With the PGA Tour season coming to an exciting close this past weekend with more than $10 million on the line for eventual winner Bill Haas, it is timely to offer up insights on how pitch letter writing is like the golf swing. I’ve been an avid golfer for most of my life and like many golfers believe that golf itself is a microcosm of everything we do in life. So here’s my take on how developing a pitch letter is similar to developing a sound golf swing (please note that I am a PR professional NOT a golf professional though it is still a dream to be one someday):
1) The Address — In golf, that would be how a golfer sets up as he prepares to hit the golf ball. A solid foundation is needed to get the most of out of the swing. The set-up dictates the rest of the golf swing. In writing a pitch letter, a solid set-up is also critical as this will dictate the flow of the entire pitch. We all know that addressing the pitch letter to the appropriate reporter is practically half the battle.
2) The Backswing — In golf, you better make sure you take the club back smoothly and in a consistent line. This helps eliminate mis-hits (hyphen added to avoid any mispronunciations by non-golfers) when striking the ball on the downswing. Hitting your target will be dependent on it. In a pitch letter, this would be the lead/opening paragraph, which better be smooth and concise, to ensure no misperceptions is derived by the reporter.
3) The Downswing — In golf, this is the part where experience takes over since the downswing action almost becomes second-nature to the skilled golfer. Once you reach the top of your backswing, gravity pretty much takes care of the downswing, so controlling it to ensure consistency takes a lot of practice. In a pitch letter, this would be the essence of your pitch. Experienced PR pros have an easier time spotting the newsworthy nuggets they want to convey on their pitch. It’s a skill that is developed through practice although, just like in golf, there are some folks who seem to have been born with this ability. I do believe though it is a skill that can be learned.
4) The Follow-Through or Finish — Once the golf club strikes the ball, you might think it’s pretty much over, but that’s not the case. The sequence of events immediately after impact is extremely important in golf and in pitch letter writing. The better players will keep the same line after hitting the ball and maintain their follow-through eyeing their golf ball as it flies toward its intended target. In a pitch letter, this would be following up with your target after you hit that “Send” button. If you maintain your follow-through with a well-crafted pitch, you have a higher percentage of making a solid impact with your intended media target thus getting you closer to your goal or in golf, the hole.
5) The Myth about the Golf Swing – There is no such thing as the perfect golf swing and there is no perfect pitch letter either. Even the Tiger Woods of year 2000, whose golf swing was near flawless, has ended up out of bounds, in the rough, and even beaned a lucky spectator on the head. As with the so-called perfect pitch letter, it may seem flawless, but it could still end up in the trash. One thing to remember is to keep the pitch letter and the golf swing as simple, tight and concise as possible.
As PR pros (and golfers), the best thing to do is to keep on practicing to lessen the stray shots. If this post doesn’t help your golf swing, I do hope it helps your pitching skills. Golf and PR share another attribute. Both can be frustrating, but when you hit that perfect shot, and it does happen folks, it makes everything worthwhile. A discussion about the pitch letter, golf swing, or whether you think I’ve smoked too much golf course weed, is encouraged. Meet me at the 19th hole by following @PRFlipside or at http://facebook.com/vasqpr.