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Getting in TechCrunch: Newsworthy PR Pitches Dana Oshiro

Bad PR pitches aren’t just ignored, on slow days they’re reprimanded alongside screeds from some of the best and brightest technology journalists. For the past decade, publications like Wired, the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch have outed PR’s worst offenders and in many cases, created PR blacklists.

Some of the common reasons PR pitches fail include lack of personalization, refusal to research the journalist’s beat, and failure to offer enough lead time for a story to be written. These are all rookie mistakes. But perhaps the single biggest reason a pitch doesn’t land is because what your team thinks is awesome, simply isn’t newsworthy.

Why No One Gives a Click

Writers on the news beat are expected to deliver engaging stories and online engagement is measured in cold hard clicks. This means that unique visitors, pages visited, social shares, comments, bookmarks and time on page are all metrics associated with the value of a news story and in turn, the value of a writer. If a pitch is likely to lead to an engaging story, you’re more likely to get coverage. Nevertheless, what many anti-PR screeds fail to mention is that the same formula that J-schools have taught since the days of manual typesetting, are the ones that remain relevant to bloggers and audiences today.

There are 6 Tenets of Newsworthiness

The best way to get coverage is to incorporate at least one of the following tenets of newsworthiness into your email subject line and lead paragraph.

  1. Existing Celebrity or Brand: If you’re an unknown entity with no relationship to the journalist, the best way to get noticed is to quote or feature an existing celebrity or recognized brand as one of your announcement partners. If you’ve got Microsoft, Google, Amazon or any of the other Fortune 500 companies as customers, you should include their names and quotes in your pitch.
  2. Timeliness: This type of pitch is tied to something recent including your product launch, an industry event, a global trending event, or something seasonal like the Superbowl. Some journalists use Google Trends to compare headlines. You can do the same in crafting your pitch’s subject line.
  3. Epic Narrative: The more people affected by an event or potentially affected by an event, the more newsworthy the story becomes. An epic narrative might be about politics and privacy, new advances in science and medicine, global epidemics and international tragedies, and any other events that affect millions.
  4. Conflict: Controversy and open clashes are newsworthy and engaging, especially when directed against a popular opinion or well-known entity. Think Apple vs. Google, Python vs. Ruby, this guy vs. Docker. If you want attention, be the David to Oracle’s Goliath.
  5. Regionalization: Audiences tend to engage with news stories situated in close proximity to where they live or work. I guarantee you that the click thru rate on 2014 World Series news is an order of magnitude higher in Kansas City and San Francisco than in any other US city.
  6. Uniqueness / Oddity: You need to be pretty darn special to land this coverage. I once received a pitch where the subject line was “Ex-Googlers Launch Social Startup”. To put this into perspective there are currently about 50,000 current Google employees. Reuters Oddly Enough, HuffPo’s Weird News and SFGate’s Weird section are all great examples of the types of weird news reporters are interested in.

Examples

The following are examples of how reporters / bloggers incorporate newsworthy tenets into their stories. When pitching a company you should use these types of headlines as the subject lines of your emails.

Stripe in Wired

This Wired article incorporates a number of newsworthy tenets including:

  • Conflict: The phrasing “leads the race” suggests Stripe has competitors in the mobile payments space — namely Paypal’s Braintree.
  • Epic Narrative: The “$1 Trillion dollar Future of Mobile Payments” is one that affects approximately 1.75 billion smartphone users globally in 2014.
  • Celebrity: While not included in the headline, the lede paragraph of this story name drops Apple and Stripe’s Apple Pay launch.

Runscope in The New Stack

This New Stack article incorporates the following:

  • Timeliness: The article was published on the same day Runscope chose to announce its new tools.
  • Epic Narrative: “Ubiquity” affects so many people that its omnipresent and virtually undetectable.

Pebble in The Next Web

This Next Web article incorporates the following tenets of newsworthiness:

  • Celebrity: In this article, Pebble is the more recognizable brand.
  • Timeliness: At the time this article was published Google, Apple and Samsung were all rumored to be working on a smartwatch.
  • Uniqueness: While this was a unique story at the time, Internet of Things and Wearable Device stories are becoming more and more common.

This post is the first in a series of 3 on developer company announcements and product launches. Our next post is about timing your pitch.

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