10 Tips for Founders Pitching a Startup to the Press


In anticipation of our upcoming webinar on “How to Pitch the Press,” we’ve put together a few tips on how to approach public relations for startups at the earliest stages. Whether you are announcing a product launch, event, or partnership, these lessons can be applied.

  1. This should be obvious, but do NOT send out a press release until your product is launched. While it’s important to realize that a product launch announcement is not the be all, end all for your startup, it should serve a specific purpose for your startup and drive specific, measurable results for your company.

  2. Give yourself enough runway. A solid media plan announcing a product launch can take between 3 to 6 months if done correctly. Do not rush the process, or you will fail at gaining those initial customers, recruiting the talent that you desire, peaking VC interest, or whatever other motivation you have for making a public announcement.

  3. Build a target list of journalists, bloggers, and influencers. This list should be comprised of at least 25 people. Then start hunting for their contact information. Engage them in conversations on Twitter (a favorite social network of journalists). Start building goodwill by sharing their articles on social media and commenting on their writing. Be strategic about who you add to this list. If you want to be in Forbes and you are an IoT company, look to the journalists who are on that beat to start building a relationship.

  4. Pitch your story to local or regional news outlets. They are more likely to cover your story for many reasons. One, there is simply less competition to get a story into those outlets. Two, you would presumably be pitching to regional papers where your startup is located, so there is bound to be a news angle about how your business is affecting the community. Building a media footprint is important to set stage for getting subsequent coverage by larger outlets.

  5. Develop relationships with bloggers before reaching out to bigger outlets. Ryan Holiday became famous (and notorious) for popularizing the idea of gaining press through the recursive strategy of getting products featured on small blogs with low standard, which then feeds into bigger blogs, which then feeds into news outlets.

  6. Differentiate yourself; journalists are not hard to reach,but they are very hard to impress. Most people tell the journalist what they want and then say ‘please give it to me.’ People don’t think about what they are actually asking and don’t put themselves in the shoes of the journalist. The hard part is finding out what’s in it for the journalist. Facebook Head of Tech Communications Caryn Marooney uses what she calls the RIBS Test for confirming your message is compelling.

  7. Develop a messaging document. You need to make your messaging consistent and easily digestible to journalists and bloggers. Do not make this too long winded. Brooke Hammerling of Brew Media Relations advises how to create a messaging document... 

    ...starting with your most succinct, resonant messaging at the top — maybe it’s just one sentence — “It’s what you want to say at cocktail parties,” she says. Below that, you can dive a little deeper with the three key messages you’d want to share with reporters about the specific problem your company is solving. Under that, you can get more detailed. Then make sure everyone has a copy.
    “PR isn’t about hits, it isn’t about placement — it isn’t ‘You pay us and we’ll get you a clip here or a mention on that blog.’ And it isn’t about a first-day bump that gets no traction,” Hammerling says. “It’s about focusing your voice. It’s about finding your place in the market.”
  8. Make it personal; before emailing a journalist, take the 5 minutes to Google one of their most recent articles. Give it a read, then compliment the journalist on the article.

  9. Embody the ethos of your brand in your communications and develop a brand lens. A brand lens includes things such as tagline, attributes, differentiators, and actions. Develop your voice and writing style. Take this example from underwear maker Thinx. They sent dozens of emails to Jezebel about various announcements and events. Even though none of these announcements were covered initially, those emails were entertaining to the writers who received them, so much so that Jezebel devoted an entire article to the humor within the emails.

  10. Do not analogize yourself. You will cheapen your brand if you call yourself the Uber for X or the Ebay for Y or other commonly used startup analogies. If you cannot boil down your complex concept into an easy to understand idea, you think think harder.

Further Reading:

How to Get National Press with No Budget Tim Ferriss

Smart PR and Marketing Tips from Ryan Holiday Youtube

Why Most Startups Don’t Get Press First Round

How to Pitch Your Story to the Media FundRazr

PR Advice from Facebook’s Head of Communications First Round

3 Effective Journalist Pitch Email Samples CauseVox

Join us for a #Get2A webinar to dive deeper into pitching your startup to the press: