your pitch

By Kevin Wolf and Polly Traylor

Ever wonder why some companies get great press coverage while others do not? It may have something to do with how they work with reporters and editors. As PR and communications professionals in the technology industry for over 20 years, we’ve learned a thing or two about what press like and what turns them off. Following are a few things you definitely should not do when making your pitch!

Tell them your product is the first of its kind on the market

Every product has a competitor, even if the competitor is a build-it-yourself product or manual process. Telling a reporter or editor your client’s product is the only product of its kind on the market suggests you’re either not that smart or you just don’t have all the facts.

Refer to the reporter/editor as “sir” or “ma’am”

Nothing says, “I’m a telemarketer!” like a Dear Sir/Ma’am intro. Reporters and editors are people, too. A sir or ma’am intro makes them feel like your pitch was sent by a computer instead of an actual person. Don’t send mass-market emails. Tailor each email to the individual reporter, noting his/her name and beat or recent coverage that applies to your pitch.

Send an initial pitch that is more than two paragraphs

The top reporters and editors receive hundreds of pitches every day. To get any actual work done, they have about three seconds to review your pitch. Anything longer than two very short paragraphs is too much. A long email pitch may as well not have been sent at all.

Include multiple attachments in your initial pitch

Unsolicited attachments immediately strike fear into the hearts of recipients: Could this be a virus? Unless you’ve connected already and the reporter is expecting your attached press release, headshot, etc., don’t send.

Send email asking if they got your previous email

If they didn’t reply before, shoot a follow-up email a day or so later if you are highly confident the reporter is the ideal person to cover the news (use this tactic with caution). But don’t ask if they got your first email. If they did and didn’t respond it’s because a) they’re too busy or b) they’re too busy and aren’t interested. These days, with all of us on devices 24/7, trust me when I tell you they got your original message.

Send email asking when your article is going to run

This is a fair question to ask an editor, who frequently has a say about when something publishes. Never ask this question of a reporter, however. They don’t know the answer and usually don’t care. Their job is to write stories, not manage publishing schedules.

Send email asking for a non-fact-based editorial correction

This is a big no-no. If the reporter misspelled your client’s name or got the founding date wrong, go ahead and ask for a correction. If you don’t like the way the reporter described your company or product, keep your mouth shut and look in the mirror: it was probably you (or your client) who could’ve done a better job describing it.

Cite your client as the “leading provider” in some technology category

Every tech company likes to say it’s the leading provider of “whatever” but those claims are almost never backed up and reporters and editors know it. Trying to position your client as a leader without credible supporting data just annoys reporters and editors.

Use jargon in your pitch or press release

Journalists hate these buzzwords: “revolutionary, innovative, transformative, pioneering, game-changing…”. Use straightforward language and keep it simple.

Write long, complicated, “insider” press releases

Get rid of the long-winded phrases and complex scientific terms. Write the release so that someone with zero background in your industry will get the jist quickly. The days of beat reporters are over; someone covering your story may be writing about five other sectors at the same time.

About the authors: Kevin Wolf and Polly Traylor are the co-authors of Startupland, a book about technology startups and the challenges (many of which are self-inflicted) they encounter. You can find Kevin online at LinkedIn, and Polly, too.