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So your startup wants to get massive media coverage? Every startup dreams about the moment that Techcrunch, VentureBeat, The New York Times, Fast Company is interested in covering their story. What better way to learn about how to get massive media coverage than from the journalists themselves?
Pitch the Press @ OurCrowd Summit 2018
On February 1st, Jerusalem based OurCrowd hosted its annual summit in Jerusalem, which drew approximately 10,000 attendees, including 1,000 startups, 500 venture capitalists, and 500 multinationals from 90 countries. It’s certainly the largest hi-tech event in Israel and probably the biggest equity crowdfunding event in the world.
With so many startups jockeying for press coverage, it makes perfect sense that one of the breakout sessions focused on how to get the attention of the best journalists.
The session brought 5 senior journalists from some of the world’s most influential media organizations (Techcrunch, VentureBeat, Fast Company, NY Times) onto a panel, allowing 3 startups to pitch their story and receive feedback from the journalists on what messages, points, and approach pique their interest and would inspire them to write for their audiences of millions.
This was the ideal session for anyone who ever wondered why things make the news.
Each of the startups did a great job pitching, but during the session, I took some notes on what these top-tiered journalists shared to provide an outline for startups.
(note: The startups that presented are intentionally not being mentioned, each had 4 minutes to pitch and could not use a deck to support their pitch.)
Tell the Story
While the startups were unable to use a deck for their pitch, I think the first point is the foundation for all great pitches.
For some reason, every venture default to using a presentation or pitch deck as the source of information.
The tech journalists don’t want the presentations. They want a story.
In fact, Stewart Rogers, the moderator of the panel (who was superb), said:
So how does a startup tell a compelling story to journalists?
Choose the Right Story to Tell
At OurCrowd, the nature of the panel did not get down to this level but it was clear that the journalists would only respond to stories that were relevant to their interests, meet their niche of the tech/ startup scene, and that fit within the framework of their media outlet.
Generally, media pitches can be divided into one of four categories
- Success/ Traction. Best story. It’s the one that shows the most success. It’s the one that validates the proof of concept in the best way. Why? Because nothing proves success better than the growth of users. The data is proof. What else could be a great story? Did your startup secure great partnerships with big partners or customers? Tell this story. That’s what journalists want to hear.
- Ideally, if you can personalize it, even better. Give the story a persona, tell it through their eyes, how did they benefit from the product? What kind of difference did it make?
- Lead with Your Team. So many startups are stuck in a cycle of waiting for that big traction story but can’t get the traction without some media. Try pitching the team. Tell the story of the people behind the startup. What makes this team great? Did they have previous successes?
- Stick to Tech. The traction isn’t there yet, and the team is good but not pitch-worthy, maybe the tech is the ticket? Is your startup cooking up something really
disruptiveimpressive in an important industry? Try the tech angle.
- Big Thinking. Honestly, this is the hardest pitch to present to media. Sometimes, if times are slow for journalists they’ll take it. The 5 panelists agreed that on any given day, they receive about 50-100 pitches from startups. I’d imagine that many of them fall under the ‘vision’ category.
Think Sandwich Media Pitch
During the panel, the presenters had 4 minutes. They all focused on maximizing the first 30 seconds to pitch the panel with the most compelling angle. They passionately presented their venture to grab the journalists’ attention from the very beginning.
It’s no secret that the most memorable media pitches start with the success, impress with delight, inform, and leave the media inspired.
I once read that Dave McClure uses the Traction Sandwich analogy when pitching (his analogy was focused on pitching the traction angle but can certainly apply to any of the other media angles, too.).
Want to grab the journalists’ attention and make your startup memorable, open with a success!
Pitch the most impressive success first!
Besides, who doesn’t love a good sandwich?
Think Long Term
During the panel, there were certainly brief moments that I sensed the startups were ‘luring’ the journalists (in a positive way).
Startups that can present the problem to journalists in a way that they become an integral component of the solution, meaning they are onboard and eager to solve it or are interested in helping to promote the future solution, then the startup has secured a long-term partner, not a journalist.
Don’t Bury the Lead
When pitching to media, the panelists all expressed how many startups “bury the lead.”
Meaning that they hide the main hook somewhere in the middle of the pitch.
It’s probably because the startup hasn’t distilled and iterated their pitch enough (more on that soon). Start the pitch with the most important item. The soundbite. That’s what media want.
In fact, a few of the panelists said that they prefer only 5 sentences as an initial media pitch. With only 5 sentences to wow the journalist, it better be really good.
Answer the Right Questions
What else should go into a great media pitch? Providing answers to the right questions.
When I read The Art of the Start 2.0, Guy Kawasaki lists 10 slides that every startup should include in an investor deck. It’s not a far leap to make this deck applicable to pitching media.
Just use the deck as a foundation for crafting a compelling story.
Remember, it’s not the slides that the startup is pitching, it’s the story.
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