I’ve not been on reddit long, but I've enough karma to write a post so thought to contribute some knowledge about how to get media coverage.
For background, I'm a journalist and PR professional with years of experience working for startups.
Over the years, many entrepreneurs have told me how fed up they are with being ripped off by larger agencies. Often, they would end up paying huge retainer fees for little to no results. I think this model worked back in the day when it wasn’t possible to access the gatekeepers (unless you were a Very Important Person). Now, it’s perfectly possible to contact anyone you want. The old agency model no longer holds the cards it once did.
Now, of course if you have funds and zero time, an agency could work for you. But if you’re bootstrapping, this won’t be possible. I’ve noticed a lot of founders are very smart but lack the confidence to do their own PR. Personally, I think at the early stages, founders are best-placed to do it – because they know what they want to achieve and understand their companies inside out.
One thing I’ve discovered that many are particularly concerned about is approaching journalists. The good news is pitching is an art, not a science and you can learn! As a former journalist, I know what made me accept some pitches and disregard others. And normally it came down to how I was approached/how the pitches were written.
So here are five steps you can take to pitch your way to success (taken from a longer guide I wrote on my site).
Step one: Choose the right story
Don’t even think about contacting anyone before you’re sure the story flies. The story matters MORE THAN EVER. Because anyone can contact journalists these days, the story needs to stand out. Here’s how to make sure it's ready to go:
– Ask yourself ‘Who cares’. Why would the journalist’s audience care? If you can answer this properly, you’re starting from a good place. Remember, just because YOU care about your business doesn’t mean anyone else does. The story needs to work.
– Work out what type of story it is. Is it a feature? Fresh research? A direct review by the journalist?
– What kind of stories have your target publications covered before? How does your pitch fit into this picture? Does it offer another angle? Is it a unique, standalone product? Get this right and you’re over halfway there.
Step two: Pick the right journalist.
It is important to target the right journalist if you want to get your story published. Here’s how to do this:
– Choose five to ten journalists from your ideal publications.
– Rank them one to five/one to ten in preference order.
– Find out everything about them – use Google News, social media sites to work out their style, tone and how they like to be contacted (top tip: use hunter.io if you can’t find their email).
Step three: The pitching process
The pitching process is a delicate operation of balance and determination. Always be polite – but don’t be scared to use the art of persuasion. I recommend using the focus and scatter approach – let’s start with focus:
– Craft an email to the first journalist on your list and send it around 10am on a mid-weekday (9am is a little early)
– You should attach your press release, relevant videos, quotes, Q&As, backgrounders etc (I will put together some press release templates soon for readers)
– Look at the last time they published a story and see if you can ‘hook’ your email around this – e.g. you offer an alternative point of view in comparison to someone they’ve recently interviewed/an angle they’ve recently covered.
– If they don’t answer your email immediately, follow up the same day after lunch at around 1pm, but on the phone this time. This way, they will have had some time to read your pitch and mull it over.
– If the journalist isn’t in, try later. If you can’t get through to them after a couple of days, re-forward the original email and offer them a deadline. This means you can rule them out or in, move on and not waste time.
– If it’s a YES great! If it’s a no, get them on side so you can pitch future stories to them now they know who you are. Don’t burn any bridges. Add them on Linkedin/Twitter so you’re on their radar.
Step four: Work your way down the list until someone says YES!
Just remember to give them deadlines each time to avoid the tricky situation where two people get back to you but you’ve not given hard deadlines and you have to let one of them down (this happened to me once and the journalist was not happy).
If you’ve gone about the pitching process in the right way this process should work. But if not, the SCATTER approach works as a backup. This involves using a press release service such as Cision, ResponseSource (there are other cheaper options too) – or even better, building your own database (this can take time but is worth it in the long-term).
Step five: Share your coverage
This may sound obvious, but you need to leverage your coverage as much as possible.
-Put the story on your social media channels.
-Send out an internal memo asking staff to share content.
-Send the coverage out in an email/newsletter to clients.
-Add it to your website.
-Repurpose the content and use it for blogs on your site or externally – good for SEO!
Most of all, don’t give up and be nice. Niceness scales. And remember, journalists can be busy and a bit abrupt. Don’t take it personally. The point is, to position yourself as a source of great stories now and in the future.
Happy pitching! And if you’ve any questions message me below.