It’s no secret that entrepreneurs who can get their company mentioned in popular publications often benefit from the exposure. For journalists tasked with writing about the latest in tech, finding companies to feature can be hard. Especially for busy journalists like Jessica Galang.
Everyday entrepreneurs bombard the BetaKit news editor with emails about their new “revolutionary” products, company or partnerships. It’s all in a bid to get her to write about their company for her publication. That means she’s forced to sift through dozens of email pitches almost hourly. It can exhausting since she’s charged with staying up-to-date with Canada’s tech ecosystem and also writing about it.
“I’m basically responsible for most of the [BetaKit] editorial planning, I look at what’s happening every day in the tech ecosystem and I sort of evaluate what’s priority and what’s not priority,” she explains. “Pretty much my job is to keep on top of the Canadian ecosystem and to decide what news we’re going to cover and how.”
In this one-on-one Galang shares what she looks for in a startup and how entrepreneurs can get journalists, like herself, to pay attention to them.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Q: How do you evaluate what company or product is “newsworthy”?
Jessica Galang (JG): I mostly look at the sort of traction they’ve had so far. For example, I look at the number of customers they have, their target market or if they’ve reached a unique milestone. Sometimes even if they’ve partnered with a big enterprise that helps make them (or their product) stand out.
Q: What’s the best way to pitch a story?
JG: I think, email is usually the safest way, because journalists are expecting pitches in their inbox. For me, personally, DMs [direct messages through Twitter] are totally fine as well. I find my DMs are also less crowded, so I don’t mind and it’s easier to read through messages.
Q: What should entrepreneurs do before pitching a journalist?
JG: I think sometimes entrepreneurs make the mistake of just sending an email with a link to their website and saying ‘hey, we just launched this [and] hope that you cover us. Please follow up if you want more information.’
But I don’t have time to follow up with every single person to get more information about their company.
When pitching journalists entrepreneurs should be prepared. They should look at press releases as examples of what a pitch could possible look like. They should be prepared to explain why their product is valuable, what market they’re targeting. And, perhaps why their product is different from any other one that’s launched in that sector as well. They need to be able to answer why I would cover them versus a competitor. Why I would spend time writing an article about them now instead of six months from now.
Q: What are some helpful additions entrepreneurs can include in their pitches that will set them apart?
JG: Media kits are always helpful and having pictures if a startup is announcing something specific — like funding or a partnership — is great.
If it’s just a simple pitch then I suggest writing three paragraphs explaining what their news is about. If I like their story I can follow up later. The biggest thing is that they need to be explicit about what news or product they think I should be interested in.
Q: Should startups hire a PR agency to help generate some media buzz or just do it themselves?
JG: That’s a little tough to answer, especially if you’re an early stage startup hoping to get coverage. It can be tough for some to afford PR services. If they can’t there’s so many free resources out there that can help them do it on their own. You don’t need to hire PR, but it can help.
If you’re in an early stage startup I think just learning best practices can go a long way. I’ve worked with a lot of companies that don’t have in-house PR or a PR agency, but they know the BetaKit brand. They know what we cover and send us really targeted pitches that work.
Q: Is it bad etiquette to reach out to more than one reporter at the same time?
JG: I accept that sometimes [entrepreneurs] are going to reach out to other reporters. If it’s a huge announcement then I understand why they would reach out to other publications for embargos or big news. I think it’s key that you make sure you’re really transparent with everyone.
It’s my expectation that other publications are probably going to cover this news if it’s big. But when you’re shady and you pitch something to a journalist and you give them one time and then you give another journalist another time, that’s when it’s really bad.
I think it’s also bad etiquette when someone is pitching me, but they forget to change the name of the publication in the email. So, it would say ‘Hi Jessica, I think this would be a great pitch for the Financial Post’ and I’m left thinking, like, oh, thanks, that’s really nice do you even want us to cover your company.
Looking for more about how to get your startup media ready? Check out our previous post about public relation and communication with Erin Richards.