Startup growth comes from many places, but one option is through “earned media” — stories and mentions in the press. Earned media is great, because the channel is nominally free, and it can often get many more of the right eyeballs than advertising. Minus some sleazy behavior in the journalism world, you should never have to pay a dime to get a story into print other than the work it takes to manage PR (and yes, of course, that can be very expensive, although it doesn’t have to be).
For these reasons, startups pitch writers a lot on stories about everything from their latest fundraise to new features in their apps. Yet despite that frequency, some founders (and PR folks) are extraordinarily good at pitching and find great success, while others seem to never get the attention of even the most workaholic writers.
The job of writers is to write stories, but writing your story is not their job.
Therefore, learning how to pitch a journalist, how to build a relationship with writers covering your startup, and how not to mess up a story already in production is a critical skill for anyone looking to grow their business.
This guide is designed to help bridge the gap by covering relationship building, how to determine newsworthiness, and the logistics of exclusives and embargoes. In addition, we’ve published a companion piece lists and analyzes 16 DON’Ts that can suddenly find your committed story in the trash can.
Building relationships should always take precedent
The single greatest secret of building any venture, actually, the greatest secret of life is that relationships are everything. We live in a free world, and no one is obligated to do anything for anyone. Venture capitalists aren’t obligated to write a check, partners aren’t obligated to sign a deal, and customers never have to buy your product.