If you’re a startup founder, then I know how you feel:
You want to grow your company…fast!
I’m the founder of several successful startups myself.
So I’ve been there. And I know it seems tough.
You want exposure, but you can’t afford to hire a public relations (PR) firm.
But I promise:
Learning how to pitch like a pro to get the attention your startup deserves isn’t as hard as you think.
I’m about to teach you how to do exactly that with the 40 simple strategies I’ve outlined below.
And once you’ve read them, you’ll have all the tools you need to be a PR pro.
But, first things first:
What will it take to write an effective media pitch that will get the attention of journalists, bloggers, and influencers?
At JustReachOut we have over 4,000 clients, who are entrepreneurs just like you.
And they all ask me over and over:
How do I pitch myself to the press and to influencers?
Let’s dig a little deeper so I can show you the simple answer to this question.
Here are the key components to writing the perfect pitch to journalists:
- The body of the email is short but personalized
- The subject line is also short and simple, yet it has the ability to intrigue the reporter enough to open the email
- It addresses the reporter by name
- It’s sent to the relevant journalist or influencer who writes about your niche
- The email gets to the point quickly
- If you’ve already established a relationship, and you’re ready to pitch a story, then you clearly explain why an article about your company/product/service would be beneficial to the publication
- It holds an emotional hook for reporters, so they want more information to encourage a response
- It doesn’t use buzzwords
Not so tough right?
Here’s an idea for an email that will likely get a journalist’s attention, so you can start to build the foundation for a relationship with that journalist, and eventually pitch yourself, or a story idea, to them:
SUBJECT: Typo in your article
I respect your reporting a great deal, love the stories you put out. Crazy to think that there are more people using mobile vs. desktop now. Saw that you have a few spelling mistakes in your recent article, wanted to follow up:
“The project, which was was announced” [Write the sentence with the mistake.]
“The content will be uses for The New York Times” [Write the sentence with the mistake.]
Looking forward to your next stories. Which article are you working on next?
That’s easy to replicate, right?
But wait, here’s another example:
SUBJECT: Re: Loved your article about [insert the topic which they wrote about]
I’ve been following your blog for the past 3 years, so many great insights!
Your recent post about [insert the topic which they wrote about] really resonated with me. I followed it step by step, and I found it dramatically reduced my day-to-day stress.
You can read my post about it here: [insert URL of your own post]
If you’re so inclined, I’d love for you to share it with your audience.
Thanks for publishing your unique tips with the community!
If you can write an email like this and get yourself mentioned in the press, then you can:
- Make a huge impression on your prospects and customers.
- Enhance your brand’s trust and reputation.
- Increase your organic search ranking and site authority, which in turn brings more qualified leads and customers.
Hold on, though, because it’s important to realize:
The relationship between your startup and influencers is symbiotic.
While you, as the startup, want exposure in top publications, the media outlets also want to hear from you because ultimately …
They need story ideas!
And they’re always looking for fresh sources.
I’m excited to share the 40 best ways to pitch via email that I compiled with help from the folks at LeadFuze.
Master these techniques, and I’m sure:
You’ll get the attention your startup needs!
Ready? Lets roll…
Here are 40 PR email pitch tips to help your startup get noticed:
Start with Research
1. Spot Your Sources
If your company sells beauty products, would you send an email pitch to a hunting magazine?
I know, that’s a silly question. But it’s important to know:
Sending your email to a relevant niche matters.
Where can you find relevant journalists and influencers? It’s simple…
Follow industry-related publications.
You can search Google News to find these sites, or create daily news alerts.
Let’s go back to the beauty-product scenario.
For this example:
It only takes a little effort to find top publications about your niche.
If you read daily news about your niche, you’ll also notice the same writers who cover topics related to your industry.
Once you read a lot of articles written by the same people, you’ll learn their style and their favorite topics.
And now that you’ve been reading their writing, you can use that information when you pitch your idea.
Another great way to get noticed?
Become a source yourself!
Not only will you be getting your foot in the door as a fellow writer, but you’re providing something of value to the reporter.
Mutually beneficial relationships like these tend to continue to grow.
It gets better:
You can also use online tools and forums.
Finding industry-related writers can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
But if you use tools and forums like JustReachOut, you’re halfway there!
You can also search Quora and Reddit for relevant conversations.
You can get involved in discussions, but don’t (I repeat DON’T) mention your products or services right away. Doing this will instantly demote you to troll status!
