Hate and Loathing in Pitching: How Not to Look Miserable in Journos’ Eyes

A few dos and dont’s when it comes to pitching to journalists.

Tech companies need mass media coverage to win new customers and grow loyalty of their current client base, attract investors, partners, and talent. But pitching to journalists isn’t an easy job even though some founders think so. Honestly, it’s more of a hot race with hundreds of startups bombarding journos’ emails on a daily basis. That’s why it’s important to do it with surgical precision to get through.

I follow many tech reporters on social media and I often see them complaining about absurd pitches they get from desperate PR people or even from founders themselves. Sometimes I have to deal with the results of these failed efforts myself when there’s a new client who had been attempting to do PR before and got disappointed because it led to no success. The fiasco very often comes from doing pitching wrong. The worst thing is that journalists remember failed pitches better than the proper ones and it takes time and pain to fix a company’s reputation among reporters.

How to make sure that your pitch will fail

There are a few tactics that will lead you to success if your goal is to scare the knights of the pen away:

Don’t read the media you are planning to pitch to. If they write about tech, no need to go into detail. It doesn’t matter if your product is medtech and their features are exclusively about fintech. No need to know what type of articles they prefer and who their usual newsmakers are. 

Don’t research the journalist you are going to pitch. All reporters are the same, they can and love to cover any topic there is. They generally have no specific interests and expertise, and are able to write about nuclear science today and about some social media crisis tomorrow.

If you don’t believe me, believe the actual Techcrunch reporter.

No need to be personal. Again, all media and journos are the same, so simply write one pitch for everyone, then copy and paste it. You’ll need this energy later when there’s time for the follow-up. Don’t even bother to learn the names of your addressees.

Consider everything to be newsworthy not to lose a chance. My unfriendly advice would be: new icons in your app must be on the news. The more you email reporters, the better they remember you. One day they’ll give up and publish something about your company.  

Keep sending follow-ups everyday until there’s an answer. If they can’t reply to the hundred emails they get in one working day straight away, they are unprofessional.  

Surprise them with an email on Sunday, so that an article about your company might come out on Monday. Personal time? Never heard of that. h

What are the ‘do’s of pitching then?

It seems cruel to give only bad advice and leave no useful tips, so here are a few ‘do’s for successful pitching: 

Do your research. Read the outlet you want to be published in and try to understand how you can fit in among their features and newsmakers. If it’s an independent reporter, look through all their writing and social media to understand if it’s a match for your pitch. People will work with you eagerly if you consider their interests and perceive them as individuals, not functions.

Provide the explanation as to why your pitch is relevant. Journos may have no idea about your company and have very little time to dive in, so you need to explain to them why and how your pitch is newsworthy and relevant to their audience and interests. Rely on the research that you’ve carried out in step one.

Respect their time and don’t bother them in the evenings and on days-off. Also, considering time, always write to the point and don’t make them read immoderately wordy pitches.

Connect via work email or LinkedIn. Respect boundaries and never reach out to journalists via DMs in their personal social media, like Facebook or Instagram, unless they’ve invited you to do so themselves. Use only emails they share for work enquiries or LinkedIn. 

Give exclusive stories because journalists highly appreciate them. If you have something truly interesting, don’t rush things by sending it out to a dozen reporters. Choose the most preferable one and pitch to that person. Actually, you are less likely to get coverage in any publications if you send mass emails to all the journos from your contact list.   

Follow-up twice or thrice (and no more) with a gap of 2-3 working days as reporters need time to process the information and make a decision about whether they want to write an article or not.  

PR is not as easy as it seems from a distance, it requires tons of effort. But it feels utterly rewarding to be featured in publications you can be proud of while building amiable connections with journalists.

The article was originally published on PRWeek

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