Journalists Don’t Hate You, They’re Just Busy
Have you ever tried to pitch an idea to a journalist or writer, or an article about your tech startup to a publication like TechCrunch or Mashable ? I have. But as of this year I’ve also become a writer, and I’ve learned something about being on the other side, the side that receives the pitches. One thing I’ve learned is that writers and journalists aren’t purposely ignoring you and your pitch and they don’t hate you, your company, or your idea–they’re just busy.
In my case I’ve committed to write at least once a week for Forbes and South China Morning Post’s Education Post section. And I also try to get articles into other publications. This is on top of running an online marketing firm with offices in the US and Hong Kong, getting an entrepreneurship event up and running, serving in my church, trying to be a good father and husband, and catching the ferry. I’m not complaining about being busy, I love being busy. Part of what I love about Hong Kong is how busy it allows me to be. I’ve never felt so energized.
But there are 10x as many things I would like to do as I am capable of doing, and that means prioritizing. That means when someone emails me about their cool new startup, even if I love it I might have to pass on writing an article about it. I’ve had to learn to not volunteer to write an article about every new Hong Kong startup I meet, because I can’t deliver on that and take care of the other parts of my life that require time and attention.
In my interactions with other writers and journalists I see the same thing. These folks would love to write 10x as many articles as they do, but they can’t. So what can you do to break through the busyness of writers and get coverage for your startup? Here are just a few suggestions:
- Find the right publication. TechCrunch covers tech. Forbes covers general business. Search Engine Land covers online marketing. There may be overlap here and there, but for the most part target the publication that is the best fit for your company.
- Find the right writer. For Forbes I cover entrepreneurship and startups in Hong Kong. If you’re in Kansas City, Missouri and your startup has nothing to do with Asia, I’m probably not your guy.
- Make it easy for the writer and stroke his/her ego. Try to write the article yourself before sending it to a writer. Make it as objective as possible, rather than self promotional. Find articles that are similar to the type of article you’d like to see about your own company, and copy the style. Send it to the writer with a note “Based on your writing about such and such in the past, I thought you might be interested in my company. I’m no writer myself, but I tried putting something together. Perhaps you’d be interested in writing an article something like this?” That makes it easy for the writer to take what you’ve written, re-write it in his own way, and get an article out quickly and easily. Recently, I asked someone to wanted me to write an article about his company to do this for me. I didn’t publish what he gave me. I didn’t even publish 50% of it. But in the “article” he gave me there were valuable details, quotes, etc. I was able to pull into the article I wrote. By writing the article himself, he gave me the information I needed to write my own article.
- Follow up. If you’re going to shop the article around, tell the writer. “Hi, I know you’re busy, I just wanted to see if you’re interested in publishing this. If not, that’s fine, but if that’s the case I’d like to send it over to Mashable on Friday. If possible could you let me know if you’ll be publishing this or not?” If the writer really wants to do the story, they’ll tell you so. If not, you’ll either get a “We’ll pass,” or a “Give me another week, I’d really like to run this.”
Granted, my experience is limited, both as a writer and someone who has tried to get articles published. What’s your experience, and what tips would you add?