At first, share your opinions and provide worthwhile feedback.
Then, set your sights on building a relationship with the journalists you’ve been reading.
You can see a great example of this here.
2. Do Your Research
The easiest way to turn off a journalist is to contact them without prior research or knowledge about their audience, what they write about, and what’s important to them.
In addition to creating Google Alerts, you should hone in on specific journalists that you feel have an audience that matches your story and your company.
Even if the writers also cover stories outside your industry, get familiar with those writers, and gain as much knowledge as you can about their readers.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to prove you’ve done your research in an email to them.
“Are you reading blogs or trade publications? Maybe you already have favorite writers? Don’t be shy! It’s time to write those journalists a friendly email. Offer them insight. Fix a typo. Send them an article you wrote. In any case: Be of service to your industry’s influencers. And they’ll find ways to help you in return!”
Here’s a great example:
I found your recent article, XYZ. It was very educational, and I specifically thought XYZ was fascinating.
If you are looking for sources for any upcoming stories on XYZ, I would love to offer my expertise.
3. Twitter Hashtags
Just as Google Alerts will help you follow news stories, hashtags will help you monitor those topics in social media.
You’ll be able to see the latest news and how others are reacting to it.
Following these interactions can help you shape your email pitch to capture their interest.
4. Build A Presence
Just like sales, cold emails can become warm emails by building a social presence.
In today’s world of journalism, even print writers have their stories shared socially through Facebook, Twitter, etc.
This is your chance to begin following them and build a relationship. Offer quality comments on their articles, so you’ll become a recognizable name.
And then suddenly …
You’ll be much more welcome when you hit up their inboxes.
5. Be A Connector
While building your business, you likely have come across excellent sources, both personally and professionally.
Putting reporters in contact with a source you know is a great way to network and establish respect.
6. Join HARO
Sign up for HARO, and you’ll receive emails twice a day full of requests from journalists seeking sources for articles. Topics are wide ranging and include tech, business, health, entertainment, beauty, science, and finance.
HARO is awesome, because:
- You can establish yourself as an industry expert
- You can earn a backlink to your website
JustReachOut has an automation tool so you can quickly search for active HARO queries related to your company and the work you do.
7. Join YEC
If you have at least $1M in financing or $1M in annual revenue, and you’re 40 years old or younger, you can join YEC (Young Entrepreneur Council).
This will get you great press.
Time To Write
8. The Subject Line
Think of your subject line as a first impression.
We’ve all heard:
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
Well, when it comes to email, the cliches are true.
So how do you make a great first impression?
- Keep subject lines 6 to 10 words.
- Be specific — catch the writer’s interest — why do they need to read your email pitch?
- Get to the point and illicit curiosity
- Sound like a person, not a robot
- Avoid spam filter trigger words, like “free,” “you” or excessive use of punctuation)
Example from Hashtagsandstilettos –
9. Ditch the Intro
Don’t waste time explaining yourself or your company.
Jump straight into why your story is relevant to the writer and the writer’s audience.
Remember the five w’s journalists live by:
Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
10. Short and Sweet
Consider many journalists get 100 email pitches a day.
I’m not saying this to discourage you, but remember:
Suggested length for emails can vary.
Basic guidelines include anything from 20 to 100 words and somewhere between two and three paragraphs.
If you want to make your email even easier to scan, use bullet points.
11. In Your Own Words
Everyone loves a good story.
Competition, drama, gossip, failures, and unlikely successes make great headlines.
Because they appeal to our emotions.
When you can show a human side to your startup, you’re naturally more likable.
You can get results by asking a journalist to tell your story for you, but consider that you may have more luck telling your story in your own words.
There’s a lot of power in being the voice behind your brand. That’s why guest posts are a fantastic way to start a buzz.
PR of years past required finding a reporter to print your story on paper (yes, paper). Now, even the top publications have websites and encourage contributions from guest writers.
Take a look at the first paragraph of this contributing writer’s article in Forbes, and tell me you’re not instantly hooked!
Are you as intrigued as I was?
You can read the rest of the post at Forbes.
This story is proof there’s power in telling your own story. Why?
Because Sunday’s success story is genuine and relatable.
“If you can tell a compelling story about yourself and your startup, and that story also proves why you deserve attention, then you’ll get PR in no time!”
12. Video for Visuals
Visually stimulating content beats the written word in today’s marketplace.
Why does that matter to you?
