A Few Tips on How to Pitch a TechCrunch Blogger

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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.

How To Pitch Reporters Using Social Media

Pitching reporters through social media can be tricky and you should proceed with caution. With that said, the process is not impossible. With the right tactics, social media pitching can be an incredibly useful tactic for your small business PR campaign.

The most effective social media tool for PR pitches is Twitter. The micro-blogging allows 140 characters and, by necessity, forces people to be brief, which most journalists appreciate over long-winded PR pitches.url

Tweeting PR pitches is actually fairly easy, but you do have to follow a few rules when trying to push your PR message out. For starters, make sure to follow the reporters you want to pitch. How do you know which reporters to follow? Read a history of their tweets to familiarize yourself with what the reporter tends to cover and tweet about.

Then, and only then, should you engage them in casual conversation on Twitter. If you see a reporter tweet about an article they wrote, @ reply to it and engage in conversation about the article or the topic at hand. This will get your name on the reporter’s mind – and Twitter feed. You may want to do this a few times to get the journalist comfortable with hearing from you.

Then, when you have a story to pitch, a tweet promoting it will seem much more casual and not as “pushy” than had you “cold-tweeted.” Simply mention the reporter in a tweet saying: “You may be very interested in covering X topic…” Since the reporter will have already interacted with you, and because the topic is appealing to them, your chances of receiving a reply are better.

As for Facebook pitching, some – I would even say most – reporters consider their Facebook pages to be more personal and private. Indeed, a pitch on Facebook directly to a reporter could backfire and get you black-listed by the journalist. You may, however, have better luck pitching the Facebook page for the media outlet at which a specific journalist works. Because it’s the official page for the media outlet, it’s accustomed to receiving a variety of comments.

To sum up: Twitter PR pitching tactics seem to work the best. Always make sure to @ mention/reply them. Unless you know the reporter well, never use a direct message. Why? Because a direct message pitch is an invasion of privacy most reporters will undoubtedly resent.

Following these simple rules of the social media PR game will greatly increase your chances of connecting with the right media. Once you get some practice, you may find social media pitching to be a fairly effective means of getting great media coverage.

Happy tweeting!

What Is PR?

urlAccording to the PRSA, public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

While this may seem like a simple, easy process, there actually are a variety of fields and types of PR available to a small business wanting to promote itself to a wider audience.

To help you navigate the PR options, here’s a list of just some of the different types of PR and how they can help your company grow.

Types of PR:

Company news: timely, relevant news about the company

  • Examples: A pet store wins an award from a national magazine. A new software company launched software app that may be a “take-over” target by Facebook or Google. A company is moving to a larger office to accommodate growth. A large military contract was awarded to a veteran-owned business.

Profile: overall profile of the company, its history, accomplishments, owner bio, future prospects of the company

  • Examples: A serial entrepreneur gets featured in a local newspaper or business journal and talks about her latest startup. A high-tech networking group founder reaches a milestone and earns a close-up from a tech reporter. A restaurant entrepreneur plans a new restaurant chain concept with a group of investors and cooks up a savory article for a food writer’s column.

Thought leadership: blogging, writing articles, eBooks, self-published books at Amazon, speaking engagements

  • Examples: A tech startup company would benefit greatly by having a blogger write about their product launch – and even more so by having a blogger review the product. A writer of an eBook or self-published book on Amazon would benefit by having an established author review the book. Industry speaking engagements illustrate a professional’s expertise and drive website traffic and even more speaking invitations.

Reactive PR: interviews related to current events happening in the community or nationally

  • Examples: A premium olive oil store gets invited to talk about the health benefits of olive oil during Cholesterol Awareness Month. A consignment shop gets local TV news coverage related to Earth Day for the ways it helps prevent clothing from getting dumped into landfills. A small ceramic studio gets written up on National Bird Feeding month about its upcoming kids’ class on how to make bird feeders, birdhouses and bird baths.

These are just some of the different types of PR out there. The key is to find out what works best for your product or company and then reach out to your local media outlets.

It’s critical to not pass up on any opportunity to promote your small business. Consistent media coverage will add credibility and significance to your brand and be a key contributor to your future growth.

How To Pick The Right PR Firm For Your Business

With so many hundreds of PR firms and consultants out there, it can be really difficult to decide which one is the best fit for your business.

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Because PR is one of the more effective means to get attention, website traffic and customers for your small business, selecting the right PR firm is critical.

Rather than race into a relationship with a PR firm, it makes sense to follow a sane, rational approach based on a variety of key information

As I said in an article on Entrepreneur.com, it comes down to a combination of your budget, your expectations, and the firm’s track record in delivering results.

