High-caliber media coverage can bring a huge swell in traffic and business knocking on your startup’s door. Not to mention the validation that media recognition provides and the authority that it establishes with time. But landing decent media coverage is tough! Have you ever sent a PR pitch to a journalist, or several journalists, only to wait for a response that never comes?
The answer is probably yes. The reality is that 93% of pitches won’t get a response.
And why don’t most pitches get a response? Most of the time, it’s because they suck. I am not trying to be mean, but it’s a truth that many entrepreneurs need to face.
Journalists are busy people, they receive hundreds of pitches everyday, and they write maybe one article per day, tops.
If your pitch doesn’t stand out from the crowd, doesn’t offer value, and isn’t directly relevant to a journalist’s work, you can get used to sending a lot of pitches and getting very little response.
But don’t worry! There is hope. In this article, I will show all of you eager entrepreneurs:
- Why you need to lead with value in every pitch.
- How to create value that you can use for your next PR campaign.
- How to pitch so that value is actually appealing to journalists.
BONUS: I will also show you how to make this a repeatable process to establish yourself as a reliable source, build relationships with journalists, and eventually have the media coming to you for more information.
First: Never Pitch Like This
The most common mistake that I see seems to be repeated over and over by every new business seeking to leverage PR for business growth.
Do not pitch a summary of your company or a sales pitch as a story angle! The mere existence of your company is very rarely a news story that anyone cares about.
Unless you are the first startup on Mars, stay away from pitches that:
- Simply describe what your company does
- Announces a new product feature or service offering
- Positions your CEO as an expert source who is available for interviews
Let’s look at a real example of a terrible pitch.
What’s wrong with this pitch?
- Boring subject line 🙁
- Imaginary quotes as a literary device? No thanks!
- The lead is buried and there is no clear story angle.
- It is basically a summary of what this platform does.
- It pitches the CEO as an expert source, but doesn’t inspire a story idea.
- It reads like a classic problem-solution sales pitch.
- It is not personalized to the recipient in any way, so it feels like (and is!) a generic template.
This is the kind of email that a PR person feels like they should write, but shouldn’t. Most journalists would see this pitch and simply ignore it. Perhaps, in some moment of serendipity, a writer who is looking for an expert source on that subject might respond, but most likely nothing will result from a pitch like this.
But there is a hidden gem in that email. Something of incredible value that is being missed because it is not being presented the right way. Do you see it?
“…featuring more than 100,000 educator ratings and analyzes 15M+ data points every day…”
This is pure PR gold.
Any data, information, research, or analytics, that provide journalists with an unbiased and valuable resource is exactly what they crave for their next story. That’s because journalism is based on evidence, facts. If you can become a source of that information, it is an incredibly powerful way to approach PR.
Why Your Pitches Should Always Lead With Value
If you want to learn how to get press for your startup, you need to understand that PR isn’t a one-step process or overnight strategy. In fact, there are many things to consider when you are starting to launch a PR campaign for a product or service.
You need to consider the tangible results you are after, how to build media lists and relationships with journalists, who/when/why/how you are pitching, etc.
But the very core of any PR campaign is your pitch! What are you sharing? And why should anyone care?
This means that the primary focus of any pitch should be to provide as much value as humanly possible to the journalist you are trying to contact.
So let’s give them what they want. It’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Yes, as a business owner, startup founder, or entrepreneur, you want to draw more customers and grow your business. I get it. So does everyone! But when it comes to PR, try to focus on the writer and their audience.
What can you do to help them?
What can you provide that contributes to a larger story?
What resources can you share that inspire or provide insight?
The bottom line is that providing exclusive access to research, data, information, or analytics, is exactly the kind of thing that will grab a journalist’s attention.
Stop trying to force a square peg (company sales pitch) into a round hole (journalism). Instead, become a trusted and reliable source of valuable information for journalists by providing them with the ammunition they need to fire out amazing articles.
