Seeing your startup’s name in the media is uniquely rewarding, especially after all the hard work you’ve put into building your business. Media coverage enhances your brand visibility, reputation, and SEO. That being said, media outreach takes time, consistency, and flexibility. Outreach yields valuable industry buzz for your startup — provided it’s done correctly.
However, gaining media recognition can be difficult if your lean startup doesn’t yet have the means to partner with a PR agency to accomplish media. At this point, striving to attain media connections requires internal effort.
We’re sharing some of the best dos and don’ts of pitching the media to gain visibility and brand traction for startups.
What is a pitch?
To master pitching best practices, it’s vital first to understand: what is a pitch? In digital domains, a pitch is generally an email to a journalist hoping to gain coverage.
Pitch style differs depending on the subject matter. For example, a press release will vary when pitching a specific journalist on an interview or news piece. While this may appear simple, pitching the media requires finesse to gain desired coverage.
To begin your successful pitch, you must know where to reach out. This step requires well-planned research. Researching media allows you to create a targeted media list to maximize your chance of gaining media attention. Conversely, poor media research leads to pitching uninterested journalists.
A poorly researched pitch may not only harm your chances of getting covered but may also leave a bad taste in journalists’ mouths, affecting your startup’s reputation with the media as a whole.
For the best chance at locating the right journalists, begin by creating a list of keywords within your expertise. Once you have this list, search these results in Google News and other news outlets. This step will enable you to discover trade media. Pay attention to the journalist that focuses on your topics, and you have a refined targeted list.
Create a killer headline
The subject line is the gatekeeper of your email. Therefore, your first challenge to overcome when pitching journalists is to get them to open the email. If your subject line doesn’t grab the journalist’s interest, they won’t continue reading.
Some best practices for headlines include:
- Keep it short (Google may filter it as spam if it is too long)
- Use attention-grabbing numbers
- Make an announcement
- Offer the main point of your email
Don’t forget to include the name of your company! For more information on creating subject lines that pack a punch, check out our previous post.
Keep it short
Keep your pitch simple and concise. There’s no reason your email should ever be confused for an article. If your email is longwinded and confusing, the journalist won’t read it. You’ll need to find a way to include all your necessary information without sacrificing brevity.
The journalist will most likely skim your email, so make it scannable. What’s the easiest way to do this? Use short paragraphs, keywords, bullet points, and numbers in your data where applicable.
Journalists often receive hundreds of emails every day. Many times, they may not see your email the first go around. Sending a follow-up email is not considered rude but a best practice.
A good rule of thumb here is to follow up if you haven’t received a response within 48 hours. According to Muck Rack, 55% of journalists are okay with one follow-up email, but only 27% are okay with a second follow-up.
Send mass emails
Personalizing your pitch is just as important as researching the journalists you’ll be pitching. Journalists desire to feel that you have an exclusive story to tell them – and only them. Understandably, their interest will decrease if they can tell this is a mass-produced, broad email pitch.
Using a journalist’s name is an excellent way to personalize an email pitch, but it isn’t the only way. Begin your email by explaining why you think they may be interested based on stories they’ve covered in the past. This attention to detail shows journalists you respect their time and domain.
Wait until the last minute
Whether you’re pitching an event, funding announcement, interview opportunity, or another timely topic, it’s best to give the media plenty of lead time for the story to be published. Some outlets plan their content weeks or months in advance, forcing journalists to think ahead.
An excellent way to ensure your pitch has the best chance of getting featured in the media is to give them enough time to pick up the story. If, for instance, you’re pitching a conference interview opportunity, email them a couple of weeks in advance. Giving ample notice allows journalists to plan for the interview, helping avoid missed opportunities due to time crunches.
Note: certain publications will need more or less of a heads-up than others. Publications like TechCrunch and Crunchbase only need about a week’s advance notice.
Forget the proof
Anyone can claim their company announcement is newsworthy. However, these claims are worth little without added proof. Include numbers, social evidence, why they should care about your pitch, and any documents needed to pique their interest.
For instance, include the release you’re announcing. Also, feel free to name-drop references, past successes, and noteworthy accomplishments to support your claims.
By following these do’s and don’ts of media pitching, you’ll be well on your way to attaining media coverage.
Pitching the media takes time. Don’t give up if you don’t reach the coverage you hope for in the first weeks! It’s normal for media coverage to take time, practice, and persistence. After all, a superb media lease isn’t built in a day. But media contacts will develop over time, leading to greater coverage as your company grows.