On Saturday night, March 8 as SXSW revelers poured through the streets of Austin, PR over Coffee hosted an exclusive Tech Writer Panel featuring writers from TechCrunch, Entrepreneur Magazine and Silicon Hills News at South By GoLab.
Startups from all over the U.S. came to learn how to get featured in various national publications, plus do a little schmoozing in hopes of pre-pitching their business for future coverage.
The following Q&A documents some of the insights from Anthony Ha, a tech blogger for TechCrunch. Anthony pulled no punches when dispensing advice. He shared the occasional ugly truth and some harsh realities about trying to get featured by a famous technology blog like TechCrunch. Anthony’s style was uber mellow but he peppered his responses with colorful F-bombs (omitted here!) and the occasional witticism bordering on snark that befits a San Francisco blogger at the center of the tech universe.
What topics do you typically cover? Startups of all kinds, media & advertising topics, funding events and just about any tech story I find particularly interesting on a personal level.
What’s the best way to pitch a story? Email, period. I always try to respond, mostly with a “Thanks, I’ll pass on this one” if I think it doesn’t fit my news beat.
So you don’t like to receive Twitter pitches or other social media? No, not really. I rarely respond to tweets asking me to cover a story as it can be hard medium to work with compared to email. With email, it’s a lot easier for me to capture and track the idea in one place.
Do you like short pitches or long pitches? I don’t mind getting long pitches as long as they are done like an inverted pyramid. In other words, give the most important part of the pitch at the beginning so I can decide if it’s worth reviewing in its entirety.
What level of funding does a company need to have in order to grab your attention? I would say $1 million at a minimum. It’s a base-line number that proves there’s some kind of external validation of the business. If the amount is less than $1 million, then you have to work a lot harder to convince me your idea is worth writing about. I mean it really has to be good.
How much lead time do you need for breaking news story pitches? If I like your pitch, a week’s notice is ideal. Don’t wait until the 5pm the day-before to pitch me an “exclusive” because it’s gonna have to be a pretty BIG story for me to cancel dinner with friends to stay in the office and write the story.
What percentage of pitches received are good leads for you? Maybe 5-10% of all are worth me investigating a little further. Most are way off base.
Why so low? Many PR professionals don’t do the necessary research to know what I like to write about. They take the shotgun approach, which almost always never works.
What’s something you hate about pitches? Email blast pitches that are so generic you can tell there was no research into whether I was the right person for the pitch. That really pisses me off.
Do you like pitches that were covered by other news outlets? At TechCrunch we pride ourselves on being the first to break tech news. If you just got featured on Mashable, then you’d better be pretty amazing or offer me something genuinely new.
How much is too much pitching? Don’t pitch me more than once, especially if I say “I’ll have to pass on this one.” A reminder email is okay if I haven’t responded but once I do respond please don’t keep arguing your case.
What do you like most about SXSW? It’s a perfect way to talk shop, drink beer and meet new people.