Create Data-Driven Value to Land Media Coverage for Your Startup
At this point, you are probably thinking, “This all sounds great, but how do I do it?” Well, I’m sure you’ve seen headlines like this:
“1 in 4 Newspapers Have Headlines Like This”
The reason is that journalists are looking for information, evidence, research, and data, that they can use to inform their articles. In fact, here’s a great example from Business Insider.
The big idea here is that you want to position yourself and your business as that reliable source of information to run a successful PR campaign. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using hard data and adding an interesting angle to put that data into the context of a bigger picture.
There are essentially three types of data that can be used for pitching the press:
- Owned Data
- Created Data
- Researched Data
For each type of data I will give a brief explanation, some tips on how to employ it, and an example of how it can be used for PR.
In the digital age, nearly every company is collecting some sort of data. Sometimes it can be hard to look at numbers and pull out interesting insights, but what many companies don’t realize is that they are often sitting on a PR gold mine. They just need to dig in.
Owned data is essentially any data that a company or business owns as a result of their business practices. Owned data can be very powerful as a PR approach because it is entirely exclusive to your company – and to anyone that you choose to share it!
This type of data can vary in many ways, but a few examples are:
- Customer information/profiles
- Industry statistics
- Interesting or surprising trends
- User activity
- Demographic insights
Some businesses are naturally more suited to this type of approach or have better access to more interesting data. Businesses that are based on apps, SaaS, tech, analytics, customer support, consumer studies, price/review/product comparisons, are all great fits, for example. But this strategy can work for many other types of businesses as well.
The challenge for every business that wants to take this approach is looking at what data is available and demonstrating how it is relevant to a wider audience. The data needs to be packaged in some way that is digestible, and a higher-level idea needs to be applied to show why that data is relevant to a journalist.
How Do I Find and Present My Data?
Your data can be derived from any information that is being collected based on your normal business practices.
This might include:
- Data collected on customers
- Data collected on customer activity
- Data collected as part of your service or product offerings
- Data from your website’s traffic/usage
- Data from your marketing efforts
- Data from repeated business practices
- Data from B2B or B2C relationships
A Word Of Warning!
Before you start digging into your data and sending it out to other people, make sure that you are being 100% compliant with all of the regulations that restrict data use.
If the recent GDPR announcements have shown anything, it’s that regulations are becoming tighter in response to the growing security challenges and misuse of data.
On the most basic level – make sure that you never share personal details about any of your customers. It’s OK to get a higher level overview, but make sure that you are protecting people’s privacy and following any regulatory requirements!
However, when it comes down to it, really any data you collect has the potential to be analyzed and processed to discover insights. With this data in hand, you can choose how you want to package it and distribute it for PR purposes.
A few examples include:
- Creating an in-depth report or whitepaper
- Creating blog content
- Creating an infographic
- Sharing the raw data as it stands
- Creating video content
- Establish a live-update feed of your data as it arrives
- Host a webinar
- Create reference resources
Let’s Look At An Example:
One company that does this very well is TabsAnalytics. They offer analytics services for consumer packaged goods, which means—surprise, surprise—they are sitting on a mountain of data! Every quarter they dig in and produce a consumer report that provides in-depth analysis of trends in a specific industry.
This creates an insanely valuable document that provides real industry insight backed up by hard evidence.
This is exactly the type of content that a journalist can refer to when they are working on any story related to that industry. It provides valuable, unbiased information that can be referred to on a reliable basis. This is exactly what journalists crave.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the 100+ media mentions in their pressroom.
Not every company has the same data potential inherent to their business as TabsAnalytics. Sometimes it can be much more difficult to see the potential pitch behind all the numbers.
This may be because there is a lack of interesting information, or there may be other internal hurdles or client confidentiality issues to accessing that data. However, this does not mean that all hope is lost. Another opportunity is to actually create data to help put power behind your PR push.
Created data is essentially any data that you go out and generate for a specific purpose.
