This is how you can improve your chances of getting valuable media coverage. And beyond your first few media hits, how do you better understand how you fit into the world?
Here’s what many organization leaders want to know from reporters: what will it take for you to cover my work?
The idea is that those in media have a bigger audience and offer an endorsement of legitimacy. Whether or not that’s always true, it’s why so many seek any snippet of coverage.
When she wanted to get the word out to Denver’s growing community of creatives about a new workspace called Industry, Ellen Winkler found the effort of contacting media more valuable than paying for an ad.
“If you can tell your story, people read that and it sinks in and it has way more meaning than just an ad that flashes across the page because we’re hit with so many images all the time,” she said.
“If you’re completely new to us, we’re going to be looking for some sort of traction or caliber of “real-ness” to to write about you,” she wrote. “Or, like you would with an investor, get someone in the tech scene to intro you. Still: cold emails work, for sure. You just need to give us something more than “My product is going to change the world.”
Rather than hide behind her identity, Stacey Mosley of Philadelphia-based Fixlist found a direct approach worked best.
“I found that journalists are really interested in the human story and I think customers really are as well, and that has really proven to be fruitful,” she said.
Think of it like a game: for any news organization, there is a certain secret point threshold that your pitch needs to make it over to succeed. This threshold varies by the publication, time of the year and placement (big feature or tiny blog mention). The likelihood of your pitch succeeding goes up if you’re getting a warm contact but it goes down if you’re asking a reporter to do the kind of coverage she normally does. You have to do your homework. All in all, there are common rules that you can follow to improve your chances of success.
Pitching the media is just like any other relationship you need to make in business. Treat reporters like investors you need to come to know, said Technical.ly reporter Juliana Reyes.
Start with a goal: Why do you want coverage? Is it to get paying customers or early test users or investors or for validation or for prospective employees or general branding? With the goal first, you can approach the right media outlet. “The media has been a great outlet for sales and that’s really been something that has helped develop my reputation in the community,” Mosley said.
Choose from your options: Niche media, like Technical.ly, Built in Colorado, Hypeopotamus in Atlanta or Detroit’s Model D Media, will offer early users and support, and perhaps potential employees and investors. Regional legacy news will offer broader users, national media will offer scaled users and branding and trade publications can do some of them all. Find the publication’s sales or advertising material to get a sense of their common readers if you don’t already know.
Find an example of the coverage you want: Find one or two specific examples of the type of coverage you want to have done about you, written by the same reporter at the same publication. If you know someone who knows that reporter (check Linkedin), get an intro. If you don’t, most reporters have their emails listed by their bylines. Take that email and prepare to send them an introductory email.
Keep it short and simple: Don’t be cutesy (no puns!). Don’t try to entertain the reporter, just give information he or she would need. In truth, the subject line should be fully explanatory: “Company name: 3-5-word explanation, 3-5-word reason why it’s cool” Send a three sentence email: what is it, why it matters, who are you? Then close with your ask: “I saw you wrote this story and that story. If you would you be interested in writing something similar about our organization, could I share more information?”
What is next?: Be prepared for a positive email with interest. So, have a new angle or a time hook, which is something that makes a story timely. Why should the reporter write it now? This could be about a funding announcement or a series of new hires or a product launch. If possible, have an explainer video and nice photos to supplement the story.
Your press release is to inform, not acquire coverage: No longer is your press release the way to sell a reporter on a story. Instead, they’re a repository of all the relevant details. At best, it’s something to link to in your email. So you can have a press release but make it informatory, not a sales pitch. Don’t blast it out, share it with a followup to a reporter.
Have product codes for readers: Try to acquire users and get as much attention out of the story.
No, you can’t read the story before it publishes: So don’t even ask. That’s the independent, ethical streak of any good journalism outfit.
The point is that often founders blindly pursue media coverage without remembering why. Develop a clear plan for why you want coverage and pursue it smartly.