If you’re starting a business, one of the top ways to get the word out about your product or service is through traditional and nontraditional media. Press releases, articles in trade publications, local news channels, and blogs in your business niche can all help you connect with potential customers and create brand recognition.
That is, they can help you if you pitch your startup correctly and get their attention.
Promoting a startup to the media, whether it’s a top blogger in your industry or a local journalist, can be a little intimidating for a small business owner unused to acting like a PR professional. But remember, these people are used to getting pitches from businesses. And if you take these six tips, you’re more likely to get your pitch noticed.
1. Do your research
Even newbie freelancers, who spend the bulk of their time pitching story ideas to magazine editors for gigs, will tell you that generic pitches absolutely won’t work. Sure, it’s easier and less time consuming if you can just write one email and send it to every blogger or journalist on your pitch list. But it also won’t get you very far.
Before you send out any emails or make any phone calls, do your research. Make sure you’re targeting the right blogs, newspapers, and journalists. Look at what the staffers of each organization have written to see which ones are more likely to be interested in your company. And then tailor your pitch to suit their needs (a blogger who covers fashion trends, for example, is not going to be interested in a software company). It takes more time, but five well-researched, targeted pitches will get you more traction than 50 shots in the dark.
2. Engage before you pitch
Cold calling and cold emailing can sometimes be effective, but you’re better off making a “warm” connection first. Social media makes this easier than ever.
First, follow a few writers that you want to reach on Twitter or Facebook. Then, watch their conversations. When a topic comes up that really interests you (and it shouldn’t take long if these writers specialize in your niche), jump in. Try to engage them three to five times before you send your pitch, so that the person in question will at least recognize your name.
3. Keep it short
According to Entrepreneur magazine’s Colleen DeBaise, pitches should be three minutes or less if done in person, and should take less time than that to read by email. The goal is to quickly get across what makes your company interesting or unique.
If you have trouble with wordiness, have a friend help you pare down your message to just a few lines. This makes it more likely that your email will be opened and at least scanned, rather than discarded as a waste of time for a busy journalist or blogger.
4. Headlines are everything
For journalists and bloggers, their success depends on the headlines they write. And this is true when it comes to pitching them, as well. For your email pitch, focus plenty of time and attention on your subject line, which is basically your headline. Try to summarize the main message and interest of your pitch in a five- to eight-word subject line. If it’s not compelling, your email is dead on delivery.
For instance, our company, credit card review site CreditDonkey.com, could use a subject line that says, “5 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know Before Getting a Credit Card” That’s more impactful than “Will you write about our credit card review site?”
5. Create more detailed resources
Even though your main goal is to write a short and sweet pitch, you should also spend time creating more in-depth resources that will back up your message. By linking to these resources in your email, you’ll be giving interested journalists and bloggers a chance to find out more about your business and verify that you are a credible business.
For example, you might create a white paper on the benefits of your new product or service, craft a business history that tells your story, or just spend some time creating an excellent About Us page for your website.
6. Get personal
Finally, as a startup, it’s usually best if the messages to the media are coming from you. When you have a bunch of employees and a million-dollar profit, you can afford to have a separate mar-com department that will handle public and media relations for you. But for now, you’ll get better results if you contact media personnel yourself.
This is mainly because journalists and bloggers simply prefer to talk to company founders, since their quotes usually make for a better story. So even if you have some help crafting your media resources and pitch emails, make sure they’re in your own “voice,” and send all pitches from your own business address.
If you’re rejected – or, more likely, simply ignored – don’t take it personally. Continue researching to find the media outlets that best suit your business, and craft personalized pitches that will, eventually, win over journalists, bloggers, and other media personnel.