Five Tips for Startups: How to Successfully Pitch to Journalists

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Nicholas Holmes co-founded startup MediaGraph to help startups pitch to make public relations accessible and affordable to small businesses, by providing them with tips, tricks, and access over social media to the journalists they are looking to access (read more about their startup founding process here). Hopefully they can lower the bar for fledgling startups; here are some beginning tips to help founders take the right approach when contacting the media (more can be found on the MediaGraph blog). 

1) Be early

The earlier, the better - in most cases. Most publications, particularly in print, work with a lead time but still have to appear up to date, which is why PR professionals will normally pre-brief journalists well in advance. 

Small businesses should do the same thing if you're pitching for coverage of an event or a specific launch date, make sure you know how long they'll need to plan, write it up and schedule it. This could range from months for glossy magazines to a few days for a newspaper and a few hours for a blog, and that's without accounting for personal preference. A well-timed warning helps everybody to plan their diaries better - and who doesn't like that?

2) Be genuine

Showing you're human can make the difference between a press release being read or deleted - especially if you're a founder. Your personality may be your best weapon against the hordes of public relations people pitching stories about larger companies. So show it! 

Include a personal note alongside whatever other material you're sending, and put all your contact details on there so that it's clear you're open for a chat. It's worth making sure they remember you as accessible, friendly and helpful, with more than an opportunistic interest in what they're writing about.

3) Be colorful

As news has moved online, the need for good pictures has only increased many blogs and outlets now insist on an accompanying image for every story and in a world where picture editors are increasingly scarce, you’ll make a journalist’s day if you can offer some. 

Offer, don’t attach; no-one likes receiving 12MB of high-res images with a pitch. But link to a Flickr/blog page with some royalty-free graphics and you’ll make friends fast. Increasingly, outlets are also embedding videos from companies they cover, so a YouTube channel is worth including if you have one.

4) Be concise

This will be especially appreciated by high-profile journalists, who receive hundreds of pitches and press releases daily. Save time by putting the title of the press release in the message subject, and make sure you're well into the meat of the pitch by the second sentence you've written. 

If you can keep your pitch to between 100-150 words, you’re on the right track. Spend a sentence or two on why you believe the story is right for the publication, and then focus on how you’re prepared to work with the journalist, perhaps by offering exclusive access, a free trial or an interview. 

5) Be relevant

This is perhaps the single biggest success factor in any pitch: you should aim to be relevant to the journalist, and relevant to the news.

Spend some time learning about the person you’re emailing and making sure you’re pushing the right buttons before you hit send. Read their recent articles to get a feel of the subjects, style and tone of what they cover think about how your news might fit into that publication and try to work that into the pitch. That doesn’t mean suggesting a particular slot, but it’s worth highlighting the aspect you think will be most interesting to their readers 

Aim to tap into a relevant current trend you know the journalist has an interest in - it’ll help them to quickly form an association with your pitch and adds credibility to what you’re saying, which is a huge bonus. It also broadens the opportunity for them to use your news, as trends tend to resurface over time.

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