This is the third article in a 5-part series, “Getting Into the Content Development Game.”
DO I HAVE AN IDEA FOR YOU!
You’ve secured talent &/or IP for a great content idea. You’ve looked at all distribution outlets and have figured out who is looking for content in that area of focus. And you have identified those facets of your idea that make it ‘sellable’ to distributors.
For many, this is the moment when good ideas die. Because while your firm often creates killer pitches to sell your services (in response to RFPs or client briefs), you flounder trying to figure out how to present your big content idea in a way that really makes it sexy and sellable to distributors.
Or maybe you’ve been down this road before and realized that it wasn’t your idea that caused people to pass on it… the problem is how you presented it.
There is no great secret to building a great pitch. But there are proven elements that can take a pitch from good to great.
In itself, your pitch isn’t enough to sell the idea, but it sure doesn’t hurt to put your best foot forward. Remember: as an outsider in the content development game, you have more to prove than others because you are not in their known stable of producers/creators. And that should give you more reason to blow them out of the water!
In this article I’ll go over the major areas that can make or break a content pitch — areas that I’ve leveraged throughout my successful content development career.
YOU HAVE A SHORT RIDE, MAKE IT COUNT!
Where to begin? Your elevator pitch. I know, I know… the elevator pitch is an over-used trope.
The elevator pitch exists for a reason. And no, it’s not over-used. Rather, it’s over-used, albeit poorly. I tell everyone who works for me that if they want to pitch me an idea, it has to be a fully-realized in a paragraph before I’ll review. Why so short? Because if you cannot explain an idea in a quick concept, you can’t really explain the idea.
If you only have the time in an elevator ride to get someone to bite, can you do it? You have to hook your audience right away. You have to make it sexy, compelling, and complete so that people are pulled in, wanting more details.
So make sure as you develop the bigger idea, you are also distilling it down to a smart, tight concept.
And what about you, do you have a personal elevator pitch? If you can explain an idea in an paragraph but it takes you 5 minutes to get to what you are as a company, you just lost an opportunity. In my last article I discussed that your experience, your portfolio, and your business POV is your strength. But if you can’t explain that strength quickly – and in a way that piques interest – you appear less-than-ideal as a potential partner.
Confidence is sexy – and nothing is more confident that a clean statement of why you are the only person capable of producing what you are pitching. So make sure you apply your abilities as a story teller to tell your story.
AN EMPTY DECK IS NOT YOUR FRIEND
The dreaded pitch deck: a blank slate needing to be fleshed out in ways that propel both your idea and the engagement of those you are pitching.
Like any good story, there is a beginning, middle and end. Your deck has to read like a story. The beginning has to get people into the story and wanting to see how it unfolds. The middle should give them all the detail needed to really flesh out the idea and show that you know your stuff and have thought through all possibilities. The end needs to lock in their interest, and give who you pitch a reason to discuss this more.
Daunting? Yes. But it doesn’t have to be. Think of your deck this way: Macro to Micro.
Macro: what are the BIG ideas that you need to discuss? Start there. You have the elevator pitch, your big areas should back that pitch up and break it into clarifying focus. What is the idea, who is attached, how the topic propels a distributor, how will it feel, how each episode breaks out, how a series breaks out, who is involved.
Micro: for each section you have to flesh it out and make sure you’ve covered your all. Think about how to say less and show more. Be visual. Be engaging. Know that blank space is important in your pitch – you cannot be wall-to-wall text. Make sure you play up the uniqueness and the POV that you represent that nobody else can (ex: your talent, your IP, your access, etc.).
- Think horizontally: the best pitch is formatted for screens.
- There is no unique idea: be able to pivot in the room and adjust your pitch to address what the feedback you are hearing.
- Know what you know: and be honest about what you don’t.
- Play to your strengths: prove to them that what you bring is something they haven’t seen before, i.e., you have a track record of work, you have areas of incredible specialization.
- You can never have enough visuals: but do not use generic images.
- Know your budget: but don’t lock yourself into one. Don’t put your numbers in your deck, but make sure you are prepared to answer questions that come up about money.
- Don’t offer your deck as a handout: rather, if they are excited and engaged, send them the deck (with any pivots included) as follow up.
WE ARE A VISUAL MEDIUM, DO YOU HAVE VISUALS?
Another area where great ideas falter is in the sizzle (or other visuals) you present at a pitch.
A great deck with no video is just, well, paper. We are indeed a visual medium. You must showcase your talents in ways that prove you are a visual story teller.
This doesn’t mean you need to produce your cinematic Magnum Opus, but you do need to make sure that you can convey the spirit and energy of your idea. If your idea is talent-based, distributors need to see that talent doing what your are saying they can do. If your idea is based on a unique POV, the people you are pitching need to get a sense of that POV. If you are pitching an animated series, you’d better be able to prove the animation is compelling, fully fleshed out, and worthy of distribution.
You get it… put your best foot forward. And know that a successful video pitch doesn’t need 4 shoot days. At times, the best video presentation is a rip of visuals that convey the idea and energy with minimal shooting.
Note: some distributors will request, “Just send us a simple Skype”. And yes, there are examples of that working. But I’m here to tell you from experience that usually this doesn’t work. A company for which I worked did a Skype call when pitching talent to a network. They quickly said “No, this is not for us.” We sent it back and discussed the talent with the network several times, the answer was still a no. Finally a network exec said, “Let’s give you a bit of money so you can do a better casting.” That talen – a couple in Waco, Texas – ended up landing a series that is now in its fourth season. Moral of the story: present your idea right the first time, or be ready to hear “no” much more often than “yes.”
GET GOOD AT THE PITCH … FAST!
Are you getting a sense of what might strengthen your pitch? Well, this is just the beginning. How do you deal with a pitch to brands vs. linear networks vs. OTT vs. digital distributors? How do you set budgets for sizzles? When do you cross the line from enough to way too much?
It takes time and focus to get the right formula. Truthfully, it is always a crap shoot. One day you are knocking it out of the park, another you bomb.
You know how this goes, its no different than what you do each and every day. But if you want to succeed in content development, you don’t have 15 years to get strong at the pitch game. You need to get this right, right away.
But having the best pitch and sizzle in the world means nothing if you can’t read the room and close the deal. Nothing beats a strong presentation. Nothing beats the ability to pivot and draw a room into your idea by giving them an opportunity to buy into development as you pitch. You might be an expert at pitching a distributor’s marketing or day-part team, but this is a new arena.
And in my next article, we’ll tackle the terror of pitching a group of jaded executives and winning them over.
Patrick Jager is a Content Consultant at RevThink and CEO of strategic advisory firm CORE Innovation Group. He is a frequent speaker, panelist and author on the topics of media, brand, and business leadership.