Pitches can take many different forms. Some come in the form of grant proposals, while others may try to pursue more journalistic routes and get their research published in a national magazine or niche journal. In the latter case, the pitch only encompasses one email being sent to one person as to why your article or story is worthy of publication.
That’s in part why pitches can be so difficult to navigate. Turning an academic background into a successful pitch means approaching the right people at the right time, and making them believe that your approach will have some greater purpose, for their organization or society. This is not easy work, as it takes interpersonal skills, analytical skills, and also some level of intuitive decision making.
If your pitch, or your team's pitch, does turn into a journal article, a cash prize, or a new company program, such an accomplishment breeds professional success and makes the whole process worthwhile, and exciting. Here are the steps to getting there:
Step 1: Understand current events in conjunction with your call to action
When sending a submission for a piece looking to get published in a magazine, submission guidelines usually require you to have some “pitch” in mind. This pitch is not just about what you’ve written, but how your writing applies to larger societal constructs and issues of interest during a political, economic, or social moment. For example, the next presidential election in November presents an opportunity for political commentators and academics alike to comment and argue for or against certain candidates or policies for the progression of our nation. Such issues, made into compelling narratives, against the backdrop of the upcoming election, create weight in the sphere of editorials right now.
Even if you’re a young writer, in this case, being able to make associations between topics that haven’t been covered yet presents an opportunity for a board of reviewers to see how your contribution to the issue takes an unconventional, but perhaps noteworthy perspective to a pressing issue.
Step 2: Look at your pitch from a mathematical angle
On a different note, some pitches require taking more calculated risks. For example one of the reasons it might be advantageous to apply for a grant with a small organization is not only because they may be more niche and easier to communicate with throughout the grant process—it’s because they probably have fewer applicants too. From a probability perspective, an individual or organization has a higher chance of winning a grant if the granting body is seeing fewer proposals and has more time to scrutinize over the proposal in question.
A similar strategy is recommended to authors or novelists looking to publish a new piece of work. Going with your pitch idea to a major publishing house represents a high risk/high reward scenario. It is high risk because there is a high probability that your submission and hard work will get lost in the stack, but it’s also a high reward if your book idea does get noticed because the name brand of the publishing house carries so much value.
Step 3: Use your networking abilities to build a proposal team
This is where interpersonal skills come in handy. Strong research or academic background means little if you can’t assemble a team to work on projects with. That is a major utility of having specialized knowledge in a subject matter—you can share your worth on sites like Impactio or LinkedIn, and get others interested in the same topics, hopefully for some higher purpose.
The collaboration, or spark, one gets from teaming up with someone else who shares the same enthusiasm and vision for the pitch also increases the likelihood that such a pitch will be more encompassing and thorough by the time the proposal is sent out.
This is because hearing others' feedback, criticism, and ultimately a contribution to a pitch or idea puts two different perspectives together and can safeguard the pitch from missing key angles or topics that need to be discussed from the viewpoint of the reviewing body or organization.
This is easily the case with grant proposals. Usually, a dedicated team works on the proposal—one person does the abstract, one person works on the literature review, and one person works on the personnel involved and budget (this latter part usually falls into the hands of someone with the most financial literacy). Then the entire team needs to review what everyone else wrote for the purpose of proofreading, but also to question assumptions being made, to make sure all of the research is sound and conclusive when being sent out for judgment.