Pitching Your Startup to the Media
Joshua Davidson wrote this article
At Chop Dawg over the past several years, we have had the great fortune to see our clients successfully featured on some of the top digital and print publications on the planet. It’s a truly humbling experience, and above all, it says a lot about the type of people we have the privilege to work with and the products that they have been able to visualize and create.
One of our biggest strengths is teaching our clients how to target the media, and most importantly, how to promote themselves as an asset to the media so that they want to do a feature story. This blog post is to better assist all startups and entrepreneurs to position themselves so the media showers you with free advertising through feature articles.
First and foremost, let’s get to the biggest thing that I need to communicate right off the bat. Nobody gives a crap about your startup at first. Sometimes it is painful to understand the reality of this right away, especially when you consider your startup to be your first child, since you are so emotionally invested, and more-than-likely, financially invested. You want to stand on top of the largest rooftop and scream at the top of your lungs to get people’s attention. It makes perfect sense. Every entrepreneur has been there. Hell, I have been there.
With that said, to a third-party, someone without the personal connections, even if you are solving a problem that directly relates to them, they will not care at first. The only exception to the rule is if you have a branded name, such as Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, or someone elite in the entrepreneurial game. Odds are if you’re reading this, you are not one of them.
So good, the first and most important fundamental truth has been established. Now let’s look at the media’s perspective. They do not want to be pitched by every company under the sun (websites for this purpose already exist, such as a great website called ProductHunt.com). The media wants something different. They want a story to sell. They want a narrative to paint. They want something that people will want to consume, that gives them value.
This is the biggest piece that I cannot stress enough, you need to create a story that the media will want to leverage. Think about how you can do that. Do you have a personal story that is unique? Do you have a personal success story related to your startup that could be leveraged? Do you have a certain type of content that the media would love? This is one of the major aspects we spend the most time with our clients on. This can’t be artificially crafted. It needs to be organic. I can promise you and can vouch for my friends in the media; they identify bullshit from a mile away. They are the ones that deal with this every single day.
Your story takes time. Your story shapes, spins, matures, and pivots as you build your product, after you launch, and after you grow. Part of your story stems from being a good salesperson. Another, from being a great story-teller. Take time, practice with others, identify what works, what doesn’t, what gets people talking, and what gets individuals to engage.
Now the next step is targeting; knowing who in the media to attract. The biggest rookie mistake is sending out a blast email to everyone in the media. First, the media talks to each other. A lot of writers are friends. Two, again, the media can identify bullshit quickly. Nothing works better to identify that for them than the classic, why hello there and you should pitch this business email. Do not use this strategy, even if you think it will save time. This is about quality, not quantity.
Instead, do this. Build a relationship. Relationships lead to success. Find your favorite media outlets and follow those who write articles about the niche you will want to eventually pitch to. Follow them. Tweet about them. Comment about them. Even if you never have a true one-on-one conversation, if you give them value through building up their egos, showing that you care about their content, and that you value their content, you have already opened the door.
Second, write a personal email introduction. Don’t be too lengthy (they do not need a novel) but be personable. Talk about how you have been following them, your favorite content, why you feel your company, your story (wink, wink) will be the right fit. You’ve now separated yourself from the pack. You showed them that you truly do care, you know you have what they want, and are happy to be accommodating to them in order to both help make life easy for them, and give value to their audience. It is the ultimate win-win.
One last piece of advice that we provide to all of our clients that has also seen quite a high success rate, look for ways to save time for the media you are pitching to. One such example is setting up a test account on their behalf, or if you want to go one step further, making the test account match their information, name, and who they would interact with if they were a real user. What this does is give you the ability to send them your pitch with a quick login, save them time registering, the convenience of not storing their personal information, and really give them a true experience with your product. It also again separates you from everyone else, as now not only have they had a better chance to see what you are pitching to them, you are putting your mouth where your money is by standing behind your story. Again, you see the theme here? It’s quality over quantity, and the personal touch vs. mass emailed and generic.
Look at other methods in order to stand out too. Send a video in an email to save time for the reader. Try to name drop if you know similar individuals in their network. Try to find individuals in your network to help you to make introductions rather than resorting to cold calls and introductions. Use existing media pieces to leverage new content with other media sources. At the end of the day, the media needs great content. Most entrepreneurs feel intimidated reaching out, but in reality, they shouldn’t. They need us. Just give them the value that they want so that they can give value to their audience. When you make it a win-win situation, your conversion will always be through the roof.