Here are some more ideas to consider as you search for the right PR firm to help your business grow and prosper:

  • Budget: establish a PR budget and then determine which firms fit into your plans. PR compared to advertising is less expensive but you still have to invest in a PR firm to get you the results you seek. Know what you can afford and don’t be tempted to stray far from that number.
  • Chemistry: smaller PR firms usually rely upon one or two executives in the firm so get a good “gut feel” about the PR firm by interviewing the key players, asking them a variety of specific questions and seeing how the respond. They should be forthcoming and willing to learn about your dreams for the business. They should also be honest about your prospects for PR and not make grandiose promises that cannot possibly be met.
  • Devil’s in the Details: look at the contract details for each firm. You don’t want to get stuck into a binding long-term contract; you want the option of getting out of an arrangement as early as 90 days into the campaign if you know it’s not working out.
  • Prior Experience Need Only Apply: it helps to work with a firm that has dealt with your industry before. For example, if you run sports business make sure the firm has knowledge of this field. Still, some PR firms have experience in related industries and/or working with small businesses, both of which can make for a good fit.
  • Social Media: make sure they know how to use social media to promote themselves and their customers. Ask if they use Twitter or LinkedIn to connect with the media as an alternative way to promote you other than through email. Social media is now part of the PR tool set so every PR firm should have a strategy for using it.
  • References: don’t be afraid to ask for them. References are the best way you can find out if the PR firm has a track record of satisfying clients.
  • Availability: make sure your primary contact at the firm is responsive to your questions. You should not have to wait very long for responses to your emails and phone calls. Keep in mind that they may be busy and not be able to talk or email immediately, but same day responses are the norm.
  • Listening Skills: does the PR firm actually listen to what you have to say about your business and respond to your list of expectations. It’s a two-way street so the PR firm should incorporate your “insider” knowledge into its overall strategy for making you famous. This should not be a lecture about PR and how the PR firm is the best suited to work on your account.
  • Success Measurements: PR for small business needs to deliver results in 90 days or less. That’s why you should agree with the PR firm on what defines the PR campaign’s success: articles in local newspapers, TV news interviews, profiles on blogs, social media mentions, etc.

Got some good ideas that helped you find and hire the right PR firm? Feel free to share!

About Ryan Gardner: Ryan is an PR intern for Dave Manzer PR and Marketing, which is an Austin tech, healthcare and lifestyle PR agency based in Austin for startups and fast-growth businesses. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. If you have any PR questions about your startup or small business, feel free to tweet Dave Manzer at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

15 Ways To Get Your Restaurant Or Food Business On TV

Over the past two years running PR over Coffee, I have learned a few things about what reporters, bloggers and TV anchors look for in a story. One subject that never seems to get old is food!

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The challenge, however, is always how to find the right time and story message (or “news hook”) to get a media professional interested in your food business.

In this blog post, I have come up with 15 pretty reliable ways to get your food business on the local morning and noon TV news shows.

Don’t get me wrong. Not one of the 15 ideas below can guarantee you’ll get news coverage. But, if you do the work, if you keep communicating your timely message to your local TV news, then eventually your PR efforts will pay off.

Bon appétit!

1. Get to know the producer or anchor for the early morning and noon news shows.

Watch the early morning and noon news shows to get a look at the types of restaurants they cover. Reach out to the producers or anchors via email or Twitter and try to plan a time to meet.

2. Hold a special dinner at your restaurant benefitting a local charity.

Figure out which local charity best suits the image and message of your restaurant. Hold a special dinner for them.

3. Collaborate with a specialty foods retailer to put on a one-of-a-kind dinner tasting.

Beer inspired menu collaboration with local brewery; Extra Virgin Olive Oil inspired menu; local ice cream shop creates a really unique flavor for your dessert menu. The possibilities are endless.

4. Emphasize your healthy menu or food products for Cholesterol Awareness or Heart Health Month

Healthy food can go a long way. During these months, add special healthy options to the menu. Offer them at a discounted rate or include them in a Happy Hour special.

5. Invite a well-known food author to your restaurant or store for a special reading, book signing, or product tasting.

Pairing your restaurant with an author event will bring a crowd. The experience will be personal for fans of the author, while tying your restaurant in with something they love.

6. Launch a new seasonal menu featuring local farm-to-market produce.

Authentic, garden-fresh food goes a long way with both fans and critics.

7. Offer a special Mother’s Day brunch with free tableside neck massages, mimosas, and chocolates for dessert.

Serve up the motherly love with your unique Mother’s Day options. The moms will love it, and it may just land you on TV.

8. Get on a reality TV show – cooking competitions, Restaurant Impossible, Bachelorette, Survivor…any one works.

You want an easy way to get your restaurant’s name out there? Be on TV. There is no easier way to advertise.