You can produce a funny, educational or compelling video to include in your next email pitch.
Publish your video yourself on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebok Live or other sites for powerful PR.
13. Poweful Pictures
I also recommend photos and graphics to build visual interest.
But avoid boring, cookie cutter pics.
Use images that are compelling and relevant.
14. Personal & Professional
Take time to make sure you know the reporter’s name and other background info and spell it correctly in the email.
A custom pitch will keep things personal and increase your odds of getting heard.
15. Close with P.S.
Use a post script to make sure you’re reaching out to the right person.
“P.S. If you aren’t the right person to contact for this story, would you be able to let me know who is?”
Attaching a post script with that question makes the request less distracting and more subtle.
16. Signature = Success
You want reporters to reply, right?
Don’t make it hard for them to find your contact info.
Email signatures make you look professional, and provide contact details for an easy response.
17. Ask A Question
Finish your email with a question to naturally invite a response.
People love to give advice and share their opinions, so leverage this tendency to raise interest.
Are there any stories you are working on now that need sources?
How far in advance is your editorial schedule laid out?
The Pitch Itself
18. Share Newsworthy Info
It would be great if you could automatically pitch your product or service to a journalist and have them broadcast it to the masses without any effort.
But, I hate to break it to you:
That will never happen.
If you don’t have something newsworthy to share, forget it.
That’s why you need community events or other newsworthy strategies to be the reason behind your email.
The act of starting a new company or service isn’t enough. So how do you create something worth mentioning?
Check out these 11 soundbites from MrMediaTraining.
19. Show Value
Just as you discuss value proposition in sales, you must do the same in PR.
It’s not about what the reporter can do for you, but what you can do for the reporter!
Every good writer wants a great scoop, something that will make their readers happy by educating, entertaining, or provoking thought.
Include this high up in the body of your email so the main hook is front and center.
20. Have Empathy
Put yourself in the shoes of the person reading your email.
What would grab their attention and make them open it?
“Start building relationships with influential people. The better you know someone, the more likely you understand what drives their work. Your empathy will also directly affect your ability to provide them with something of value–something they think is worth talking about to others…”
21. Write How You Talk
Have you ever been talking to a close friend or significant other and accidentally slipped into business jargon mid-argument?
Yeah … it doesn’t go over well.
People like to be spoken to like people. Don’t make your writing sound like a robot.
Write how you speak. Those who struggle the most with writing often forget this key tip.
22. Problem Solve
No one wants to hear a sales pitch when they’re not looking to buy something.
Pitch your story as a way to solve a common problem or…
Simplify difficult situations that you know their readers experience.
But leave the sales pitch at home.
23. Be Timely, Always
Pitching the right story at the right time can be tough.
But put in the work and you’ll see results:
Keep your emails current, timely and appropriate.
24. No Mass Emails
In a nutshell:
Mass emails make you look lazy.
They show you don’t want to take the time to compose a personalized letter.
25. Host an Event
Events are worth writing about!
“Need inspiration? The arts and entertainment sections of your local newspapers are filled with events calendars. Or look into joining your local Chamber of Commerce and sponsor an event with them. Consider starting a new Meetup group to generate buzz. The possibilities are truly endless.”
Create your own event, and then promote, promote, promote!
26. Give Advance Notice
Journalists often have stories planned out several weeks in advance.
And sometimes …
Editorial calendars are booked up to six months, or even a year, in advance.
Give reporters time to fit your event into their schedule.
If you’re emailing them about an event happening this weekend, it’ll likely be too last-minute.
27. Avoid Simple Mistakes
As a writer myself, I can tell you that no one’s immune to the occasional typo or grammatical error.
But when you’re writing to writers, it’s vital to be meticulous …
One typo and you can lose all credibility.
Avoid simple mistakes in that first outreach more than any other.
I can’t tell you how many times a day I re-read something prior to publishing it!
If editing isn’t something you’re comfortable with, get a second set of eyes to sign off before you hit send.
28. Don’t Call
One of the most common requests from reporters across the board is: Don’t call me!
Reporters are busy, busy, busy.
Interrupting them with phone calls is a quick way to get yourself blacklisted.
Allow reporters to get back to you on their own time via email.
29. Be Patient
Allow some time for a follow-up.
It’s a necessary part of the PR email pitch process, but…
There’s a fine line between being persistent and being annoying.
Give the reporter time to read and respond before filling up their inbox with a second or third message.
