The average technology journalist receives anywhere from 80-to-100 emails a day and many of them are pitches from startups or their PR firms. Is it any wonder then that the majority of these emails wind up in the trash?
The odds of getting a journalist to read your pitch and then write a piece on it might be comparable to your actually making it across the finish line the first time you run a marathon. Even so, there are some concrete steps that you can take to increase your chances of success, while at the same time avoiding pitfalls that are almost certain to guarantee failure. These tips may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs either don’t know them or don’t take the time to follow them.
1) Do your homework—there are no short cuts. Taking the time to research how a publication defines itself and to identify the specific “beats” the journalist covers is critical. Equally important is reading her work and being able to cite examples of things you liked or found helpful. If you want a journalist to be interested in you, you need to reciprocate.
2) Tailor the pitch to the journalist. There is nothing more irritating to busy journalists than a generic pitch that has been sent to multiple sources with the hopes that someone “will bite.” Instead, find out what kind of stories they are working on or ask them what they need. Only then can you determine if your pitch is timely and relevant. If it is, make it clear that you are willing to offer them a “first look” —in effect giving them a chance to run with the story.
3) Be succinct. Get straight to the facts and avoid overused “buzzwords” and phrases. Journalists are no doubt trying to meet a deadline, so this is not the time to be clever or long-winded.
4) Show how your story is different, better, or new. Journalists need a good angle—otherwise the piece is a waste of their time and that of their readers. Maybe your startup has just closed significant funding, or attracted a high profile CEO from another company. Or maybe there is a human interest slant that is unique to your organization. Whatever the hook, your pitch has to offer something compelling to the journalist that others vying for her attention do not.
5) Email – but do not call. Getting unexpected phone calls can be extremely disruptive to anyone’s workflow, but especially journalists who are working against a deadline. A concise email pitch either connects or it doesn’t. If you’re lucky and it does, arrangements can be made at that time for a follow-up phone call and/or meeting.
Pitching to journalists is a bit like old-age….”It ain’t for sissies.” But it can be done, and done successfully, with a great deal of persistence and hard work. Everybody likes a good story. The secret is having one—and then finding the right person to tell it.
EXAMPLE PITCH EMAIL TO MEDIA:
I’m contacting you on behalf of my mobile company, acme-gaming, which just closed a $1.5MM seed-round of funding and is scheduled to launch our new app on IOS at the upcoming E3 Gaming Summit in July.
I liked the piece you wrote in AppCrunch on SimCity and how it is shifting its focus to mobile. I was particularly interested in the fact that the creators are considering introducing “chat” into the gaming experience.
Since you cover the gaming beat, would you have time for a quick call to discuss how our mobile game will be one of the first to utilize the iPhone’s gyro sensors to create games that take play off the screen and into the real world?
Francis T. Jones
Founder, Acme Gaming Co.
PART 1: of the PUBLIC RELATIONS FOR STARTUP SERIES