The startup journalist pitch checklist

Recently I got a little excited and broke every rule in the “pitching a startup to a journalist” rule book. I made a bit of a fool of myself to be honest. Hopefully this post will prevent you from doing the same.

Getting excited and enthusiasm is good

We’d just done the big re-design of Contactzilla, added in mobile syncing, and frankly I was feeling the rush of excitement that you get when you’ve spent a long time working on something and you start to see it come together as a world class product.

Of course it’s time to let the world know, so I fire up my email client and draft an email to my favourite journalist who works at a large tech blog. This email was crafted with love and excitement. It was actually pretty good to be fair and did the job well. No problems here.

The reply in the next few days was something along the lines “we’re definitely interested, are you ready?”. This is where things started to go wrong for me and I suspect for many others in a similar position.

“…of course we’re ready, we’re launching in May, BUT we need to tell the world now, we can’t wait. We’re awesome… blah blah”, was my reply (almost).

The next reply came basically saying that they wanted to wait for the official launch with the payment system, a little more traction and that essentially we weren’t quite ready. “Are you mad?”, I thought, how could this possibly be true?

Being in a hurry is not good

I replied with what can best be described as a passionate response. You know when you think back to certain things and you get that funny feeling in the pit of your stomach and you can’t help smile (and not really in a good way), I get that when I think about it. At worst it was a whiney load of bullshit.

I broke every rule when pitching this journalist and I’d be surprised if they ever reply to one of my emails again. So, I pass on this wisdom to you, that has been passed on to me.

Here’s the “startup journalist pitch” checklist:

First things first, ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer YES to each one it’s safe to move on to the next list.

  1. Are you ready?
  2. Is there a story?
  3. Have you got  the contact details for the right person?

Yes to these three questions? Now stick to these simple rules:

  • Don’t ever call or DM to verify receipt of pitch
  • Don’t pester
  • Don’t CC in others
  • Don’t make your email impersonal
  • Don’t overflow with buzzwords, jargon or deep tech.
  • Don’t show other articles to try and make you look good
  • Don’t Reference public tweets in an email
  • Do summarise in a paragraph – make it easy
  • Do make sure there are links to relevant media and sites
  • Do make it easy to contact you and get more information
  • Do be polite
  • Do be enthusiastic but temper it
  • Do offer exclusives and stick to it
  • No embargos

I’m pretty sure that this list will grow over time. Any contributions greatly received. 🙂