Every startup craves media coverage, as getting featured by major outlets has many benefits — from branding and referral traffic to SEO.
Email and social outreach pitches bombard the top-tier media outlets and their journalists around the clock. So, how do you stand out and obtain media attention for your startup from the strongest outlets? After all, these outlets are covering startups daily — so what are those companies doing differently?
Consider adapting these 10 ways to secure media coverage into your outreach strategy.
1. Be prepared to provide expert insight when needed.
Every startup founder should make sure someone on his or her team is signed up with Help a Reporter Out, or HARO, as it is typically referred to. This free platform connects journalists to industry experts, sending out three requests daily to its members.
There are several categories you can subscribe too, providing you with plenty of opportunities to get featured by major media outlets. What is the easiest way to get media coverage? These requests are an open invitation to showcase your expertise (and startup) so take full advantage of the opportunity — just don’t make these stupid outreach mistakes when responding to HARO requests.
2. Build personal relationships first.
Establishing a personal relationship with a journalist prior to pitching them is a great way to get your foot in the door. By commenting on their stories and sharing them on social media you are laying the foundation down. Then, if you reach out to compliment them on a particular piece they will already know you exist from your previous comments and social sharing.
The key here is to be genuine. A journalist can quickly identify pure BS and ego stroking a mile away. After some simple email or social communication it makes a cold-pitch suddenly appear not so cold.
3. Strike early in the morning.
When pitching, do so in the early morning hours. If your news is time sensitive it won’t stand a chance of being picked up if you pitch it mid-afternoon. The majority of people start their day at 9 a.m. and begin sending out their pitches at that time. Beat the crowd and do your pitch emails and social outreach earlier than that. A lot of journalists begin their day when the sun comes up.
4. Don’t send a press release.
Sure, press releases still have a purpose, but major media outlets don’t want to publish dry and boring press releases. They tend to be very promotional and advertisement-like. There are a lot of old school PR firms that swear by press releases, but take a look at the large popular media sites — are they publishing press releases? No. They are slowly fading away and becoming increasingly less effective.
5. Use infographics as outreach bait.
Visual content such as infographics are very appealing to websites. They tend to receive a lot of attention and social sharing — and this translates into more page views for the media outlet. Any time you can incorporate an infographic into your pitch, you will increase the odds of getting a bite. If you are new to visual content take a look at this infographic to learn why it can be extremely engaging.
6. Put the phone down — send your pitch via email.
There is absolutely no reason to pitch anyone via the phone. Number one, journalists don’t have time to listen to your pitch over the phone and two, there are much more convenient options. Email and social media should be your two main pitch paths.
Remember, when pitching via email your subject line is everything. A short and descriptive subject line will trigger your email being opened and if you have a to-the-point and concise pitch you are more likely to get a response, provided your pitch is of interest.
7. Avoid making your pitch sounds like a glorified advertisement.
If your pitch even remotely resembles an advertisement or is overly promotional it will end up in the trash can. Don’t describe your startup as “groundbreaking” or “extraordinary” — generic promotional fluff isn’t what media outlets are looking for.
Try to craft your pitch around current events or a follow-up opportunity to a previous piece published by the outlet. When you provide insight and useful information you are more likely to get a favorable response.
8. Proofread your pitch and then proofread it again.
If you were a journalist and received a pitch that was littered with grammatical and spelling errors, what would you do? Immediately delete it, right? Well, that is what happens, so make sure you proofread your pitch before you send it off. It is also a good idea to have someone else read over it as well. A second set of eyes is always good and can help find mistakes that you overlooked.
9. Don’t write a novel.
Know why a number of journalists like to receive pitches via Twitter? It’s because each pitch is 140 characters or less. If something grabs their attention, they will explore it further. Respect the fact that journalists have very busy days. They don’t have time to read through a long drawn-out pitch.
Even if you aren’t pitching via Twitter, keep “140 characters or less” in the back of your mind. I’m not saying your pitch needs to be tweet-short — but do keep it brief and to the point if you want it to be read.
10. Maintain frequent contact with media outlets that you received coverage from in the past.
Once you crack a certain outlet, don’t just move on to the next media conquest. Every media contact you make should be treated as a valuable business relationship. Relationships that lead to additional media coverage down the road.
Take a couple minutes out of your busy day and shoot an email to journalists you worked with I the past. A simple, “Hey Joe — hope everything is going well on your end. Anything new and exciting going on?” keeps you on their radar and will often lead to them contacting you when they need some expert insight. Including your media contacts on your holiday card list is a wise decision as well.