might have thought was too long. There are ways to reframe your pitch so the right journalists take note.

Another takeaway here is Elaine’s humility (despite her previous successes) and commitment to learning. She’s a regular during these monthly pitch review sessions. You can log in and hear the advice I give to her and other Inner Circle members. Or you could even submit your own pitch for me to work through with you! The Inner Circle is currently closed to new members, but we’ll open up briefly later in the year.

You should register on the wait list now to ensure you get early notification when we open up enrollment.

Plus you’ll get more examples of successful pitches you can learn from.

This article was originally published on Aug 28, 2019.