In my career as a tech startup journalist, I’ve probably seen over 10,000 pitches. And as much as I love entrepreneurs and all that they represent, I can’t help being offended by many of them.
I don’t like being offended, and I’m sure you don’t like the results of my being offended, so here are some tactics to put on the “to don’t” list so you have a better chance of getting a response and getting a story.
1. Bcc or Cc us
We may be skimming your pitch, but we’ll still notice a Bcc! A sure sign that you’re sending the exact same pitch to dozens or hundreds of reporters. And while we know that you have to pitch lots of publications, we don’t want you to rub it in our face. The same goes for pitches beautifully formatted in Mailchimp. And, God forbid, don’t Cc me and start your email with “Dear reporters…”.
2. Get our publication name wrong
No, we are not TechCocktail or TECH cocktail. Even worse, we are not TechCrunch or Techvibes! I know you’re copying and pasting and changing publication names, but take a moment to check that you’re sending the right pitch to the right person.
3. False flattery
“I read your latest article on XYZ and it was great!” We know that the common advice is to mention an article of ours you read, so we’ve wised up to it. You’ve got to up your game and make a short, intelligent comment about it. Otherwise, we’ll assume you just grabbed the headline from our feed and didn’t take the time to read it. Better yet, skip the flattery altogether and wow us with a great pitch.
4. Assume the sale
While this may be a good tactic in sales, it’s not a good tactic in pitching press. Ending your email with something like “Would Thursday at 2 pm be a good time for an interview?” will garner you an eye roll – you’re already assuming 1) I want to cover you and 2) I want to interview you. Slow down, we just met!
5. Do my job for me
While pitching an angle is great, sometimes you can go overboard – I get a fair number of emails with a bulleted list of “story ideas” or “possible angles.” But hey, who’s the journalist here?? Instead, pick one angle and focus on it in your pitch and I may just write about it, without feeling like you’re overstepping.
6. Pitch too late
I get most pitches on the day of the news – right after the press release has gone out – and that’s way too late. That pitch says to me: “Kira, please drop everything you’re doing and cover this NOW! If you don’t, you’ll be late to the story.” But in most cases, I have meetings or interviews or other stories I’m working on. If you’re not well-known, I’ll probably just skip it.
7. Email multiple reporters at our publication
That just creates extra work for two or more people, who have to evaluate your pitch. If I reply and you’re already discussing a story with my colleague, I just feel like you wasted my time.
8. Pitch the wrong person
As much as I’m curious about artisinal chocolate, I can’t write about it on Tech Cocktail. Before you pitch someone, make sure tech startups are even in the realm of possibility for them. And if you want to be extra nice, check to make sure they cover your industry, whether that’s fashion, B2B, or gadgets.
9. Pitch on Twitter
For the most part, Twitter pitches – tweeting @ someone or DMing them – don’t work. But we really get offended when we click over to your Twitter feed and the last 10-20 tweets say, “Hey @KiraMNewman, check this out…”; “Hey, @TechCrunchWriter check this out….”; “Hey @MashableWriter check this out…”.
10. Follow-up obsessively
When people ask me whether they should follow-up to a pitch, I usually recommend using follow-ups carefully. If the reporter is probably getting a thousand emails a day and you emailed them on a Friday night, follow up. If it’s a smaller publication, they probably saw your email and deleted it, and a follow-up will only annoy them. And if you do follow up, give us a few days! Sometimes, by the time I get to an email in my inbox, there’s already a follow-up – not the best first impression.
As I said, I write about entrepreneurs for a living for a reason. I appreciate the courage, emotional energy, and commitment it takes to be a founder. Judging pitches so harshly might seem unfair, but we’re busy people, too – particularly when we have to sort through dozens of pitches per day and manage assignments from our editors and try to find time for a few original stories of our own. In the end, if you make us feel a little special and respect our time and autonomy, we won’t be offended – and you’ll probably hear from us soon.