How NOT to pitch your startup to a reporter
In this Hubbub Labs Startup Academy post Entrepreneur Magazine Contributor George Chilton gives startup founders some key advice when it comes to pitching their stories to the media.
It is easy to mess up when you pitch your article or news story to a journalist. Do it wrong and you won’t see results. And – more often than not – it will feel like you are talking to a brick wall.
Here are 4 big mistakes that you should avoid when pitching – and what you should do instead. With the right approach, you’ll soon see your name hit the headlines.
1. Don’t offer money. Ever.
Offering money to a journalist to cover your story is tantamount to bribery. Do this and any self-respecting reporter will add you to their SPAM list.
Other than being wholly unethical, it will make you look foolish and will show that you don’t understand how the media works.
Articles have to be newsworthy, not promotional. Journalists cover stories that they deem interesting to their readerships. Ideally, the content will generate clicks, ad revenues and will add value.
On the other hand, you should never pay a reporter if they ask you to. In fact, if this happens you should make a complaint to their editor. This is a serious problem for any publication, as you can see in this remarkable TechCrunch apology.
There is a caveat, however. Native ads – like this one on Forbes – are legitimate and support the media industry.
Bear in mind that these articles will be clearly labelled as promotional content and are not nearly as effective as earned media. In fact, only 24 percent of readers consume native ad content – and many feel “deceived” if they read an article only to find out it was an advertisement at the end.
If you do want a publication to accept a sponsored article promoting your company, by all means go ahead. But be transparent – and talk to the marketing department, not to a journalist.
2. Don’t send irrelevant pitches or press releases
Reporters have beats, which means they cover particular areas or topics. I like to write about startups, entrepreneurship and PR, for example. The day I was pitched to write about an Gold Investment platform was a strange one for me. Needless to say I passed up the opportunity.
Basically, if you pitch an irrelevant story it is unlikely that your email will even get opened.
While it might be obvious that you shouldn’t pitch a completely off-topic story, you should be aware that beats can get quite granular. For example, if you target a FinTech reporter with a new iOS mortgage app, ensure they write about banking, finance and apps. They might well be focused on an entirely different area like blockchain.
You won’t be blacklisted for getting it wrong, but it will be a waste of time and energy on your part. It’s often a good idea to explain to the reporter why you think your pitch is relevant to them. It shows you’re not simply cutting and pasting the same template email to hundreds of reporters.
3. Don’t be too generic
Yes, yes. I know what you just said. There’s no time to write dozens of perfectly targeted and personalised emails to journalists. They probably won’t even read it, right? Waste.Of.Time.
You’re right, there is no time for that – and journalists know it too.
However, a Dear Sir/Madam pitch is taking it too far.
Do this instead:
- Use the journalist’s name and spell it right
- Add a quick line expressing why the story is relevant to their readership (in your opinion)
- Copy and paste the rest of the pitch below
4. Don’t be (too) annoying
While persistence is a almost considered a virtue in the entrepreneurial world, there is a line you should not cross.
If an email has gone unopened or you have received a positive response, but no firm commitment to publish, by all means continue the conversation for a time.
But you should not continue to bug a reporter that has said no to your press release or article. They don’t have time to argue with you, and you’ll never convince them to write about your company if it isn’t a good fit for them.
So move on, or be sent to the bowels of their junk folders.
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