What PR Pros Can Learn from the Show “Shark Tank”

(Featured from left to right: Mark Cuban, owner and chairman of AXS TV and owner of the Dallas Mavericks; Daymond John, fashion and branding expert; Barbara Corcoran, real estate mogul; Kevin O’Leary, venture capitalist; Robert Herjavec, technology innovator; and Lori Greiner, “Queen of QVC”)

By Kelly Brokaw
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

A few years ago, I would have never thought my favorite TV show in my 20s would end up being about billionaire investors funding the entrepreneurial dream. But ABC’s critically acclaimed reality show, “Shark Tank,” has grabbed my attention.

In case you’ve never watched it, entrepreneurs enter the “Shark Tank” to convince savvy, successful billionaires (the “sharks”) to invest in their companies. Some of the pitches are entertaining and full of energy, but sometimes the entrepreneurs don’t “wow” the sharks with their innovative products and ideas.

Personally, I can’t imagine owning a business … let alone pitching it to blood-thirsty billionaires — pun intended. However, as a communications professional, I can relate pitching to another type of shark: the media.

In PR, strong media relationships are crucial to landing your client placements in top-tier publications. If I’ve learned anything from watching the entrepreneurs on “Shark Tank,” it’s that pitching to the media is a delicate task that requires thoughtful planning and execution.

I’d like to share four pitching lessons I’ve learned from the more successful “Shark Tank” entrepreneurs:

1. Be prepared — Just like the entrepreneurs need to know about the investors they’re presenting to, PR pros are encouraged to do the same with the media. Before pitching a reporter, it’s helpful to know his or her background expertise. Creating a compelling pitch starts with a personal touch, like “Saw you recently covered …”

2. Tell a good story — Many entrepreneurs have presented their products to the sharks by pulling on the heart strings. Storytelling is a powerful tool that PR pros should embrace when pitching the media. With a great story accompanying your client’s outstanding product, you can play to the emotional side of a media contact or publication.

3. Have confidence — There’s a reason why they’re called sharks. For the most part, Kevin O’Leary (aka, “Mr. Wonderful”) has no problem with telling the entrepreneurs their ideas need to be “put out of their misery.” However, while pitching to the media may seem daunting, reporters are willing to listen as long as you have confidence in what you’re talking about. Keep your pitch short and sweet. It should be to-the-point, but carry enough meat to grab initial attention.

4. Be personable — With maybe the exception of “Mr. Wonderful,” sharks have feelings. Same goes for the media. When pitching reporters, remember that they want to enjoy their weekends just as much as you do. Try not to send emails late Friday afternoon. Also, try to incorporate a personal message like: “Hope you’re having a good morning” or “Have a nice weekend.” Those little acts of kindness may help you in the long run.

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