9. Write a cookbook based on recipes from your restaurant, grandmother, products you sell – you name it!

Giving everyone the option to eat your amazing recipes whenever they want will gain you a lot of fans. People will share the recipes, and maybe you will be invited to cook one on a local TV news show.

10. Invite Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives or any famous food critic to your restaurant. 

Inviting one of these influential and massive names in the food industry could be the best idea you could have. If a famous food critic/chef says he loves the food, it gets people’s attention.

11. Break a Guinness Book of Record for largest…anything you can imagine with food!

There’s nothing more interesting than being somewhere where someone broke a word record, and TV shows love to cover those stories because they are fun and highly visual.

12. War veterans who own a restaurant can talk about their journey from the battlefield to owning a food business.

People love a heartwarming, feel good story. If you are a combat veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq, tell your story – people want to hear it.

13. Start a food festival with other food entrepreneurs.

Set up a weekend where your restaurant and local restaurants set up booths and give samples of your food.

14. Hire the hottest chef to redesign the whole menu.

If you hire a famous chef to redo your menu, it’s possible a local news channel will want you to talk about it on air.

15. Invite the Mayor or Congressman to your grand opening and tell the news about it.

Have the Mayor or an influential Congressman cut the ribbon to enter your restaurant. Work with the politician’s chief of staff to invite the local news to the event – after all, most politicians can’t resist the limelight!

How To Add PR Sizzle To Your Restaurant

The restaurant industry is a sizzling one of course. However, adding a good public relations and marketing plan to your restaurant can significantly increase the heat, bringing in more business.

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That fact is a PR plan for your restaurant or food business doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair. A simple PR approach is to create a good calendar of upcoming events for your restaurant.

Maybe next month you are premiering a new Prix Fixe menu to better serve your regular customers? Maybe the following month you are hosting a special dinner to fund a favorite charity? Whatever the case may be, you should add your new promotions and initiatives to your online calendar of upcoming events.

Be sure to compose a News Alert email consisting of the “who,” “what,” “where,” “what,” “when,” and “how” of your event. Send it to the food writers in your community and the anchors or producers of your local network morning news show – they usually program food-related segments once per week.

Have good news hook in the subject line of the emails you send out: “Sweet Nothing Offers Class on Healthy Dark Chocolate Desserts to Celebrate American Heart Health Month.”

[HINT: Tying your promotions to larger, national events or causes makes it easier for the news media to justify covering your food business.]

When should you start promoting your next event? Start as early as three weeks out by identifying the local food writers in your community. Create a spreadsheet of their contact information complete with news outlet name, website, email, phone number and notes.

Next create and send your News Alert at least two weeks prior to the event. That allows you enough time to pitch all of the media outlets at least once by email. It’s a good idea to follow-up the email with a phone call to reinforce the pitch, ensuring the food media know you’re serious and won’t go away without at least a response.

The bottom-line is if you are in the food industry, you should be pursuing PR. Why? Because PR goes a long way to add sizzle to your food business in the eye of the public.

Besides, it’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s profitable.

Got any PR secret ingredients you want to share? Feel free to leave your thoughts below or share them on our Facebook page!

How to Integrate PR with Social Media

Nowadays, being savvy with social media is crucial for most businesses. From announcing your latest promotions to finding timely opportunities to engage with customers and prospects, social media has passed from a “flash-in-the-pan” status to a substantial line-item in the marketing budget.

The real question is can you pursue a PR campaign and, at the same time, incorporate social media activities to further maximize the buzz around your business?

The simple answer is YES! But it’s not always apparent which social media tools are appropriate to the task. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you seek to expand your influence in the public:

First and foremost, make your news sticky by posting it to Facebook and inciting some discussion. Ask your followers, “What do you think of this? How will this news apply to your life?”

When you post your press releases, make them sharable with links back to your website to drive traffic, leads and higher search engine rankings. On Facebook, prompt your following to share them by Liking the post and adding a comment. On Twitter, don’t be afraid to use the appropriate hashtag (#) and at mention (@) others – this will further help your information spread across the Twitterverse.

For LinkedIn users, post your press releases on your company or personal profile. If you participate in a couple of industry Groups such as AMA Austin or Austin Tech Happy Hour, then a press release or other news shared – with a corresponding link back to your website – may pique the interest of a prospect, industry influencer or even a news reporter.

That fact is, social media and PR mix incredibly well, and you just have to know how. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Market yourself – that’s why you’re in the business, isn’t it? Your followers want to hear from you, and they want YOU to hear their ideas. Be a democracy – take advice and information from everyone; you never know who has a good idea and an interesting suggestion.

What have you done to mix in social media with your PR campaigns? Has it been successful in promoting your brand and getting media mentions? We’d love to hear from you…

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