How to get a reporter to care about your business: a Lean Startup presenation

Editor’s Note: I’ve given this presentation several times, so it’s been updated through the years. I’ve also written on this subject here and here — and here.

When pitching your venture or product, send a business or technology reporter a three sentence email, explaining in super simple language (a) what your project is, (b) why it matters and (b) who you are.

That was one of the better received recommendations I made while presenting for the Lean Startup seminar held at the Venturef0rth incubator in Callowhill, Philadelphia this weekend.

See my presentation slides above or find it here and past writing on the subject here and here. My colleague Sean Blanda has a post giving broad advice here, which includes a great list of questions to be prepated for, though I was a bit more specific to the 30 entrepreneurs in the room on starting the conversation. Details on my slide below.

  1. Understand the pipeline: (1) niche news that will offer early users and support, (2) regional legacy news that will offer broader users, (3) national media that will offer scaled users and branding
  2. Nobody cares about what you do as much as you do: so don’t act like anyone should and keep it simple when explaining or talking about it.
  3. What is your nut?: have a short 10 words to describe your business in language that a 10-year-old can understand.
  4. Design matters: Reporters first judge your project by what your website or application looks like.
  5. Know the publication: take a few minutes to understand what coverage they do. Have an example of the specific type of coverage you want to have, so you know they do it.
  6. Get an intro: Though it’s not necessary, an intro by a respected PR executive or someone else who has a relationship with the journalist is an enormous help.
  7. Do not pun in your subject line: Don’t be cutesy, don’t try to entertain the reporter, just give information he or she would need. In truth, the subject line should be fully explanatory: “Company name: 3-5-word explanation, 3-5-word reason why it’s cool”
  8. Send a three sentence email: what is it, why it matters, who are you?
  9. Have a demo ready: so we can see or experience whatever you’re selling before we write about it.
  10. Reporters are weird about ethics: so understand they appreciate transparency, will question the legitimacy of your claims and should challenge your assumptions.
  11. What is next?: to get new coverage, have a new angle or a time hook, which is something that makes a story timely.
  12. Reporters want your thing to be cool: Otherwise you’re wasting they’re time, so, in fact, reporters are mostly your friends. They want your thing to be the coolest ever, but they’re going to ask tough questions and be hard on you because their byline goes next to the story.
  13. Have sweet video and photos: Your story will get a larger audience if you help the reporter with a better looking story.
  14. Your press release is to inform, not acquire coverage: No longer is your press release the way to sell a reporter on a story. Instead, they’re a repository of all the relevant details. At best, it’s something to link to in your email.
  15. Have product codes for readers: Try to acquire users and get as much attention out of the story.
  16. Other coverage: good. Same coverage (in same market): bad: You need new market coverage, new angles to get new coverage. Same story with competitors will kill stories.
  17. No, you can’t read the story before it publishes: So don’t even ask. That’s the independent, ethical streak of any good journalism outfit.
  18. If your venture succeeds, they’ll come to you: Never forget that you need a good product to ultimately succeed, no matter the marketing.