This year has been tumultuous for the media. It’s seen a record number of job cuts, and journalists are forced to do more with less. In my eight years building relationships with the media as a PR professional, I’ve rarely seen as many responses of “too swamped.”
For startups striving to get media attention, the game has changed. They need to focus on not pitching the media, and becoming a “partner” who makes journalists’ lives easier.
If you’re struggling to make inroads in today’s media, here’s how to turn yourself into a long-term asset for journalists rather than a nuisance.
1. Don’t go straight to the media
One of the best ways to build relationships with the media is … not to pitch the media. AI may soon start taking over much of basic breaking news and funding announcements, while journalists spend more time on analytical pieces.
So, founders should pitch fewer “quick takes,” and spend more time building a depth of knowledge and analytical content on channels like Medium, TikTok or LinkedIn. Journalists are fatigued by general, nonconfrontational insights. Shed light on less-discussed issues through your lived experience.
The book “Founder vs Investor” just got a whole lot of press because it tells a warts-and-all story of a critical relationship in the startup world.
Leverage your online following as a source of original data. One of our clients runs TikTok surveys on how her audience is falling through the cracks of the health care system, receiving insights that are a goldmine for journalists looking to verify a trend with human stories.
You could also create short industry reports, which — if you’re consistent — we’ve found will start to get you referenced organically by journalists.
2. Develop a reputation as a partner, not just a pitcher
When pitching stories, we’ve been seeing more journalists ask us if we can put them in touch with multiple other sources for the story.
Be a proactive facilitator. When we noticed this trend, we started writing more joint pitches for clients, offering the opinions of multiple founders on an industry development. Journalists reply far quicker to these pitches, and they’re likely to come back to you for future stories. Think about pitching your investors, professors or people you’ve been on a panel with.
You can also send journalists an honest message to meet them where they are: “I’d love to keep pitching you but I also don’t want to waste your time with topics that aren’t of interest. If you have a moment, let me know what you’re covering right now so I can see if there are areas I can contribute to or not, it would be much appreciated.”
3. Adapt to journalists’ new timelines
Journalists have less time for you, so make your pitches way shorter than you would’ve a year or two ago. We’ve received some stern feedback recently from journalists who didn’t appreciate the meat of the pitch being buried in the third paragraph. You can share those juicy details if you score an interview. Also start reaching out a lot earlier (4-5 weeks ahead of time) for milestone announcements.
News cycles are also faster than ever. Pitch hot takes on breaking stories within a day, and draw journalists’ attention by making a splash on your owned channels.
It’s not the brightest of days for online media. Treat it as a space you want to enrich, not just take advantage of, and you’ll be more likely to build solid relationships as your company’s footprint grows.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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