Tag Archives: pitching

How to become a media whisperer

IMG_0714There are lots of ways to connect with media professionals, but not all of them will help you get in the news. Much like a horse whisperer, you have to approach reporters and bloggers with a completely different mindset than if you were trying to sell a product or purchase a newspaper ad.

Much like wild mustangs, media professionals fiercely defend their independence, in this case editorial independence. They live by rules and standards that preclude them from taking payments or favors in exchange for news coverage. They have a tendency toward idealism, or at least toward righting the wrongs perpetrated by those in power. They like a good story, a strong human angle, a long shot fighting from behind.

Because a very small number of stories pitched to the media will see the light of day, you will want to adopt some of the practices of a good media whisperer. With that in mind, follow some of these techniques when pitching your startup or small business to a busy reporter or editor:

Be selective: discover which media outlets and reporters are most likely to be receptive to your story idea. Not every reporter is going to cover you, but if you are lucky you will strike pay dirt with a couple influential ones.

Simple message: keep your pitch simple and don’t run on. If pitching by email, answer the who-what-where-why question as quickly as possible. Don’t use long paragraphs, either, as the eye prefers white space when taking in content.

Trust: just like a wild horse must trust before it can submit, media professionals will throw off a story idea if it feels forced. Be sure you communicate a sincere desire to help a reporter educate or illuminate its audience.

Consistency: you will have more luck getting news coverage if you keep reaching out consistently over time. While you may get lucky the first time up, it’s far more likely you won’t succeed straight away.

Respect: treat media professionals with respect, even if they are hard to get a hold of and appear a tad brusque on the phone – it’s often because they work in a newsroom that is understaffed and over worked.

Charitable: it’s not a bad idea to help reporters out even when you don’t have a pony in the race, so to speak. Tip a reporter off on a hot trend or bit of news you overhear that you know could benefit the reporter. It will earn you a great deal of appreciation from a reporter, who relies on the help from friends when sourcing good material.

Reward: just like rewarding a wild bronco once it ceases to buck, be sure to offer a hearty thanks to any reporters who cover your brand. Remember, reporters are not obligated to cover your news and very likely they passed up some equally interesting news to cover your company.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. 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. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

How to Pitch a Busy Reporter by Phone

Picking up the phone to tell your story to a busy reporter can be very intimidating.

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There’s something about making a phone pitch — not seeing the face on the other line, hearing only the edge in the voice or an impatient exhale — that puts the pressure-cooker in overdrive and makes even veteran PR professionals become mush-mouthed.

That said, for those who try (and keep trying), phone pitches can be a very effective way to get news coverage.

Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you call an over-worked, stressed-out reporter in your community:

  1. Be polite: it goes without saying, but be nice on the phone. Keep your tone of voice pleasant, even if the reporter doesn’t return the favor.
  2. Nothing personal: don’t take any negative comments, brusque lanquage or evasive behavior as a personal affront. Busy reporters are asked to do a lot of work in very little time so when they receive phone pitches they tend to cut to the chase.
  3. Get to the point: reporters are asked to do more with less time than ever. Consequently, many reporters are experts at sniffing out the potential value of a story in 60 seconds or less, which is why you must present your pitch and supporting facts as economically as possible.
  4. Don’t be a pest: if the reporter tells you no, then don’t keep bothering him or her. Try again when you have a new announcement to share. If a reporter doesn’t respond to your initial overtures, then don’t increase the frequency and/or urgency of your outreach. Chances are the reporter is just too busy to get back to you or may find the news irrelevant or not compelling enough to respond.
  5. Think fast: if a reporter challenges your assumptions on why your news is important, then try to come up with a different angle or share another fact in hopes of building your case. Reporters will often to play devil’s advocate, challenging you on why your news is so important, mostly because their editors do it to them all the time.
  6. Learn from past mistakes: instead of giving up after one or two stinging defeats, try to figure out what went wrong. Often a journalist, even if busy, will tell you why she is not interested. I got shot down by a Wall Street Journal reporter based on the fact that there just wasn’t enough evidence supporting my claim, which, sadly, was the painful truth. The next time I pitched her, I had my facts ready before the call.
  7. Know their beat: it will help you greatly if you already know the reporter’s rea of interest. By doing a little research in advance, you save yourself the embarassment of finding out that the reporter doesn’t actually cover technology startups but is instead writes about real estate.
  8. Offer to help: when phone pitching, make sure you offer the reporter a chance to interview others for the story to make the reporter’s job easier. It could be the difference between rejection and eventual news coverage.
  9. Leave clear voicemail: if you don’t reach the reporter the first time, then on’t be afraid to leave a voicemail to set the initial ‘hook.’ Speak in a clear, well-paced voice. Practice the voicemail ahead of time so you can easily summarize the significance of your news pitch in 15-20 seconds or less.

If you keep these pointers in mind when you first hear that reporter’s voice on the other end of the line, then you just might save yourself a lot of hard lessons and wasted time.

Happy pitching!

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!

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