Your Startup Isn’t as Cool as You Think

March 25, 2015

9:00 am

Take a look at your most recent startup pitch to the media – did it have the word “revolutionary” in it? If so, it just might be a deal-breaker, says Uproar PR founder Catriona Harris.

“Every tech startup thinks they’re revolutionary,” says Harris, who has been in the PR business for 15 years. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to delete that from something that a client wrote.”

The problem with saying your startup is revolutionary – or innovative, groundbreaking, totally new, etc. – is that (in the words of your English teacher) you’re “telling, not showing.” A skeptical journalist, who has seen countless “revolutionary” startups rise and fall, won’t necessarily take your word for it. What you need to do in your startup pitch, Harris says, is explain why you’re revolutionary. What evidence do you have to back up that all-too-common claim?

You might talk about why you’re different from the competition, or what impact you expect to make in the market. Remember that journalists have probably seen a startup similar to yours, so you really have to dig deep and clearly articulate what is new.

“Every tech startup thinks they’re different, and they’re so close to it that sometimes they don’t stop to take out what’s unique to them,” says Harris, who started Orlando-based Uproar PR in 2011.

Here’s an example that came up recently for me: when Lift rebranded to Coach.me, I got a startup pitch email from them that included this short but punchy paragraph:

Since Lift launched out of the Obvious Corporation’s incubator, which also housed Medium and Jelly, we’ve been quietly growing and amassing a huge dataset related to personal growth. On December 18th we’re launching the future of the $10 billion dollar self-help industry in the form of Lift 2.0. In addition to Twitter cofounders Ev and Biz, our investors include A-listers in the self-help industry including Tony Robbins, David Allen, and Tim Ferriss.”

In just three lines, I learned that 1) Lift is backed by some famous people, 2) The market opportunity they’re going after is huge, and 3) They’re uniquely poised to capture it because of all the data they’ve been gathering. Short and sweet.

Even for something as simple as a funding round – which should be easy to get coverage for, right? – the simple fact that you’ve raised money isn’t enough to warrant a story. Startups are raising money every day, and journalists can’t cover them all. You still want to highlight what’s newsworthy about the funding – is it a huge round? Do you have any famous investors on board?

And finally, remember that interestingness is relative. What’s interesting to one journalist won’t be interesting to another, depending on what they like to cover. To figure that out, read some articles by the journalists you’re emailing, and write personalized startup pitches – no mass spamming. If you follow this advice, you might just convince a journalist to be as excited as you are.

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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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