As an entrepreneur my startup is always dear to me and I also want to tell the world the same but often it is not what I planned. With most of my time invested in the product betterment and fixation I rush to a PR to pitch my story. The PR promises me that it will be covered by all news dailies and after some time I realize that nobody is visiting my site or downloading my product. So what went wrong? Was it the pitch or the media house that the PR approached was not interested? A common question that bugs every entrepreneur and this led to the theme of the panel discussion at #NASSCOMPC on the second day post lunch. The panel had Nikhil Pahwa, Archana Rai, Shel Israel and was hosted by Indus Khaitan.
The discussion obviously started with a very common question, “what makes a startup story covered by media houses.”
A product or service pitched and articulated well was a unanimous thought from Nikhil and Archana. Shel reminded that for a media house his customers are the readers so every story that gets covered must align what readers want. Nikhil added more to this discussion and said that at MediaNama it is a two men army and they get loads of emails which also includes such as bathing, beauty, etc products to pitch for. He highlighted that the mess is created by the PR people who just send their clients startup pitch to everybody.
So the next obvious question put across by Indus was,”what should be a startup pitch format that gets that one look by media houses.”
Archana answered the question with another question, “ask yourself that why we should cover your story.” As an editor I read a startup story and if it appeals to me, I also think that will my readers like it. If both the points are ticked then I am interested to know more.
Nikhil, however has a set of three questions that need to be answered by every entrepreneur who wants to pitch his story:
1. Who you are?
2. What you are doing?
3. What is the market that you are addressing?
He added that if one can answer this in three hundred words I am ready to talk to the particular startup.
The last question that was put across for the panel was, “who makes a decision for a story to be published. Is it the editor or the person who is covering the story?”
Unanimous answer by all was that the final call is from the editor but Archana shared a tip saying that startups should know who they are talking to when they are approaching large media houses and bit of homework always helps.
With that the floor was open for few audience questions and this was the interesting part where entrepreneurs had the time to get upfront with editors.
The very first question from the audience was, “What are the best ways of pitching to a media house.”
An email is always that is preferred with Archana that should list three things, what a startup does, who he/she is and how does it want to grow. Make it brief and to the point was Archana’s suggestion.
Shel, a social media believer said that start building a relationship using my twitter handle or jumping into my blog. Then from there you can pitch a story via an email with saying who you are and why you are pitching.
Nikhil who had shared his thoughts on this before added that reference always helps but we always look at a startup in terms of how it can move a market.
Next question came from a lady that runs two startups and said bluntly, “it is not at all easy to pitch stories to media houses specially the likes of Economic Times.” She also added that her competitor who has more money is pitching to five different media houses with its PR. The question got some more voice from other entrepreneurs that turned into a heated discussion.
Shel had an interesting thought for this question he asked the lady when nobody is listening to you then why don’t you become a media company in this social media age.
I think that is a take away for me from the discussion. One of the startups I met after the discussion told me that I was covered in big international news daily but after that nothing happened. My answer was that did you think of writing guest posts in other news daily. Well I know entrepreneurs will tell that we have shortage of time but then isn’t the product your baby.
Personally, I think that entrepreneurs should use social media extensively to spread their voice rather than going to a PR. Another interesting thing that I noticed was that Shel shared that engage with me on Twitter or Blog before you pitch to me. I was surprised to see that no such thought came from neither Nikhil nor Archana. However I think that it’s always better to create a decent social media presence and try to engage with editors on twitter or blog before you pitch a story.
I would like to listen to your thoughts what you as a startup have done or plan to do while pitching your story to media houses?