Strange pitches can drive innovation (and the 2013 Halloween costume)

As PR practitioners, we’re always on the lookout for media opportunities for our clients (and ourselves) to build reputations, grow brands, and find new audiences. In that process, we see some of the craziest, most unusual pitch requests, from people asking for medical practitioners to comment on a fad in Asia of licking eyeballs and its potential for communicable diseases to a pitch we saw yesterday, asking if social media can predict this year’s top Halloween costume.

Group: HARO/Profnet Hall of Fame ~ - Enterprise Edition

Such pitch requests, while funny and amusing, can also be a source for inspiration because they’re intriguing problems to solve. Who do you know that might have a legitimate answer to that very strange question? What methods do you have at your disposal to answer the question? Far from being idle exercises, thinking about unusual and strange pitches from media sources can help you hone your skills at innovative pitching. What if you had a client for whom you had to deliver on a ridiculous media request?

Yesterday we received a request asking if social media could predict this year’s top Halloween costume. When faced with a seasonal, relevant, topical pitch like this, what would you do to find out? Your answer is determined by your skills and capabilities and can at the very least indicate what new skills, tools, or resources you need to be a more capable PR practitioner. As an example, here was our thought process for this media inquiry.

We looked at what was being shared on Twitter anecdotally to start, to establish some context and understand the words and phrases people were using to talk about Halloween costumes from a qualitative perspective. Had this been on behalf of a paying client, rather than something that just generated a laugh in the office, we might have done an even more formal qualitative analysis to begin, but for an offbeat media pitch request with no paying client, this was a good place to start.

Next, we fired up our in-house data tools and, with the qualitative results in hand, we began to do data collection, downloading thousands of Tweets about Halloween costumes in the last 30 days.

Finally, we washed the data through an quantitative analysis tool to distill out actual costumes (versus amusing snark such as “my Halloween costume this year will be a government shutdown”) to arrive at the answer.

These same methods, used to solve an amusing and strange media pitch request, can now be added to our toolbox of useful ways of finding information for future pitches that might be more relevant for our clients, and can be written down as a “recipe” that can be shared and taught across the agency. If you feel like your pitching skills are getting rusty, if you feel like you’re not innovating enough, try tackling amusing media requests to stimulate your imagination and drive innovation!


Oh, and if you were wondering what the likely most popular 2013 Halloween costume is going to be? Based on our first (and only) pass at the data we collected, it’s probably going to be variations on the costume Miley Cyrus wore at the VMAs. If you’re a retail merchant, stock up on those foam hands.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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