What not to do when pitching your startup to the media

- September 4, 2013 3 MIN READ

There’s no doubt editorial coverage can do wonders for your startup – helping you reach audiences that would otherwise be difficult. Public Relations practitioners are best suited to the role of connecting your business to the media, but if you cannot invest in PR, you can always contact the media directly and pitch your startup.

As a journalist, I’ve seen the best and the worst of pitches. Unfortunately, for every good pitch, there are three bad ones. As such, I felt it would be best to lay it all out in this article on what to do and what not to do, and share some insight on why it’s a good or bad idea.

Here are five things you should NOT do when pitching your startup:

1. Pitch to the wrong house

It’s completely understandable that you want as much coverage for your business as possible. But that doesn’t mean you should contact every single media organisation in the milky way.

First and foremost, you need to research that publication – 10 minutes on the homepage will do the trick! You need to understand whether your story fits in with that publication, otherwise it will be tossed aside. And no-one likes rejection!

Worse yet, if you try to convince the editor or journalist of that publication why sharing your story would benefit the publication, without any understanding of what their publication is about, then you’re bound to annoy – especially when it’s unsuited to their interests.

And unfortunately, no means no. Starting an argument doesn’t really help your case. Independent publications will try to share as many stories as they can. If they say no, it’s just not suitable.

2. Feed lies to the media wolves

The media are always hungry for information. But fabricating information to make your startup more appealing is in no way going to turn out well for you. The lies do come out eventually, and once the journalist realises she has been manipulated, she may do a follow up article to rectify the situation and explain what happened to uphold her integrity. Don’t throw her under the bus and make her liable for the lies you fed her.

Yes, it is true, Journalism 101 dictates that journalists check their facts. But in online journalism, in a 24 hour news cycle, and constant pressure to publish new content, there’s only so many phone calls she can make and so many FBI agents she can contact for a criminal background or general indecency check on a startup founder.

Sooner or later, someone will notice the lies and point it out. Just don’t do it. You can withdraw revealing information you want to keep private, but don’t lie.

3. Provide Instagram selfies or other low-quality images

Approximately two minutes of research (i.e. looking at the publication homepage) will help you identify what kind of images they use – whether it’s portrait, landscape, square, high resolution, medium resolution, abstract image, pictures of people, etc.

If you have those ready and they fit in with the publication, you’re already higher up on the list!

The other side of that is, people are drawn to visual data. The quality of the picture can mean the difference between clicking on a link and finding out what your startup is about, and ignoring it entirely. Images do matter.

4. Demand a publishing date because thy majesty needs immediate service

Journalists are writing, writing and pretty much always writing and transcribing interviews. We will get to it as soon as we can. We’re already under enormous pressure, don’t add to that.

I have on numerous occasions received queries on when the profile will be published only a day or so after conducting the interview. A polite reminder after a week is okay. But demanding it be in line with your schedule will certainly annoy.

5. Recommend a particular angle for the article

You deal with providing the media with as much information as possible, and we’ll do the writing. We will use adjectives where we please, not to your demand. We’re talking editorial, not advertising, so don’t be upset if a few adjectives have been removed from the story. Besides, we’re probably going to be as positive as we can anyway!

So there you have it! This was really just a rant, driven by dealings with impolite people.

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