Pitching to Journalists: The Do's & Don'ts

Rita Makhoul, Mar 30 2017

I understand that you have a startup that took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get up and running. You want exposure. I get it. I really do. However, what you have to understand is how to pitch to journalists. 

For the record, we aren’t evil people. We’re not out here to get you. Most of us are geeks who love technology and when we get excited over a product - our eyes will gleam like a kid in a candy store. BUT we are bombarded with emails on a daily basis from so many startups across the region. I want you to make my eyes gleam!

We compiled a list of our pet peeves and a list of things to do to get our attention. (You see how nice and helpful we are?)

Pet Peeves That Drive Us Nuts

1. Cut the Jargon

Don’t send us an email that is 10-15 paragraphs long filled with industry jargons that really don’t tell us anything about your company and what differentiates you. Which industry jargon you ask? Terms such as disruptive, innovative, synergy, revolutionary, etc.

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2. Don't Use Hyperbole

To add to the previous point – cut the verbosity and hyperbole. I understand that the sector is growing and you’re trying to stand out but when crafting your pitch or press release, you need to balance the need to sound impressive with the risk of the journalist rolling their eyes. Please do share how you are the leading, groundbreaking, and mind-blowing company that will atomize the society to a granular level. 

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3. Your Font Matters

You’d think this is an obvious one, but please, our eyes beg you, do not send us an email written in Comic sans font…. And in fuchsia!

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4. Don’t assimilate your company.

Which means, don’t state that you’re the Uber for X. You should be able to explain the concept of your company into an idea anyone can understand without cheapening your brand.

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5. Don’t pitch us at odd hours of the day.

When you email me at 3am on a Saturday morning, chances are that by Monday morning your email will be buried under a whole heap of emails. Plus, let’s be frank, how would you like to receive such an email while you’re out dancing, or in the midst of a Westworld marathon? Mmmmmhhhmmm I thought so. Wink 

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What We Recommend

1. Get to Know Us

Instead of distributing your press release to an entire media list via mail merge, focus on individuals. Do some research and get to know the topics we usually write about. Feel free to add me on Twitter or LinkedIn if it helps. Do you feel you have a story or angle that would fit in? Pitch that angle.

2. Be Prepared to Answer Questions


If you email me, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What does your company/product do?
  • What is the problem you are solving?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • How is your startup better?
  • How much traction have you received? (Don’t exaggerate)
  • How do you monetize?
  • How big is the market you are addressing? 

3. Approach Us

I enjoy it when startups approach me at events to share their ideas with me. It opens a dialogue, we can have a back and forth discussion. I won’t take it easy on you. I will play the role of the devil’s advocate and challenge you. Don’t worry about that. It’s a good thing. Consider it good practice prior to pitching to investors or in a competition. Also, I will definitely remember you afterwards.

4. Send Us a Brief Email

Instead of a lengthy, jargon-filled email, send us a brief email that clear defines what your startup does and clearly define what separates you from the pack.  Tell us the story of the team behind the startup, what challenges have you faced, what your future visions are, etc. These can all be in bullet points. You can include links for us to check out if we want to dive deeper, or simply end the email with an action item such as ‘let’s have a chat so I can tell you more’ or ‘let me know what else I can send you.’

5. Have Your Product Ready

You’d also think this was an obvious one but you wouldn’t believe the number of startups who’ve requested that I write a review about them, when they haven’t even launched yet. We like testing out products/apps/etc. and writing from our own experience. 

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