“Do I Have Your Attention?” The Dos and Don’t of Pitching Your Startup

By Karda Rolland-Berge

October 2, 2019

As an entrepreneur getting your story out there is an integral part of your company’s success. However, if you’re not familiar with how to tell your story, connecting with journalists, and presenting your pitch, you will have a hard time having your voice heard. During this year’s Vancouver Startup Week, Switchboard PR had the opportunity to host the “Do I have your attention?” panel with Hayley Woodin, Multimedia Reporter at Business in Vancouver and Farhan Mohamed, Editor In Chief and Partner at Daily Hive to discuss adapting to life in the media fast lane, and the dos and don’ts of pitching your startup story to publications. Here are our top takeaways from the experts. 

Define your story

Your company’s existence is not a story and reaching out to a reporter to tell them about how great your business is won’t get you featured by their publication. Before you send out your pitch, take time to figure out what story you want to tell. Is your product dramatically changing the industry you’re in? Is your company impacting your local community or the world? Is there someone on your team doing exceptional work worth talking about?

Pick the story that is the most compelling and will generate the most interest. “There are so many stories to tell, but we need to focus on the ones that will get the most eyeballs. At the end of the day, we are running a business, and we need content that is going to drive people to our site,” said Mohamed at the event. 

Build Relationships 

No one likes being cold-called. Similarly, reporters are less likely to be open to a pitch from someone they don’t know. Before you share your story, spend some time building relationships with the journalists that you would like to talk to. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram and connect with them on LinkedIn. 

Remember that these are just first touches, and this is not the time to slide your story into their DMs. Do some research and get familiar with their work and their reporting style. Share, like, comment on, and retweet the content that speaks to you. Building rapport takes time, so don’t expect immediate results. This is also not the time to overdo it—be respectful and thoughtful with your interactions. 

Follow Media Email Etiquette 

Media outlets and journalists are receiving pitches all day long. To make sure that your email will stand out, there are four things to remember. 

  1. Identify the right reporter to email and personalize your message to them. Don’t email every reporter at an outlet. It takes away from your credibility. 
  2. Write a strong subject line. Woodin recommends using a subject line that accurately reflects the content of your pitch. Avoid using subject lines like “breaking news” or “a good pitch for you,” she added. 
  3. Keep it short. Your email should be a few lines that sum up your story and provide the media contact person. Most reporters are busy and don’t have time to read long pitches. If you are planning on sending a press release, send an email a few weeks before to let the reporter know of the upcoming story. 
  4. Timing. Do some googling or make a few phone calls and determine the news cycle for each outlet that you want to reach out to. The worst time to email a reporter or an editor is when they are close to their deadline. Also, consider the time of day when sending your emails, try to schedule them for early in the morning.

Provide Assets

Most reporters and newsrooms don’t have the time or capacity to come to your office and take photos. To make your pitch stand out, provide them with the images to accompany your story. Hire a photographer and get the pictures needed to make your office and company shine. Create a Dropbox or Google Drive Folder with the photos and share the link in your email. “It can be really difficult for us to find images. Spend a few hundred dollars and have a photographer come by and take some really cool photos of your space. If you can make our lives easier, you’re miles ahead of the competition,” said Mohamed. 

There are no guarantees when it comes to pitching the media, but there are ways to stand out. We hope the tips above help you and your startup get the media coverage you’re looking for. Fingers crossed that we will be reading about you soon! Check out additional resources on our website here.


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