Public relations · Self-Publishing

How to get PR pitches answered?


November 8th, 2015

Going to do press for a new product launch next week. We have a few writers we already know and will do research on the right ones to go after, but curious to hear what has worked well for others to include in an initial email to reporters you don't know. Do you give the actual press release? Do you give exclusives, etc? 

Kevin McLaughlin Co-Founder & Principal, Resound Marketing

November 10th, 2015

Missy - there is a lot of great advice here so far, especially from Steven Mason and David Richard.

Some additional comments to your specific questions:

1) What works well in a pitch: Subject line is critical. In the pitch itself, the rule of thumb is to open with the punch line, and then tell the joke. Lay out what you have to offer/say, and what the ask is (news coverage, demo, etc.). This first sentence should be equally concise and compelling (that's the magic). Make the rest of the pitch easy to parse at a glance, to make the important stuff easy to find -- don't bog it down with long paragraphs.

2) Exclusives: As a startup, it is rare that a reporter will write a story based on your pitch alone - if it will be supported by an announcement. The press release offers a lot of the supporting detail, a formal commitment to share the story, and a dateline to force the urgency. However, in most cases I would advise against sharing a full press release, unsolicited, on the first email - especially if there is no prior history with the reporter/editor. Instead, offer the press release and other info (depending on your offering - it could be an advance look at a product or app) if they are interested. This helps establish an active dialogue, which helps you gauge genuine interest. 

Start by offering to share the announcement in advance of the release date - this is the "embargo" scenario. Unless you are going after your clear #1 or #2 target (as outlined by the advice above), never open with an offer for an exclusive. This immediately limits who you can pitch it too -- and if the story falls through, you are left with nothing. 

The press know you want to create awareness and are likely pitching it around -- some may require an exclusive to write it (TC and VB often require this due to the volume/pace of deal flow news), and others are OK with an embargoed date. But always be honest, if you shared the pitch or release with other media, you need to reveal that (not who you pitched, just that you have...if/when asked) and give the reporter the chance to determine if they can pursue the story - since they have a managing editor to answer to. Otherwise you will burn them, and a bridge.

At Resound, we always create an "exclusives" strategy for a client before any news-driven campaign. Determine beforehand which outlets would be worth an exclusive story, so when it comes up, everyone is on the same page on the decision -- because it generally needs to happen quickly. If an exclusive on the full story is not in the cards for your company, perhaps you can offer some exclusive story elements as a response -- an interview with a well known customer, reserved JUST for that editor. This way, while they may be covering the same news as another outlet, they are assured a fresh story with access to a resource nobody else was offered.

Happy pitching, and good luck!

Paulina Ward?ga

November 8th, 2015

I always try to show a journalist that I know his work and that I pitch him only because I think it should be of his interest and I explain why. Simple "I read your article about X and I noticed that you're interested in Y. My company has just released Q that..." will do the trick. Personalization is the key.

I also include only the most important facts about the product and a link to a press release in case he wants to know more details.

Steven Mason Brand Strategist & Ideator; Patent Strategist; Patent Broker; Negotiation Expert

November 8th, 2015

I'm going to tell you a secret about reporters. They don't care if they know you. They care if your story has legs. If I were personal friends with Walt Mossberg (I'm not, that's just an example), do you think that if I've got a boring product, he's going to write about it as a favor? No way. If he doesn't know me from Adam, and I've got something that his readers need to know? That's what's important. So many people ask: Whom do you know and hire on that basis. That's generally a mistake. The right question is: How do you get stories placed with people you don't know?

Look at what the reporters have written about. What do they actually care about? What do reporters want to do? Get noticed, get ahead, like everyone else! You have to think about how what you're doing relates to them. You have to consider the salience of whom they write for (or if they're a freelancer, whom they're pitching to).

There may be multiple angles about your product. Which angle fits which reporter? Then instead of the typical banal pitch, reach out to that reporter (through whatever channel he/she requests -- if a reporter says DM me on Twitter and you email, what do you think is going to happen?! -- reach out in their preferred manner, not yours!). So this means tailoring your pitch. Which means your messaging has to be spot on.

What about what you say? Get them interested right away. If you were a reporter and the first line said: "Hi, I'm the VP of Marketing for XYZ, which just raised a $2.3 million Series A, and we are launching a major new product in that <abc> vertical market, with the launch schedule for November 15," what have you done? Nothing. Worse than nothing. You've bored them. Everyone sounds like this. You must give them a reason to care that relates to their own interests. This is true whether you write, tweet, call, etc. It's why you hang up on telemarketers who start by asking "How're doing today?" Wrong question.

