Every startup desires media coverage -- the right exposure can be a PR and SEO gold mine, generating earned links, mentions, referral traffic, leads, sales and ultimately revenue. There is a right way and a wrong way to pitch when seeking media exposure.
I get pitched daily. Here is an unedited request that came through the general contact form on my website:
First of all, I just want to say how I am a huge fan of your content. It’s really amazing. I especially like the last piece you wrote on [Insert Website Name Here], titled, “[Insert Title Here].”
My startup [Insert Your Startup Name] just launched and I think it is something your readers would be very interested in. We [Talk About Benefits & What Problems Your Startup Solves]. Is this something you would be interest in writing about? We would love to get a mention as well as a link to our website, which is [Insert Your Website Address Here].
I look forward to hearing from you [Insert Journalist Name]!
Related: How to Do PR on the Cheap
Let me rip apart this startup founder's idiotic attempt to secure media exposure.
- My name is spelled wrong -- it’s not even close. Strike one.
- This person forgot to fill out this copy/paste template. Strike two.
- No website name? Strike three.
- No article title that they loved so much? Strike four.
- He or she didn’t even fill out the name of his or her startup. Strike five.
- Zero details about the sure-to-be unicorn of a startup. Strike six.
- He or she asks for a link. Strike seven.
- No website URL. Strike eight.
The verdict: eight strikes -- out!
Don’t follow the horrible example above. Avoid making the following five mistakes when attempting to secure media exposure for your startup:
1. Pitching media outlets and journalists that have zero interest in you or your product/service.
If you are pitching a journalist that covers wearable technology about your new supplement-subscription-box company, you are not only wasting your time -- but the time of the journalist as well. Those 10 seconds it’s going to take him or her to skim through your pitch and delete it could be better spent doing something more productive.
Also, if your new startup is a mobile pet-grooming business then Tech Crunch more than likely isn’t going to be interested in it. This isn’t a numbers game -- don’t blanket attack every and any email address you can scrape together. Securing press requires a well thought-out and calculated plan. Identify media outlets and journalists that you know will be interest in what you are doing.
2. Sending your request from a generic email address.
I’m not a fan of free email addresses. If you have a startup that means you have a website. Create an email address with your company’s domain and use that. It’s much more professional than a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail address.
Remember, the media outlets and journalists that you are pitching receive dozens, if not hundreds of pitches, just like yours every single day. You need to take every step possible to present yourself and your startup as legitimate and professional. It takes five seconds to set up an email address tied to your domain -- do it.
3. Sending a copy/paste message.
The example above that I received was easy to spot because the person forgot to fill in the template, but even if it was complete it would still set off a red flag. It reeks of a copy/paste job and lacks personality and sincerity.
While the copy/paste approach might seem appealing, as it saves time, don’t do it. You want to write every pitch from scratch, and craft it for each specific media outlet or journalist. If there is even a slight inclination that your pitch is a generic copy/paste job, it will quickly meet the trash can.
Let your personality shine and be genuine -- trust me, it will make your pitch -- and you -- stand out in a sea of spam and generic pitches.
4. Using poor grammar.
Not every entrepreneur and startup founder is going to be a spelling-bee champion. That’s fine, but at the very least run your pitch through spell check or have someone take five minutes to proofread it.
There are so many simple, yet annoying grammatical errors that will turn off a potential journalist. Remember, these individuals write for a living -- consider them to be the biggest grammar sticklers in the world. Sending a pitch littered with errors is almost a slap in the face.
5. Continuing to be a pain in the ass.
If you don’t receive a response from a particular contact, don’t continue to bother them. If he or she is interested in your pitch, you will get a response. The worst thing you can do is to send several follow-up emails or tweet asking if he or she received your pitch.
While extremely busy, journalists are great at multi-tasking, and if your pitch catches their eye they will get back to it when they have time. Pestering them will not get you anywhere -- except on their blacklists. Focus on finding additional opportunities instead of continuing to bang on the same door.
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What are your other media outreach pet peeves? Share them in the comments section below.