_winning a pitch – the big idea

Thinking about a magazine or website page-by-page and section-by-section is a great way to hone your offering and make every page special. But to win a pitch (at least from an editorial perspective) you often need a big idea that will blow your competitors out of the water.

That big idea can come in many shapes and sizes and it should demonstrate your understanding of your clients’ needs and the values of their brand. Quite often I’ve gone for ideas that build a relationship with the customers. Whether that’s soliciting reader opinions and quotes for features, running debate articles or just printing mini reader top 10 lists, these are all valuable ways to engage with your audience.

Taking this idea a step further, for a travel magazine I pitched for, I came up with the idea of surveying the client’s customers to discover where they thought paradise was. This would then enable us to come up with a top 10 list of the average Briton’s “paradise on earth”. The results were to be PR-d to the wider mainstream press and act as a prelude to the launch of the first issue.

Thanks to email and the internet, there are many innovative ways to build a stronger relationship with readers and engage them with your brand. Coming up with something innovative and that works needn’t cost a fortune either, as proved by this example from Penguin that had a mere £3k budget…


Penguin blog site



Penguin Black Classics are a range of Penguin classic novels that are all out of copyright. The range still makes a lot of money for Penguin so when a rival publishing house decided it was going to spend a lot of money promoting its Classics range, Penguin decided to come up with an innovative campaign to keep its own books in the headlines. With only a minimal marketing budget, this had to be an innovative idea.

Abiding by its core values (decent, innovative and brave), Penguin came up with an idea that would generate good PR. The publishing house sent out 1400 books (for free) to readers who signed up for them. No reader would know what book they were getting – the only stipulation was that they should read it and submit a review of the novel on Penguin’s site.

Once the books had been sent out, the team at Penguin sat back and waited for the reviews to come in. No review would be censored and a new review would be posted online every day. The idea succeeded in generating a lot of free press for the Penguin Black Classics range but even better, it generated a lot of great word-of-mouth among readers. Additionally, the type of content that was being generated by visitors meant that lots of keywords benefitted search-engine optimization.

As the reviews came in, some would be harsh and negative, others much more upbeat and positive. Some readers might say they were grateful for being introduced to a book they might not have read before. Others might hate the book they’d been sent and would never pick it up themselves. Whatever their viewpoint, other readers would respond and leave their own comments so that if someone was critical in their review someone else might point out that they missed the point of the book. Which would in turn lead someone else to add their own opinion, Overall, the site became a forum for debate, making visitors much more aware of novels they might previously have dismissed. And in the end, Penguin Black Classics had their best-ever year of sales and you can't ask for much more than that.

The campaign won a New Media Age Effectiveness Award.