How to Pitch Journalists about Your Startup

April 15, 2015

10:00 am

Ali Tehrani had his first experience with how to pitch journalists while running a Kickstarter campaign. The typical process goes: reach out to journalists you’ve heard of, Google your competition to find more journalists, keep track of everything in a spreadsheet, and inevitably get frustrated.

The Kickstarter didn’t work out, but he had the gem of a new idea. He started building a tool that would help him find and keep track of journalists to pitch, and soon his startup friends were clamoring to have a look. That was the beginning of Contactable.

1. Find the right journalists

Contactable works by monitoring over 3,000 publications and more than 2 million articles (and growing). By analyzing the text of each article using natural language processing, it starts to develop a profile of each journalist: what topics and people they like to write about.

For example, Contactable thinks I like to write about “disaster accident,” “human interest,” and “education.” Human interest is spot on, and education is right as long as an article like this counts as education. I have no idea where “disaster accident” came from.

Contactable has been analyzing articles since August, so Tehrani assures me that it will become more accurate over time. They also plan to analyze a backlog of articles published before that date.

Why is it so important to contact the right journalists? Simple, Tehrani says: “Otherwise, you’re spamming them.” And that means annoying the very people you might need one day, should you move over to another industry or project.

2. Wait

Once you find journalists, Tehrani recommends that you take some time getting to know them. And that recommendation will literally be built into Contactable: he plans to allow users to follow journalists’ articles from within the app and watch for certain keywords (if they write about 3D printing and that’s your industry, you’d want to know).

“The goal isn’t to send an email to 100 journalists; it’s to build relationships with a few that like to write about your industry,” he says.

3. Send a personalized email

When you finally sit down to email a journalist, Contactable shows you a page with all your interactions with them – including articles you favorited and any emails you’ve exchanged in the past. Tehrani’s belief in personalized emails is also built into the system: it’s impossible to send a mass email with Contactable. Each email has to be sent individually, so you might as well go in and make it personal.

Judging by my profile page, Contactable still has a ways to go. But the vision is there: be an affordable option ($99 a month for startups) where competitors like Cision and Gorkana are much more expensive. And Contactable is designed to only get better over time.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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