Three Takeaways from the Book, ‘Pitch Perfect: How to Say it Right the First Time, Every Time,’ That Can Be Applied to PR and Media Interviews

By Annmarie Ely 

When you think of the interviews you have genuinely enjoyed listening to, what kinds of communicators come to mind? They probably captured your attention early on, got to the point, included interesting anecdotes or stories, and spoke with confidence. Are some people just great communicators, while others are destined to lose their audiences? According to Bill McGowan, being an engaging communicator is something we can all learn.

McGowan is a former journalist turned media trainer and communications coach who helps clients deliver their messages with “enthusiasm, conviction, and confidence.” His clients have included executives from well-known companies as well as professional athletes. He co-authored the book, “Pitch Perfect,” with Alisa Bowman to share lessons he has learned from helping clients improve their communication skills. These lessons, which are distilled into seven principles, can be applied to public speaking, interviews, or any important conversation.


Of the seven principles in the book, below are three that are especially relevant for PR and media interviews.

  1. Scorsese Principle – This principle, which McGowan named for director Martin Scorsese, is about approaching your communication like a film in the mind of the listener. McGowan suggests that speakers use anecdotes, visuals, and analogies to entice the listener to follow along. A great example of this principle is an analogy used by Lora Bartlett, an associate professor of education at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In an interview with The Hechinger Report,  instead of simply saying teaching remotely while teaching in person is challenging for teachers, she used a compelling comparison. Bartlett compared the teachers’ experiences to having to drive a car while playing a driving video game at the same time. This memorable visual is a much more engaging way to share information. Consider how you can incorporate visual comparisons to help an audience understand or connect with your message.

  2. Pasta Sauce Principle – This principle is about “boiling it down.” McGowan recommends considering what is truly necessary to communicate your most important points. Could you cut a third? Could you cut half? Boiling down your message to the most important information ensures you’re getting across what you need to while still making the interview engaging.

  3. Conviction Principle – This principle is about believing in your message and conveying confidence. You can convey confidence by practicing avoiding phrases like “kind of,” “sort of,” and “like.” McGowan also recommends that speakers skip using industry jargon. If your topic is highly technical, make sure you’re communicating in a way that is accessible. Replacing industry jargon with clear, easy-to-understand language will allow you to reach more people and make the conversation appealing to a wider audience.

McGowan recommends practicing the seven principles and focusing on gradual improvement. He suggests watching interviews and speeches and trying to determine which principles are being used. When applying the principles, he recommends focusing on improving one at a time instead of all seven at once. McGowan suggests recording and watching or listening to yourself speak, when possible, to track progress and areas where you could continue to improve.

To read all seven principles and to learn more, you can find the book here.