5 Mistakes Startup Marketers Make When Pitching the Media

Sam Lauron
5 Mistakes Startup Marketers Make When...

When marketing a startup, it’s essential to know how to write a good media pitch. After all, landing media coverage is one of the best ways to gain traction for your startup, especially if the startup is in its early stages

While pitching the media may seem as easy as writing an email, there are a handful of mistakes you may be making that could hurt your startup’s chances of being covered in the media. 

If you want to increase your startup’s media coverage and stand out from the competition, here are five common mistakes to avoid when pitching the media.

Not contacting the right person

The first mistake startup marketers run into is not knowing who to contact. Knowing who is most likely to be interested in mentioning your startup is the first step in gaining coverage. This can be done by researching what stories are currently being covered about your industry and figuring out who’s writing them. By finding out who writes similar stories, you will better understand who may be the right contact for the pitch.

After you have done your research, building relationships with the journalists is key. One of the best ways to do this is to connect with them through LinkedIn or Twitter. Be sure not to just feign interest in them, but instead invest time to genuinely engage with them. That way when the time comes, they may be more likely to cover your story. (For more information on building relationships with journalists, check out our previous blog post here.)

Not tailoring the pitch

The pitch itself should not be written for a generic audience but instead for a specific journalist. Therefore, it’s important not to create a generic message that can be used over and over again but to tailor it to your audience. Don’t know your audience? Go back to building a relationship so you can get to know the journalist you’ll ultimately be pitching.

Only when you make it engaging and helpful to the recipient will they be inclined to cover your startup. By specifically writing with them in mind, the email will come across as more purposeful and engaging. One way to do this is to make it clear why you are writing to them in the first place. Mention any recent stories they covered, or even send a follow up on a conversation you may have had with them on Twitter. This prevents the typical cold email that can be irritating to receive. By customizing your email pitch, you can showcase how you can help each other and avoid the email being viewed as an impersonal cold pitch like the others they receive daily. 

Not providing context or your perspective

The top thing to keep in mind while writing a media pitch is that journalists receive countless pitches, sometimes hundreds a day. To increase the chances of yours getting read, it’s important to make your pitch worth the journalist’s time. A great way to do this is to provide context and perspective. Editors’ and journalists’ jobs are to tell good stories. Why does this story matter to them (especially their audience!) and why is your startup uniquely qualified to tell it? They will not see your startup as unique unless you demonstrate your context and perspectives and show why you are different from everyone else.

Explain how your position is different from competitors by including data in your pitch. Using stats can be a compelling way to tell your story and will help you set your pitch up for success. 

Not spending time formatting

Muck Rack’s State of Journalism 2020 states that 93% of journalists prefer to receive pitches in email form. Therefore, nailing the email formatting is crucial. This includes the subject line, layout, and visuals. If the subject line is cold and boring, they will not open the email. If the layout is hard to read, they will not spend time reading it. Make your pitch easy to read while highlighting all the important information. 

The subject line is the gateway to the email. To stand out in a journalist’s inbox, the subject line  should be clear, concise, and compelling. Once they open the pitch, the email itself should be easy to read. An article by Hubspot suggests a few specific ways to keep the email aesthetically pleasing. They suggest keeping it below 100-200 words, using bullet points, bolding important information, linking videos or images, putting your important information at the top, and avoiding jargon to keep the media pitch easy to read.  

Not following up

While you don’t want to annoy the journalist by emailing them every day, it’s okay to follow up once or twice after your initial pitch. They receive hundreds of emails a day and may have missed yours. It’s important to assume that they read your email when following up but it’s also important to reach out at least once after your initial pitch, usually within 24-48 hours. If you’re confident in your pitch and did the work to make it great, it won’t hurt to follow up. 

Sometimes the journalist may not cover your field or not have time for full press coverage and that’s okay. Startups know that being flexible is key. By asking them if there is another format they would prefer and working with them, you’re showing that you’re trying to make their job easier. This is a key building block when developing relationships with the media and could increase your opportunities for media coverage down the road. 

About Lara Tanner: Lara is an Intern for Swyft, which is a tech PR firm in Austin and Houston and a top digital marketing and PR agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft also has a small satellite office where it offers tech PR in San Francisco. Swyft has been listed as one of the top tech PR agencies in Texas for two years running by the B2B services review site, Clutch.co.

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