So, yes, you need a press release, but a press release isn't a pitch. A pitch is a communication that grabs the reporter's attention and generates action -- contacting you! And incidentally, most press releases are awful: full of self-serving platitudes, banal headlines, and bereft of any meaningful information that shows why you're changing the world or at least changing something.

As far as exclusives go, that depends on what you're getting. A feature article in the New York Times or WSJ? Sure. A product release announcement of 200 words in a trade journal? No way. But remember that 100 words in a major pub are often worth more than 2,000 words in a no-name, because everyone else will pick up on the major. If you're going to give, you have to get.

Last, do you have a social media strategy, a full communications strategy for the release? Do you know what comes next to sustain interest. Or are you aiming only at a 1-off? That's not going to work unless you've cured cancer.

Edward M. Yang

November 9th, 2015

Our agency works with companies ranging from startups, crowdfunding projects all the way to Fortune 1000's.

We deliver big agency results at small agency prices, so contact us if budget is an issue and we can work something out.

1. Make sure you have an interesting story. It's not about self-promotion. It's about how you fit into some sort of story that everyone is talking about.

2. The headline of your email may make or break it. Reporters get bombarded with hundreds of emails a day. Research shows short subject lines do best. The goal is to pique their interest enough to open your email.

3. Try reaching out to them via LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as email. Email deliverability isn't the greatest.

4. Keep your pitch short and powerful. Copy and paste the press release directly into the body of the email. Never send attachments to cold emails. Have Dropbox links to images, etc.

5. When you follow up, as you'll need to, try to have some new info to share so you're not just saying "did you get my email?". Industry data, new developments, etc.

6. Customize your pitch specifically to the beat of the journalist. Nothing will get you blacklisted or added to their spam folder faster than pitching something that's not in their area of interest.

7. Don't use a mass email program like Constant Contact. Rather, email each of them one by one personally.

8. This means you need to have a shorter list of quality reporters that you know will be interested versus a database of 500.

9. Exclusives are only of interest if you have something really significant to announce.
Edward Yang | Firecracker PR
Managing Partner
o: (888) 317-4687 ext. 702
c: (949) 500-6422
Twitter: @firecrackerpr

David Richard BIGfish PR Founder, Marketing Professor, Communication Scientist, Angel Investor, Entrepreneur Magazine Contributor

November 8th, 2015

There are a small number of reporters who (correctly) believe that if they have not agreed to an "embargo" or "exclusive" prior to receiving a press release or pitch, it is fair game for them to publish what you send them, at their leisure. This can be detrimental to any stories you may have already lined up - reporters and outlets hate being "scooped" by competitors. A better approach for pitching a product launch to reporters who you don't know is to give them enough information to want to learn more, but not enough to publish without contacting you for more details. Remember you only get one shot to launch your product, don't let unmanaged news ruin it.

Arminda Figueroa President & Founder, Latin2Latin Marketing + Communications

November 8th, 2015

Craft a pitch that brings it to life...a human story and something that would benefit their audience. Do research from prior write ups from the targeted journalists in advance and make sure your approach and style match his or hers. Hope this helps! Arminda "Mindy" Figueroa Founder and President Latin2Latin Marketing + Communications 917 742 7236 cell 954 376 4800 office Sent from my iPhone. Apologies for any typos.

Yaniv Levi

November 8th, 2015

Hi Milly, I read this article prior to sending my press release and it turned out well. Out of 8 reporters 2 published.

Adam Metz Vice President at TerrAvion

November 8th, 2015

Hire a real startup PR pro like David Libby.


November 8th, 2015

BTW, professional PR people charge $6,000 to $10,000 per month with a six-month contract. They work with Bloomberg, WSJ, NYT, etc. 

Have any of you seen different fees? 

Anjalee Awasthe Co-Founder Medkonect Services, Marketing Consultant for Startups

November 8th, 2015

Missy for the launch to be impactful I suggest following :a well drafted press release, share its link or copy with journalists who you think will find the launch interesting to cover for their readers,share the release with a few good bloggers, use your company's social media pages. I am assuming you have already amongst the various options selected press coverage as the most effective for the product launch, sometimes this may not be the best option