When she’s not teaching classes on marketing and public relations at Immaculata University, Beth Harte writes about that which she knows best. In a recent article at The Harte of Marketing (which I suggest you add to your collective bookmarks and RSS feeds), Beth cites an emailed pitch she received from a PR firm that was horribly written.
Beth asks: How do you do it with a straight face?
Here’s the thing, as a PR practitioner, I’ve never wanted to be one of “those people.” You know the type, one that could care less if they a) tick the editor off because they wasted their time or got their name wrong or b) has been corrected by them. Both would be so embarrassing—the latter, unbearable.
In the knowledge economy we live in, you’d think that the PR firm whose email she posts verbatim on her blog post would know better. It’s not like there’s a shortage of information on how to craft a marketing letter and how to pitch it to someone, blogger or not, is there?
Because if there is a shortage of information, why don’t we burn down our libraries and destroy the Internet?
While this PR firm may have forgotten to dot its i’s and cross its t’s, I can’t discredit the firm for not trying. A horrible pitch is better than no pitch. Something is better than nothing. Unfortunately, the still-nameless firm is getting a bad rap.
Rather than burning the books and melting the servers, allow me to make a suggestion, one that ought to clear things up for everyone:
The next time you try to send me or Beth a piece of marketing material, where it’s expected that we will respond, stop. Stop and listen. Send the letter to your mother and see if she understands it. Ask mom if she’d buy your product or respond to your offer after reading it herself.
Mom knows best, right?
Or, ask your children. If you don’t have a child, find one. Every town has a school, right? Kids, especially the middle and high schoolers, love to be asked questions and to believe they provide value to adults.
Send your pitch to a middle schooler, someone in 6th or 7th grade. Go younger if you can.
What does this have to do with stocks, you ask?
Easy. I’m paraphrasing the Peter Lynch method of picking stocks. Lynch, the former head of Fidelity’s Magellan Fund from 1977 to 1990, yielded an annual investment return of 29.9% when other funds saw an average 16.5% increase.
How did he do it? It comes down to a simple principle: invest in what you know!
Peter Lynch went one step further: If a child can’t explain the nature of the business in a simple sentence, don’t buy the stock. If your brand can’t be encapsulated by someone under age 15, good bye and good luck.
If you think back to the dot-com boom and bust of post-Y2K, how many of those companies that were fed with venture capital and whose mission statements were full of gobbledygook still exist? Wanna guess why most mergers and acquisitions involve vertical industries that don’t provide simple meanings? Care to stab why blue chips like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Pep Boys are still around when so many more are gone?
To the PR firm who emailed Beth: Think like a child and re-read that letter, then send it again. You might get a more positive response.