30. Reach out Again
Don’t give up. If that follow-up email didn’t get a response, wait 4 to 5 business days and reach out again.
Some journalists get thousands of emails every day!
So even if they were interested in your email pitch, it might have slipped their mind.
Get back on their radar by following up.
I also advise you to install an email tracking tool like Mixmax. Then, you’ll know if the journalist has opened your email, or clicked on any of its links.
If they opened it more than once, it’s a sign they may be interested.
If they aren’t interested, most will tell you after your third outreach.
Then, move on and focus your attention elsewhere.
“Being a successful PR person is akin to being a great poker player. Patience and persistence is key. But you also have to know when to fold your hand.”
31. Be Consistent
Too often we have the tendency to suffer burnout.
Make a goal to reach out to X number of people a day, no matter what.
So, if friends ask if you’re free tonight?
Only if you’ve emailed X number of people first!
Once you stick to this schedule for a week, it’ll start to become a habit.
It also helps to reward yourself for reaching your daily goals in the beginning to keep yourself on track. Make it something simple that brings you a burst of endorphins like a chocolate croissant.
32. Test Your Message
If you’re using the same general format for all your outreach and getting poor responses, change things up!
Test something new by reworking your subject line, the main points of your pitch, and how you phrase your requests.
33. Use LinkedIn InMail
There’s a time and a place for traditional emails, but if you’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn, continue reaching out with InMail.
You might confuse your connection if you change your platform from InMail to an inbox.
34. Don’t Underestimate Snail Mail
Back in those golden days before we all had computers at our fingertips, we actually used a pen, paper, and stamp to express our thoughts.
As email gurus, we can easily discount direct marketing campaigns like snail mail.
But when it comes to PR, it might not be a bad idea to send a stamped envelope with your email pitch.
“A beautifully designed press packet might be your ticket to some well deserved PR. Direct mail offers a personal touch. And paper collateral helps if you’re pitching to someone suffering from inbox overload. A press packet also establishes trust in ways that no email attachment ever could.”
Even More Strategies
35. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Complimenting a Reporter
Everyone loves a good compliment.
Journalists are constantly covering controversial subjects and can be bombarded with hate mail.
Get a journalist to notice you by complimenting their recent works. And if you do it the right way…
A specific compliment proves you’ve read their writing.
36. Use Permission-Based PR in Addition to Cold Emails
Try this approach:
“Traditionally, when we wanted to get media for our clients, we’d just send a pitch email, including the media release. While this worked for some, it wasn’t foolproof for most startups. Now, we identify a month early what journalists we’re targeting and send a simple intro email; introducing ourselves and asking their permission to send them a pitch(s) in the future. We also ask what style they prefer, how much notice they like, etc. Not only does this work — we’ve noticed a large increase in coverage rates as a result.”
— Heather Carson, President and Co-Founder of Onboardly Media
37. Promote Philanthropy
Aligning yourself and your company with a great cause not only feels good, but it makes you newsworthy as well.
Check out local philanthropic events taking place in your area and see how you can get involved.
Once you are involved, you have great newsworthy updates to pass to your targeted writers.
“Can your startup help a nonprofit in some way? Setting up your business to serve a nonprofit organization without charging them is a golden PR opportunity.”
38. Don’t Forget Targeted Keywords When Actually Writing Content
The point of this email pitch is to get people to write about you, but that doesn’t mean you should underestimate the importance of optimizing your own content.
If your email resonates with a journalist, the first thing they are going to do is research you to see if you’re legit.
Building your online presence by using relevant and optimized keywords will make it easier for them to find you.
39. Publish Your Own Amazing Content
While we’re on the subject of content, create your own!
The better your content is, the more it’ll be shared and…
The more likely your name will get out there.
Yes, stories published in respected news outlets are your goal, but use the resources you’ve got to enhance the chance your story will get picked up.
40. Focus on PR Quality, Not Quantity
Don’t get too “send happy” with your emails.
Yes, you want coverage, but take the time to make sure you’re targeting quality sources. Quality wins over quantity any day.
Aim high, it may take longer to get the attention of those larger publications, but…
It’ll be so worth it in the end!
Over to You
Learning to perfect the art of the PR email pitch is ongoing.
As you can see, it takes some serious time.
But, if you keep in mind your target audience and how you would like to be approached as a reporter, then you’re well on your way!
What are your go-to tips for pitching your story?
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