This can be an awesome approach to data-driven PR because you can create something based on popular trends or important news narratives that are timely and relevant to your business, which makes your pitches even more appealing.
Two easy ways to do this are:
- Test a hypothesis by running an experiment
- Conduct a survey to create statistical insight
Conducting this type of research creates something of value that puts weight behind what you are pitching. You can share it with journalists or even use it to create super-duper guest posts.
Let’s Look At Some Examples:
Experiment-based data can be an interesting way to approach getting media coverage for startups. It provides the opportunity to take a common belief or thought and either subvert it or reaffirm it with hard evidence.
I noticed that there was a ton of buzz around AI and automation as the savior of our working lives. However, I also noticed that organic and personal approaches seemed to always produce better results. So, I decided to test automation vs. human efforts with an experiment on social media.
The results of the experiment created some interesting insights and gave me something valuable to share that was immediately appealing to editors.
Surveys are another super handy tool for creating data that is appealing to journalists. You can run a survey about anything as long as it has some appeal to the audiences that you are targeting. The idea is to create a survey that will produce some interesting or surprising results —and then get it filled out!
Here is a real example of a survey that I am conducting to gain statistical insight on digital marketing trends among entrepreneurs.
One of the major challenges to running a successful survey is actually getting people to participate, but here are a couple ways to do it:
- Use a service like OnePulse to poll a group of people
- Ask your mailing lists or customer base
- Add an incentive and make it a contest
- Good ol’ fashioned outreach
However you get it filled out, the results can be used to pitch journalists valuable information or you can pitch it to editors as a potential guest post.
If you feel like you don’t have any data to play with, or you’re too lazy to create some (shame on you!), there is always the option to draw from existing and publicly available information.
There are tons of open-source statistics and data that can be used to help inform your next PR campaign. However, it is important to note that simply sharing someone else’s information is not enough. You will also need to come up with an angle that puts that researched data within the context of your company and a bigger story.
Research data is essentially any data that is discovered or aggregated from an external source that is not necessarily associated with your business.
There are tons of resources that anyone can access for free and use to enhance their PR pitches. For example, many government websites, like Statistics Canada, actually share statistical research and results openly with the public.
There are also many independent sites that aggregate tons of data. An awesome example that I would highly recommend is Namara.io.
There is a ton of data available, but the trick is to turn all those numbers into something relatable and digestible to an audience.
Simply sharing the source of information is not enough. You will need to add a higher-level idea that turns the data into a story and keeps it in context with your business.
A few ideas on how to do this include:
- Provide a real story that makes the data tangible
- Create an infographic that makes the data relatable
- Aggregate multiple sources and present expert insight into the data
- Find a surprising or interesting dataset and demonstrate the “why” behind it
This isn’t always an easy task, but the purpose is to take publicly available data and share the story/factors behind it.
Let’s Look At An Example:
An awesome example of this is a campaign from DatingScout. They analyzed 22 million dating profiles and used it to superpower their PR.
The data was all publicly available, it just needed someone to sift through it all and draw conclusions on what they found.
Their work on analyzing a ton of data landed them a direct mention on The Daily Mail in an article that was very relevant to their target audience.
In a digital age, tons of information is at our fingertips. The trick is taking a bit of time to put it all together and make it relatable and interesting to an audience, while maintaining some connection to your business.
One other note here that’s particularly important when creating or researching data—accuracy and balance are crucial.
This is hopefully obvious, but if you crank out research with shaky conclusions or skewed data, or that is blatantly painting your business in a positive light, you can expect it to blow up in your face. Doing so will set off journalists’ BS detectors, or potentially burn a journalist who writes about it. Either outcome is very bad.
How To Pitch Your Data (Including a Pitch that Worked!)
Regardless of how you’ve created or sourced your data, if you want to get media coverage for your startup, the next step is to get it in front of the right people.
