Unless you grew up being too cool for school, you’ll remember the Superman comics where Supes stumbles into Bizarro World, where everything is backwards. Or at least really weird.
Bizarro World can occur at any moment in real life too, and it’s an affliction that especially affects flacks and their clients. Here’s what happens when a flack enters Bizarro World: every single news story, every possible current event starts to look like an angle for you and your pitch. It doesn’t matter how illogical or tenuous; you see your assigned product everywhere, important to everything, and necessary for everybody.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to love your client. But pitching in Bizarro World isn’t about being passionate or creative. More often than not, it’s a sign of desperation. And it inevitably leads to failure because a flack who’s been Bizarroed isn’t capable of making informed decisions about angles, pitches, and appropriate targets.
Five signs you are trying to pitch from Bizarro World:
1. Cat Fancy is on your pitch list as well as Guns & Ammo. Now, there may be a product out there that is actually suitable for coverage in both those publications simultaneously. But I would rather live in ignorance as to what that product could possibly be. (A gun for cats? A gun that shoots cats? Oh god, a cat shaped gun!?)
2. Any disaster, natural or man-made, seems to you to be the perfect angle for your client. Unless your client is truly able to help the people affected by said disaster or can somehow miraculously prevent such a disaster from happening again, chances are you should let that one go. Anything else seems, well, kind of ooky.
3. You try mightily to tie Obama, American Idol, and the Olympics into your pitch . . . all at the same time. When your client is a microchip producer that isn’t actually involved in any of those things. Trying to piggyback on unrelated hot topics is just sort of sad.
4. You honestly think Oprah is going to be interested in your client, the paperclip manufacturer. Look, I think paperclips are rad, and sure, maybe Oprah does too. But they don’t exactly make the best television, do they? I mean, if you overhear Oprah sighing, “Wish I knew more about paperclips,” then live the dream, my friend. Otherwise, maybe hold off on that one.
5. When you excitedly describe these strategies to your colleagues, they get a little dinner plate-y around the ocular region and sort of mumble under their breath, “Huh. Okay. Yeah. Um. I hear my phone ringing.” If you asked for their input, maybe they’d tell it like it is, but the problem with you, Bizarro Flack, is you’re too manic about your bizarre idea to even pause to ask that.
If you feel yourself slipping into Bizarro World, stay calm. Review your strategy. Ask for feedback and help. Try something new, but make it something smart. Go for broke, but don’t break your reputation or your client’s. Don’t get desperate. There must be something that’s a good fit. But you won’t find it in Bizarro World.
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