Getting the ball rolling on your first PR campaign starts with actually pitching your business to members of front-line media. You certainly can’t rely on getting a “yes” from everyone you approach. Nor can one rely on luck to get in the door with the people of influence who can help put your business on the map with consumers.
Pitching your campaign to the media is a lot like knocking on someone’s door and trying to sell them an ice cube tray. Or, for those of you who are still single: approaching the most attractive woman or man in the room and ask them out on a date.
Pitching to the media is an art in and of itself. One of the most important arts that any startup or marketing manager can master. Often, most pitches find their way to the trash bin, in many cases because the sender didn’t do their homework before carelessly wasting the recipient’s time.
Assuming you’ve already put together the basic makings of a professional press kit for your startup (if not, read the Dummies.com guide), here’s 5 modern tips to help get your startup in the door with influential front-line media members:
1. Get to know the recipient and their contact preferences
Start by identifying who in each media organization you need to be put in touch with. Make a list and check it twice. Preferably under the guidance of someone who has experience contacting a variety of different media sources with success.
How to identify the right reporter for your PR pitch:
- Make sure they cover startup businesses (and in your niche, if applicable).
- Confirm they do the type of media you want to exploit (ie., television, newspaper, magazine, radio, podcast, blogging, etc.)
- Are there any gatekeepers you need to go through to get through to the individual? If so, how will you accomplish this? For instance, you wouldn’t send a direct pitch to Arianna Huffington to get a HuffPost spotlight for your business.
- Identify their interests by stalking them on social and reading/listening/watching their previous pieces and appearances (this will help you get to know their style and also identify ways to otherwise get them to warm up to your pitch).
Next, find out their contact preferences and precisely what they expect in a successful media pitch:
- Form of communication (phone, email, text, tweet, etc.) This is so important, don’t proceed without finding out this information.
- The breakdown they expect within the pitch (ie., subject line, synopsis, introduction, body text, bullet points, data sources, links, etc.) Essentially how they want your proposal to read.
- Find out how and if they expect a timely follow up from you and how to do this (ie., phone, email, social).
2. Formulate the pitch and tailor it just to the intended recipient
Believe it or not, this is the exact order things need to be done. You have to identify the recipient first, before actually completing a custom pitch made just for them.
Take everything you’ve learned about the reporter and tailor the information in your press kit to their interests and pitch format preferences. Obviously, you won’t be sending a copy/paste generic pitch to anyone – unless you want to be ignored!
3. Wait for them to make a decision on their own
The conversation between you and front-line media reporters, bloggers, vloggers and such will be much warmer if they read your pitch and then respond to you on their own, without any prompting. However, this rarely happens in the startup world. There’s just too many people like you vying for the reporter’s time.
Often, you’ll have to follow up with them over the phone. Perhaps to the extent of giving them your best elevator pitch, as they may not have yet had the time or interest to read your formal pitch. Be ready for this and be prepared to resend your pitch to them as you’re doing your best to capture their interest, so they can go over it while the two of you chat.
Note: Give the reporter at least a full 24 hours before following up. Be respectful of their time, without being so respectful you lose your place in line!
4. Don’t lie about the business or your intentions for contacting them
One of the most common complaints from members of the media with regard to the pitches they get is about people lying to get their foot in the door. Be honest always; you’re looking for a media spot and want to set up a meeting with them to discuss how giving your business free exposure will benefit their company and the consumers that drive their business.
For instance, a classic ploy that’s often used by the desperate is to pretend you’re from a charitable organization seeking exposure, or sending them urgent messages about a breaking story that you’re offering exclusively to them – only for them to discover you’re trolling them to get exposure for your startup business.
Be honest. Be complimentary. Get to the point quickly.
5. Thank them for their time, even if they say no
Don’t be cheap about it, either. Nothing says “thanks for your time” than some free sporting or movie tickets, a free book or subscription service, or a gift basket of their favorite treats (Note: you should already have this information!)
If your thank you goes beyond the verbal type, and it’s memorable, they’ll remember you for next time, or might even change their mind and cover you immediately – maybe. The more high-profile the reporter and their media platform, the less likely it is there aren’t hundreds of other startup founders doing this very same thing.
Be vigilant and don’t give up. The odds of getting your startup featured by front-line media aren’t good when “bootstrapped” is your key funding source. However, persistence does pay off. If you employ the right strategy and follow the rules, soon someone will feature your business and help you hit the ground running.