Before & After with #FixMyPitch Grand Prize Winner Pacific Education Institute

Pacific Education Institute--wicked smart people who needed their pitch fixed

Recently, we did a Before & After with #FixMyPitch Grand Prize Winner, Seacoast Science Center. Today, we showcase our second Grand Prize Winner–the Pacific Education Institute (PEI).

The lovely folks at the Pacific Education Institute are smart. Wicked smaht. They have great, big brains. Generally speaking, that’s a good thing. But when it comes to using language to increase your impact, big brains can get in the way. That’s because smart people tend to use big words. And big words tend to make the rest of us tired. Because we have to think really hard about what the smart person we’re talking to is saying. It’s hard to ask questions and engage in a conversation when you’re not quite sure what the other person is saying. And who wants to say, “I have no idea what you’re saying”? No one, that’s who.

In addition to being brainiacs, the PEI crew suffers from the Curse of Knowledge. This means they know everything there is to know about their subject. They know it inside and out. Frontwards and backwards. Up and down. We all suffer from this curse to some extent. Whether you’re curing cancer, fighting hunger, or using technology to make the world a better place, you know a lot about your thang. This is great in terms of your mission, and terrible in terms of your messaging. You tend to tell people everything there is to know about your work, rather than breaking it down into digestible, bite-size bits. If someone is interested in the essence of what you do, you’ll have the opportunity to tell them your everything. If you start with your everything, they remember nothing. (So sad.)

So, knowing what you now know about Pacific Education Institute and their great, big brains and their Curse of Knowledge, here’s their super-smart pitch before we worked on it:

Before: The future of our planet relies on the ability of today’s children to visualize and manage an environmentally healthy world that sustains life. By connecting students with local environments while engaging them in real-world project based learning, we are working towards a solution. Pacific Education Institute (PEI) is a nonprofit 501(C)3 that creates and delivers frameworks for students to learn more effectively and helps teachers through rigorous academic FieldSTEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) increase the number of students that understand the complex relationship between the environment, economy and human needs. We take K-12 school kids outside, anywhere, and challenge them to drastically improve their thinking skills so that they are able to solve the real-world environmental and economic problems facing our communities

That’s heavy, dude.

I asked PEI what the one thing is that they really wanted people to know about their work. After churning through a few options (many of which included scrabble-worthy words), they landed on their one thing: that students succeed academically when they learn outdoors. Everything else flows from that core concept. They proved years ago that learning outdoors improved student success. Is it more complicated than that? Why yes, yes it is. But, in simple, straight-forward terms, that’s the one thing they want people to know.

With that core concept firmly in hand, we turned our attention to creating a sentence that was easy-to-say and interesting enough to remember. Here’s where they landed:

After: We’re the ones who proved that students succeed academically when they learn outdoors.

Bam! PEI got rid of all the jargon and complicated concepts, and came up with a sentence that is remarkable—meaning someone might remark on it to someone else.

It’s easy to envision a conversation that goes something like this: “Have you heard of Pacific Education Institute? They’re the ones that proved that students succeed academically when they learn outdoors. Pretty cool, eh?”

Figure out which knowledge you’re cursed with and then figure out how to chunk out that knowledge into short, easy to understand statements that will guide someone from knowing you, to understanding you, to engaging with you.

Thanks to the Pacific Education Institute for being willing to use their great, big brains to come up with messaging that’s as compelling as their work.

Looking for more free resources to help you fix your pitch? Check out Claxon’s Messaging Toolkit.


Pitching Passion & Passionate Pitching

engagement, connection, marketing, fundraising, strategy
Engagement Cycle: know, understand, engage

Most people passionate about what they do have one of two reactions when someone asks about their work.

Reaction #1: In a blur of words and hand gestures, they share every single amazing tidbit of info they have in their brain about their mission, vision, values. The impact they are having. The change they are making. The awesome that they are unleashing in the name of making the world a better place! They pause only long enough to ask themselves: “How could someone not jump at the chance to be a part of something that is so, so, so, so fabulous?!!!!!!!!!”

Reaction #2: They give the most boring account ever of what they do and why they do it. No passion is present. It evaporates into thin air. Poof. Gone.

Both of these reactions happen for the same reasons: these poor people have fallen into the “elevator pitch” trap, which mushes three pitches into one, AND they don’t know how to channel their enthusiasm for their work. So they either over talk or under talk. Either way. It’s ain’t pretty.

If you want donors to donate, volunteers to volunteer, board members to serve, etc etc etc, you have to create a clear engagement path that is supported by a series of pitches. I went into this when introducing the #FixMyPitch contest I’m doing with Beth Kanter, so you can get all the details in that post. The bottom line is you need to divide your pitches into three categories: know, understand and engage. (Note that there is no ‘elevator pitch’ category. Like phones with chords, that category is a thing of the past.)

In the coming weeks, we’ll be revealing the before and after pitches for the contest winners.  In the meantime, ask yourself: “do I have a clear engagement path with supporting pitches?” If you don’t, read the #FixMyPitch post, watch for the before and after examples, and start structuring the passion in your pitches by divvying them up into three tidy categories, rather than mushing them into one extinct category!

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?