The Hollywood Pitch and your Brand
If you only had 10 seconds to explain what makes your business or brand unique what would you say? The business world calls this the “Elevator Pitch”, which is the succinct story you would tell while sharing an elevator ride. A good elevator pitch has two key components - the first, is that it’s fast. But anyone can say something quick. You know your pitch was memorable when the door opens and instead of exiting, the person puts their hand over the door to ask, “hey, I would love to talk more about that, can we grab a coffee?” Mastering the idea of “the pitch” is all about being able to explain your story quickly and leave the audience wanting more. This is something that writers in Hollywood have to do a lot (and it is the same in business, we just call it The Shark Tank).
“When you learn to synopsize a story, you learn to construct it.” - Philip Dunne, Hollywood Screenwriter
Hollywood receives thousands of screenplays each year. They can’t read them all and pitches help them sift through the pile. A pitch can create the opportunity for your screenplay to get read, so your pitch has to be good. If you can boil your story down to its most powerful essence, and it creates intrigue and interest then there is probably something there. Afterall, if you can’t get someone excited about your idea in 50 words, making it 5000 probably wont help (the same goes for a brand or product idea)! There are a lot of different techniques and varieties of the pitch out there and I will share a few of my favorites below but first let’s talk about what a great pitch has in it.
Creating and writing a pitch is not easy and requires a certain mastery of language and insight. It requires iteration, testing and the most important thing, PRACTICE. To start, you must be able to answer these 3 questions:
Who is the hero in your story?
What are they trying to do?
Who or what is in their way? (this one is really important…conflict is the lifeblood of a story)
Those 3 pieces will give you the beginnings of what you need to first write your pitch. Once written you then need to practice how you would actually present it (don’t read a pitch word for word…you will sound like a robot). It is just the way to collect your thoughts and understand where the power is in your story.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Here is one from IMDB.
A young FBI cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive help catching another serial killer.
What film is that? Of course that is The Silence of the Lambs.
Now, let’s put the pitch idea into a business or leadership example from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick. Imagine if this was how JFK shared his “space race” speech:
Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives…
Just rolls right off the tongue doesn’t it? This statement is more like business lingo bingo right? Instead his famous speech was something more like this:
We will put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade.
Clear and simple.
When I do pitch workshops with business teams I always make sure they develop a “What if…” pitch. Basically a provocative question that leaves you wanting to hear more.
What if…you could go to a zoo today and see real dinosaurs? The movie Jurassic Park
What if…you could have 1000 songs in your pocket? Steve Jobs, iPod launch
What if…your phone could find and pay for a ride to anywhere? Uber
What is your brands “What if…?” Go ahead and write it now!
Practice inspiring and compelling pitches for your brands and business ideas. Be clear what the most powerful idea behind your business is and how you would express it. Avoid the usual corporate lingo words (unless you have a unique spin to them). Lastly, remember what Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”