Here’s how most startups that never get written about approach reporters:
Let’s say you’re working on a new payments system that is obviously better than PayPal in every way, and is therefore a lock to become a multi-billion dollar business within a few years. So, you punch ‘PayPal’ into Google News, and just like that, you have a list of people who have written stories about PayPal recently.
Then you type up an email that starts with “I read your article about PayPal the other day. Very interesting! Since you’re interested in PayPal, I thought you might like to know…” You paste in your standard pitch, then you send this email to everyone on your list.
The appeal of this system is obvious — it lets you reach a lot of reporters in a limited amount of time. The trouble is that none of those reporters will read through this email. Don’t waste your time trying to disguise a mass email as a personal one. Instead, use that time to identify one person you think should be interested, and actually write your pitch for that person.
Choosing a target
Avoid the temptation to pitch the person you’d most like to have write about you. Since the time you have to spend on this is so limited, you should instead focus on the person who is most likely to write about you. The way to figure that out is simply to read about your industry — something you should probably be doing anyway.
Pay attention to who writes interesting things in your industry. If someone is regularly writing about your competitors, that person is presumably interested in what you do. When you are familiar with what someone is writing in general, you’re much better equipped to pitch them then when you’re referencing a single article.
Pitch a story, not your company
That your company exists is not, in itself, an interesting story. Your job here is to get your company into the news. But the reporter’s job is to write things their audience wants to read. You know what sorts of stories this reporter writes. Think of a what a good story written by that person and involving your company might look like, and pitch that. (For more on that, this article by former TechCrunch writer Mark Hendrickson is well worth a read.)
The easiest way to do this is to set yourself up as an expert in your field. If you write interesting things about your industry, or provide interesting data, or are just available to say interesting things about it, reporters will want to talk to you and feature you in other things they write. That isn’t as good as having a story written all about you, perhaps, but it gets your name out there, and makes your company and everything it does seem more newsworthy as a result.
For much more on all of this from reporters, widely-covered entrepreneurs, and a PR professional, check out this video of the recent Demystifying PR event:
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