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PR for Developer Companies with TechCrunch, eWeek, and VentureBeat Malia Powers

In this video, Heavybit Partner Dana Oshiro moderates a panel featuring developer-focused reporters Frederic Lardinois of TechCrunch, Blair Hanley Frank of VentureBeat, and Chris Preimesberger of eWeek. Watch and hear how these journalists:

  • Define their readership,
  • weave early-stage companies into their coverage
  • and, prefer to be pitched.

Below, you’ll find a few learnings from the panelists on how to earn press coverage in the early days of your company.

Be Interesting

The ticket to a good pitch and ultimately coverage is to simply “be interesting.” Now, I understand that this is extremely subjective. That’s because it is. One of the reasons PR is tough is because there’s gray area when it comes to working with journalists who have different styles, interests, and motivations.

Here’s a framework to grab a reporter’s eye that will work across individuals and outlets:

  • Step 1: Pitch the right beat reporter. If you’re a cloud company, pitch the cloud reporter and if you’re a consumer company, pitch the consumer reporter
  • Step 2: Prove that you have a novel solution to a problem
  • Step 3: Provide a news hook, or perhaps an exclusive

Get the Timing Right

Timing is just as crucial as the messaging. Below are a few tips for early-stage companies:

  • Avoid launching at major conferences. Instead, launch 3-4 weeks ahead of the conference. This allows for a company to be in the news cycle and not compete against some of the world’s largest companies for coverage
  • Lift the embargo on Monday or Friday when there is less competition
  • Set the embargo time for later in the day so reporters can write after the rush of morning news
  • Schedule the announcement during the slower summer months (Sept-Nov are busy conference months)
  • Pitch 2 weeks ahead of the launch date to allow journalists to slot the news into their schedule

Nail the Pitch

Below is a summary of the candid “pet-peeves” and tips from the panelists on the best way to pitch them.

Do:

  • Email 8-10 business days ahead of the embargo
  • After the first email, follow-up with the reporter a second time
  • Front load the pitch with facts
  • Make the email subject line factual
  • Keep it short (3-5 sentences)

Don’t:

  • Unless it’s MAJOR breaking news or you have a correction to a story, do not call a reporter
  • Start an email with a joke or state that you’ve recently read an article of theirs
  • Use buzz words like “revolutionary” or “innovative”
  • Continue to follow-up after 2 emails

Alas, hope you enjoy the video. Below are a few of my favorite sound bites. Enjoy!

Frederic

  • “Nothing happens on Fridays. If you set your embargo for Friday and it’s usually on the edge of something that I might cover, I will cover it on Friday. If you’re a small company consider Monday and Friday.”
  • “One of my tests when I think about writing is, ‘Is this something that Hacker News would pick-up.’ I read Hacker News and see what’s going on. It’s one of my sources to see what’s happening in the space.”

Blair

  • “Don’t pitch your news at conferences like Re: Invent. If you do, you’re saying that the news from company “X” is so sufficiently more important than Amazon’s news and we are vying for the same time on your schedule.”
  • “I wish more companies in the Machine Learning space would come to me with papers. If you’re publishing a paper with a novel result or implementation then get at me.”

Chris

  • “If I see the word ‘excited’ in a quote from an executive, it’s gone.”
  • “You don’t have to dress it [pitch] up that much. Tell me how the thing works, what the business benefits are, the cost, and if you have a photo send it. Keep it to the facts.”

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