There are essentially three steps to doing this:
- Packaging the data
- Choosing the right journalists
- Pitching them the right way
Package Your Data To Be PR Friendly
The first step to pitching your data is to determine how you would like to share it. There are a ton of ways to go about this, but the primary thing you should consider is the overall goals behind your PR campaign.
Are you trying to gain brand exposure? Do you want SEO backlinks? Are you aiming for thought leadership or industry authority?
Based on your goals, you will want to put together your data in a way that makes it easy for journalists to understand and grab onto.
Here are a few ideas on how to do this:
- Present the raw data as “exclusively available” to the journalist
- Create an in-depth piece of content for your website that can be referenced as a source
- Turn it into an infographic
- Summarize everything in a report or white paper
Pick the Right Journalists
Before you pitch anyone, you need to know who you will be pitching. Every journalist with an email address should never be the answer.
The first step is to narrow it down by niche or industry. Who is writing articles that are related to the data that you are sharing? Who might be interested based on past interests? Then you need to qualify those writers by looking at what they like to write about.
Think critically. Look at their social profiles, previously published work, and personal websites/portfolios to get a feel for the type of content that they usually produce.
Only if you feel like there genuinely might be some interest from them, should you add them to your prospective media list. Sometimes people running PR campaigns will find one tiny little connection to a journalist based on a past article, and mistakenly think that qualifies them. Don’t waste everyone’s time—be highly selective.
A couple of tips to help you find these writers:
- Search Google News with keywords related to your data
- Use content/contact discovery software like JustReachOut.io
- Set up social media monitoring to track relevant keywords
- Search target publications for content and writers related to your data
Pitch Journalists the Right Way
The final—yet probably most important part—is pitching journalists the right way. Once you know what and who you are going to pitch, you need to learn how to pitch.
Heck, even this article you are reading right now is about pitching. 😉 However, the truth is, there is no secret formula to writing the “perfect” pitch. There are no “5 simple steps” that will guarantee you a response every time.
I have seen countless pitches in all shapes and sizes, but the successful ones all have one thing in common:
They share something of value.
Failed pitches are self-serving, promotional, or boring. Successful pitches provide journalists with something of value that appeals to them and their readership. It’s really as simple as that.
There seems to be a common misconception among businesses that an email pitch needs to be an elaborately crafted document that somehow magically tricks journalists into writing about them.
However, your email pitch is really just the method of delivering what you are sharing. If what you are sharing has value to the journalist, then the pitch will work!
That being said, there are a few general tips that are important to keep in mind when you start writing your next pitch:
- Keep it short n’ sweet, under 150 words
- Straight to the point, no fluff needed
- Have a clear and present request—what do you want from the journalist?
- Personalized and custom, for every journalist
- Clearly demonstrated value—is it a story or an ad?
Here’s An Example Of An Awesome Pitch That Worked:
Why Did It Work?
- The subject line is straight up and related to the contents of the email
- The pitch is 90% about the recipient’s work
- The other 10% directly presents something of potential value to the recipient
- The pitch is clearly personal and demonstrates interest in the writer’s work
- The pitch shares a useful resource with the journalist without any mention of self-promotion
- There is a direct relation between the journalist’s work and the contents of the pitch
Build Relationships to Create Sustained Media Coverage
PR is never an overnight strategy and rarely an instant success. However, with a consistent effort and a value-driven approach, it is very possible to establish great long-term relationships with the media that result in constant media mentions, over and over.
Relationship building should always be at the forefront of any outreach. To be really successful at PR, you need to learn how to build relationships with journalists that are based on a true value exchange.
You provide awesome material to inspire their work, they mention your business in their awesome articles. That’s what some people might call a “win-win situation.”
If you are consistently producing interesting insights backed up by data and evidence, you will eventually become known as a reliable source of information that the media will return to repeatedly.
It might take months, or even years, to get there. But if you keep pushing out valuable data and insights that are related to your industry, you will eventually become recognized for just that.
Then one day, you will realize that pitching isn’t even necessary anymore. Journalists will start to come to you whenever they need a source or more information related to your industry!