5 Things to Keep in Mind When Pitching Your Startup to a Journalist


Pitching your startup to a journalist can be really different from pitching it to a prospect.

Let’s rewind a bit. Why do you need to pitch your startup to a journalist you ask? 

As an entrepreneur, you would want your startup to grow. Creating visibility for your startup is going to be the most difficult task in the initial few months. This is where pitching to a journalist becomes a vital skill to master. 

If you are able to get a journalist to be excited about your startup, he/she will act as your megaphone and deliver the word to thousands if not millions of readers. 

The problem, however, is that most people get the journalist pitch wrong. Here are a few things you need to know before you make your next pitch to a journalist. 

1. Target the right journalist

It is perhaps the most important step throughout the process. Imagine selling dog food to a person who owns a cat. Do you see how bizarre that sounds? Yet so many people do exactly that.

Before you pitch to a journalist, make sure that he/she is actually the right person to write about your startup. Don’t pitch your IoT automobile solution to a healthcare journalist, unless your product can be used in an ambulance. 

Do your homework and find the right list of journalists/media houses/ blogs that actively cover news related to your line of business. A good practice is to pitch to journalists you actually consume content from. Chances are that your audience is also most likely tuned in to the same journalist. 

2. Talk in layman terms

One of the main reason a journalist pitch differs from a client pitch is that a journalist might not be an expert in your domain. Truth be told, most journalists are allergic to industry-specific jargon. 

(Imagine a primary school kid reading Shakespeare. By the second sonnet he’s already dozing off.)

A journalist, a really good one will receive hundreds of pitches over a week. Most of them will make the mistake of being heavy on jargon and industry-specific keywords. A journalist would spend about 30 seconds to 1 minute to go through your pitch and see if it makes sense to him/her. A lot of jargon makes your pitch hard to understand and easier to discard for the journalist. 

Jargon Jargon Jargon
This is a lot of jargon for a journalist to digest

Avoid naming people from your organisation that the journalist might not be aware of. Look, Deepak from customer success team might be a celebrity perhaps even a god for people in your organisation. Just don’t expect an outside journalist to know the all-mighty Deepak.

The right way to mention this shown below.

The correct way to mention people in your pitch

This also means that you should come off a human being and not a robot in your pitch. When the journalist reads your pitch and forms an impression of you as the founder. That impression should be of a human being and not a robot. This will encourage the journalist to respond and have a conversation with you.

3. Give them an idea for a story and not an Ad 

While trying to persuade a journalist to cover their startup, a lot of them end up selling the startup to the journalist. They end up listing the benefits of their product or service. They boast about their clients, features of their products and likewise. 

In other words, they are trying to convince the journalist to run an Ad for their startup. That’s not what journalists do, at least not the good ones.

Rather than selling your product or service, try selling a unique angle to your startup in the pitch. Try to include something that will make the journalist want to spend time writing about your startup.

See how this pitch provides a unique angle that relates to the current situation

Bonus Tip: More often readers are interested in reading about the people behind the startup rather than the startup itself. This should encourage to include a short bio of the founder/co-founders in the pitch. 

4. Put yourself in their shoes 

Try and think about why would a journalist write or even care about your startup. 

Your SaaS is really cutting edge and promises to improve the bottlenecks in an end to end management system? Would a journalist even understand what you’re talking about? Or is it all just Shakespeare for a primary school kid. 

Put yourself in their shoes, so that you not only talk in a language they are more likely to understand but also talk about things they are more likely to cover. 

While we are on the topic of being relatable, you might wanna pick a catchy subject for your email pitch. Think about what subject line is more likely to hook the journalist on to your pitch.

Bonus TIp: A nice way to to get a journalist interested in covering your story is by linking it to some recent event that took place or is about to take place. If your startup does something related to nature, pitching around international earth day can increase your chances of getting featured. 

Your goal while pitching should be to give them a story that makes them look good. This again emphasises the importance of pitching an idea for a story and not an ad. As a journalist, their first priority is to look out for their audience. 

5. End with a call to action 

How you end your pitch is very crucial. You don’t want to end with a mundane “Looking forward to hearing from you”. If you do, you can expect to hear from them…never. 

Give them a concrete call to action that doesn’t leave the ball hanging in their court indefinitely. 

An example of a concrete call to action could be : 

We would love to partner with you and create content that engages your audience. Would really appreciate if you could share your awesome ideas!

See how this engages with the other person instead of ending on a dull vague note?

Another way to end your pitch could be by sharing your ideas for the type of content that can be created and asking for their opinion in return. 

Here’s another sweet call to action I came across

Bonus Tip: Always aim for building a relationship with the journalist first. A good relationship with a journalist can be very beneficial in the long run. Always Think Long Term! 

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