Sean Captain – Media SharkTank is a chance to clear many waters

26Business journalists–like many other people, I suspect–spend too much of our time shoveling irrelevant email from our inboxes. In our case, most of the messaging sludge is poorly targeted, or completely aimless, PR pitches. And when we do say yes to a meeting with a promising company–be it new or newly innovating–we may regret our decision. Sometimes, we hear what sound like infomercials; other times, what sound like reheated investor pitches. No matter what I think of the pitch, though, I’m always impressed by how long a CEO or VP can talk without taking a breath (a good skill for deep-sea diving).

It's easy--and momentarily satisfying--to point at a mess and complain. Journalists love doing that about bad pitches. But 10Fold's Media SharkTank offers a chance to actually make things better for everyone. Click To Tweet

It’s easy–and momentarily satisfying–to point at a mess and complain. Journalists love doing that about bad pitches. (Check our Twitter feeds, if you don’t already.) But 10Fold’s Media SharkTank offers a chance to actually make things better for everyone. And the effort benefits Baykeeper, an organization that can be a model for us all. Since 1989, instead of complaining when it sees a mess in San Francisco Bay waters, Baykeeper instead gets the word out so pollution can be stopped at its origin.

In that spirit, Media SharkTank allows both the hacks and the flacks to clean up our shared mess at the source. Companies take their best shot at pitching products and services to seasoned journalists. And instead of eye rolls, they get tips. Cut down the jargon. Provide more examples. Pause for a breath so I can ask a question. It’s a collaborative, non-judgmental workshop with honest feedback from professionals who–I admit–can be judgy sometimes.

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I attended my first Media SharkTank last year and enjoyed the rare chance to drop the neutral mask of the journalist and let loose about what I didn’t like–as well as what I did–in company pitches. It’s also fun, and informative, to find out what entrepreneurs are really thinking, and worrying about, behind their presentation smiles. I likewise enjoyed getting to know fellow journalist judges on the panel–outside the frenzy of press events when we’re elbowing each other to get the story.

My motivation is partly selfish: If I can help get rid of bad pitches, it removes aggravation from my life. And it improves the chance that I’ll actually understand what companies and their agencies are pitching me. I may or may not go for it, but at least I’ll know what it is. Best of all, Media SharkTank is bigger than reducing my workday gripes. Our efforts that night support the organization doing the most to protect the Bay that we call home.

By Sean Captain

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