Talk about your startup

I was going to title this post “Get better at pitching to journalists”, but many people outside of PR don’t know exactly what “pitching” means.  So to be clear, “pitch” is another way of saying “tell your story”. And this post is worth reading if you answer “Yes” to any of these questions:

Do you need help getting publicity for your business?

Have you previously contacted journalists about your story and not received a response?

Are you regularly seeing your competitors secure column inches, and want the same for yourself?

Are you still with me? OK good. Because with these simple but strategic changes you can overhaul how you pitch to media and dramatically increase the likelihood that a journalist will want to write about you:

1. What is your dream piece of press coverage?

As with many things, when you define a goal it makes sense to then create a plan by working backward from the goal itself. After all, if you don’t know where you want to end up, then how do you even know how to try getting there? Start by writing a list of the titles that you would most like to secure coverage in.

2. Do your homework

Try to spend at least 30 minutes a day reading the newspapers, magazines and online publications you want to be in. Listen to relevant podcasts on your way into work. All of this will help give you an idea of current trends and what is culturally relevant. You’ll also learn what journalists are interested in. For example, it’s no good pitching your great new iPhone app to a title that doesn’t cover social media or only writes about apps that are available across all platforms. As you study the media titles, start building a list of journalists who write about the subjects relevant to you.

3. Twitter and PR are friends

Twitter is the best tool for getting a quick snapshot of what journalists are looking for. Firstly, follow #journorequest. It will help you understand the sort of requests journalists make. You never know, you might be able to help with a story. Even if it doesn’t benefit you directly, building relationships is extremely important. Secondly, create a Twitter list with the names you gathered from point 2. You can then easily refer back to it each day to make sure you aren’t missing out on any opportunities to be reactive.

4. Think bigger than news

The fact you may have launched, maybe sold 1million products, maybe hired a new senior member of staff or moved offices is going to be largely irrelevant to journalists who write about startups. BUT. A press release of this kind wrapped into a carefully-written feature pitch could gain a large piece of press coverage. How is your story different and what current trend does it align with? Pull out a few key stats and summarise why this is interesting on a larger scale. Perhaps mention your competitors and how the category in your field is growing. If you have a case study of how your product or service has literally changed lives, now is the time to put that information to work. Look at whatever data or insight you have and ask if it can be used to make a good research story. Send your ideas to a relevant journalist, pitching a feature that includes your business and would be of interest to their readers.

5. Timing is everything

Are you speaking to journalists from your own time-zone or are they on the other side of the world? It’s not a great idea to pitch an idea at 5pm on a Friday to a journalist who is already on leave for the weekend because they are seven hours ahead. Remember their working hours and also where they are in their publishing cycle. And here’s an extra tip: It’s always better to pitch just after a publication has come out, because then you know they are not on deadline.

6. Say my name, say my name

Quite simply, if you don’t personalise your email with the journalist’s name, don’t expect them to read it. Don’t send the exact same email to every journalist. Each publication has different columns, a different tone of voice, a different audience. You don’t speak to every business contact in the same way and that courtesy should be extended to journalists, too. Do your homework at the beginning and this will become second nature to you.


Lucy Werner

PR expert for startups The Wern PR
Lucy Werner is a PR expert and founder of The Wern, a specialist communications consultancy and training hub for startups, entrepreneurs and independent brands. She has worked with top emerging business talent such as Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, The Marshmallowist and Vinyl Me, Please.

She also consults for innovation, marketing and public relations consultancies, building their go-to market strategies, raising CEO profiles and developing their thought leadership. Lucy uses her own profile to demonstrate how other small businesses can do their own publicity
and has written a ten-day e-learning course for Highbrow called How to get press for your business. She was recently shortlisted as a finalist for Growth Business Enabler from Her first book “Hype yourself: A no-nonsense DIY PR toolkit for small businesses” is launching in January 2020.

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