Pitching to the Press

Source: The Guardian, Sep 2011

Matt Rosoff, West Coast editor at Business Insider, was first up, explaining what makes a story in Silicon Valley.

“I’m most interested in market movers, companies that have a real business or are on their way to building a real business, disruptive companies that are poised to throw off the incumbents in the space,” he said.

“It helps to have some real customers and some actual traction, some revenue, those kinds of things. Early-stage startups can be interesting if they’re doing something really new, but I tend to have some degree of scepticism. Ideas are one thing, but doing it is another.”

personal stories are always interesting, when there’s a sparky founder or an argument brewing between two personalities.

He also said startups should not just look to browbeat journalists about the merits of their app or service, but be prepared to talk more widely about trends and events in their industry.

“I wanna know what you think about other topics we might be interested in,” he said. “It’s important to be well-rounded.”

Good email introductions: those that say what existing company a startup is aiming to disrupt; news of funding from a respected VC, or simply a pithy line or two explaining why the journalist might be interested in a piece of news based on what else they’ve been writing about recently.

But he came back to the idea of the personal story: a two-man startup where one or both have worked at interesting companies before and have a story to tell will be more interesting.

Jolie O’Dell, technology reporter at VentureBeat. She focuses more on early-stage companies. So when should they talk to journalists?

find the “1-5 people” who cover their vertical or related technology, follow what they’re writing about, and then send them an email when the time is right – when the startup is excited, presumably. Or when they get funding, even if they can’t talk about what they plan to do with it yet.

… initial pitch emails should be simple and get to the point as quickly as possible, leaving the detail for any follow up. Don’t include too many buzz words, and do the thing that you think will capture the journalist’s interest.

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