Take the “So What” Test

Years ago I created my own media pitch template which, other than a few tweaks here and there, has proven to work time and time again. It has five different parts to it, each one equally important and necessary to convey to media why they should stop, look, and listen to the idea being presented. The five parts include the big idea, the “so what?”, the source, talking points, and other available “goodies” that make the story appealing.

The “big idea” is one or two sentences that explain over all what you’re presenting. Then we move on to the “so-what” and that’s what I want to focus on today.

So what?

Here you are sharing the topic of your book, or the idea for a news story and it’s the most important thing in your life these days. You’ve researched, you’ve written your book, you’re an expert who is known in your field, yet you are not known by media…yet. Yes, it’s important to you, but the question is:

How important do you think it is to the media person you’re pitching?

Chances are, not all that much. Ever heard of the station WII-FM? It stands for “What’s in it for me?” The media person is evaluating your idea and is asking what’s in it for his or her audience. You have to be able to answer that question and convince them quickly. Here’s the answer to the “so what?” factor. Here’s why you should care. This is why I am the one to address this and address it now. You have to be able to do that quickly and in a compelling way.

This means you must learn how to think like a journalist, producer, editor, or whoever you’re targeting. What do they want? They get pitched countless times every day, particularly the top-tier media, so when you present your big idea and why it matters to them and their audience, you have to do it well. If you do, they will take notice of you. I guarantee it. Why does your message matter to their audience? Bonus points if your idea is unique.

As authors, researchers, experts, speakers, and successful business people, it’s humbling to have to do this. I understand, and yet it must be done.

Another important point to remember is that this is not about your book. With the exception of book reviews, media folks and influencers are looking for information, tips, and expertise that you can share with them and their audience to make their lives better in some way. The book helps make you that expert. The book gives you added credibility and contains additional information, but the reason you’re there is to share information that will hook them into wanting more from you.

When you answer the “so what?” that’s active in their minds, a statistic, or a study, or some phenomenal fact can be very persuasive here. Or, maybe by pointing out the pain or dilemma or difficulty your audience will end up in if they don’t follow your advice.

Is your answer to the “so what” question inspiring, surprising, unusual, informative, relevant, topical, educational? It better be.

This may go without saying, but in order to answer the “so what” test, you have to know the media person’s audience to know what matters to them. What interests the readers of The Washington Post might well be different from what the viewers of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday want to hear about.

Boiling Down the Message

Probably the most difficult part of creating any pitch is boiling down your message to just a few words or one or two sentences. You know a lot. You’ve written a book about it. Summarizing that in just a sentence or two is very challenging. Personally, I believe it’s one of the big reasons you hire a publicist. Most people think they hire a publicist for media coverage, but the only way you’re going to get that is if he or she can boil down your wealth of knowledge into easily digestible sound bites, and then pitch it. It’s nearly impossible to do for yourself, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t been able to. We all need help from time to time.

After you pass the initial part of the “so what?” test, the media person will ask for proof. Be ready for that. There are a few different ways to do this:

Evidence: This would be in the form of studies, numbers, facts. Example: Did you know that according to the latest Gallup report, 51% of workers are disengaged at work?

Examples: This is where you tell a story that has the listener formulating pictures in his or her mind of what you’re describing. A brief story or anecdote, well told, can make a huge difference when getting someone to say “yes” to you.

Explanation: This is where you tell them something about the big idea, often an explanation of what to do to resolve the issue, but be careful. If you rely on this too much at the expense of evidence and examples, you may find yourself meandering. That is going to defeat the purpose.

Bottom line

The “so what?” factor, or the WII-FM factor, is lurking in the back of the minds of anyone from whom you are asking something. Remember that, address it in a compelling way, and you will get the coverage you seek.

To your success!


P.S. Some Miles Davis with a little “So what?” You can even hear the “so what” in the music right here. I have a lot of people taking advantage of my Media Strategy Sessions. It’s a great way to discover the campaign that would be perfect for your book.




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