How to pitch your startup to the media

How to pitch your startup to the media

Tuesday July 05, 2016,

5 min Read


Social media marketing may be at its peak now, but it hasn’t outdone the traction press coverage gives you; the simple reason being that here someone else is doing the talking for you. Getting your business covered in high profile newspapers, magazines or websites can boost your brand in a huge way. It increases your visibility and cements your reputation. It can pique the interest of customers, investors and even potential talent. Whether you are looking to build a good brand image, planning to scale your startup or launch a new product or service, media coverage works best to get you noticed.

Image credits: Shutterstock
Image credits: Shutterstock

However, this is easier said and done. Journalists are bombarded with press releases, and sending them a generic note is not going to get you anywhere. According to the influencer research site Buzzstream, 44 per cent journalists reported of having received a minimum of 22 pitches per day. The Harvard Business Review, too, provides information that says that writers at top-tier publications receive three times the number of emails a year than an average worker. So, catching a journalist’s attention is not an easy task. What you need is a good publicity strategy which is carefully thought-out and planned. Here’s how you can pitch your business the right way to journalists and gain positive press coverage.

Pitch to individual journalists

Instead of disseminating your press release to the entire newsroom, focus on individuals. Find out who covers the niche you want to be featured in and establish contact with them. Build a relationship with such journalists well before you pitch a story to them. Social networking sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are good starting points. But don’t make the mistake of jumping in with a pitch as soon as they connect with you. In the Buzzstream survey, about 64 per cent journalists said that they think it is important to establish a personal connection before pitching. Establishing a relationship with a writer also lets you understand the kind of stories he/she is interested in. This will help you tailor your pitch accordingly.

Read the writer’s stories and personalise

Read up on what they have written before, the angles they choose to talk about and this will give you an idea of how to shape your pitch in a way as to interest them. The ground rule for creating an effective press release is to personalise them for each journalist to whom you send it. If you are in a hurry, you could mark the other recipients on BCC. While personalising your email, talk about any article the writer has previously written. This is a good way to catch their attention. Talk about what you learned from the article and, if possible, tie it to the work your company does.

Pitch ideas, not your business

Journalists receive many emails in a day asking if they can “fit a brand into” any of the stories they are working on. Accept that reporters will not be interested in the history of your company or your product as a standalone story. Instead, find an interesting angle to base your pitch on. Focus on people, not numbers and data. If all you want is coverage and visibility, you should opt for advertisements that glorify your company and its products. What an article in a well-read publication gives you is much more than visibility. So, make an effort to tell an interesting story and offer a few angles they could work with. This not only shows that your company or product is newsworthy in more than one way, but it also gives reporters more options to work with.

Keep it short and lightweight

Reporters may not have the time to read a really long email. Even if you have established a connection with them, it is likely that your long pitch mail is going to be kept aside for future reading (read: they might not read it at all.) So, cut to the chase. Your pitch should not exceed one paragraph. Explain why the story is important and what information you can provide them with. Also, avoid attaching gigantic files or images to your emails. Nowadays, no one even downloads attachments from people they are not familiar with.

Don’t turn into a creepy stalker

While it’s certainly okay to follow up, it’s definitely not okay to become creepy. Do not keep calling reporters up if they do not respond to your call. It is best to clarify right in your first meeting, call or email their desired mode and time to be contacted. Don’t send them a pitch email and call the very next second. Two days is a good interval to take before you call them. Leave a message if they do not pick up. Yes, only one message. Journalists will appreciate your courtesy and get in touch with you if you follow basic etiquette rules.

Before you get in touch with journalists, make sure that all your required press material is ready. Honour meetings and stick to deadlines. Stay in touch with journalists who have featured you; follow them on social media and be updated about your work. All this increases your chances of gaining a positive response from them.