Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
March 10, 2011

How Dwight Schrute Helped Me Place a Story in TIME

Here’s the short version of how to use ruthlessly brief pitches and pop culture angles to land placements such as this one on TIME’s website.

I was working with a professor in our business school who co-authored a study about the advantages and disadvantages of working with people she called “socially distinct newcomers.” That’s a perfect, precise description of what she studied, so it’s absolutely the best way to explain the concept in her academic journal article.

But it’s obviously not very familiar language that would be useful in a pitch e-mail subject line or in the lead of a news release.

So I tried to think of a word or phrase that would convey that concept in the shortest amount of words. In my pitching workshop we talk about eight creative ways to come up with new angles for pitches. I applied one of them; it hit me: the person who most embodies the phrase “socially distinct” is the character Dwight Schrute on NBC’s “The Office.” So I used him to deliver the most interesting finding of the study in brief, familiar language. Here was the subject line of my e-mail: Study: Embrace the Dwight Schrutes in your ‘office’ for better performance.

I also used him in the headline and lead of my news release.

I then applied the targeting and pitching approaches I share in my workshop, and the reaction was great.

Media loved the excuse to put a photo of Dwight on their sites. Then the HR and management trades picked it up.


  1. Ruthlessly trim your pitches to make them as short as possible.
  2. Among other possibilities, consider an image or concept made familiar through pop culture to make your pitch stand out.

If you’d like to learn more about improving your pitches and media relations skills, join me for PRSA’s new seminar, Pitching Boot Camp: Winning Over Journalists and Bloggers in the New Media Landscape.

Michael Smart
, principal of MichaelSMARTPR, has been landing top-tier coverage for 13 years. He also has trained more than 3,000 communicators across the globe how to boost their media and blog placements, including pros from Allstate, Disney, Verizon, Hilton, Honda, Edelman and many other organizations, large and small. He has twice been among the top-rated presenters at the PRSA International Conference.

As a public relations practitioner, you may have at one time or another faced the challenge of successfully pitching to harried journalists and public-relations-averse bloggers. To help you boost your coverage, media pitching coach Michael Smart will share hundreds of powerful tips and techniques in Pitching Boot Camp: Winning Over Journalists and Bloggers in the New Media Landscape, March 22, New York.

Register now for this seminar with the code PITCH03, and gain free access to one PRSA on-demand webinar.

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