How Startups Should Pitch A Journalist – Interview with Anthony Ha
As a Senior Writer at TechCrunch, Anthony Ha knows what makes a good story. He has put in over eight years as a journalist, including time as an award-winning government reporter in California. Anthony sat down with TST to share industry insights for connecting with journalists and creating stories that move readers past the headline.
Anthony Ha Profile:
Years as a journalist: 8+
Number of pitches you get per day: 150
Number of pieces you write each week: ~10
TST: How can startups differentiate themselves to get your attention?
AH: The most effective way is personal name recognition and getting prominent investment. For example, I’m going to pay attention if the CEO has a unique story, or if someone I trust introduces me to the startup.
What I’m looking for is real human passion. I want to be able to imagine that I would totally use whatever item, product or service is being talked about. I want to see whether it would be important with the potential to transform an industry.
TST: What do you think about the press release?
AH: Releases are useful and it’s nice to have certain things in writing. It’s a good way to decide whether it’s interesting enough to write about. Quotes in press releases are always incredibly massaged and on message. I very rarely use press release quote unless they are saying something concrete and specific.
I view a press release on email, not the wire. If you’re a startup I’m reading it over email.
When do you recommend that a company reach out to you for a product launch? About a week before the launch is ideal, possibly a little earlier than that. I typically write and post nearly immediately so if a pitch comes in too early it can easily be overlooked. The risk of pitching too early is that there’s always something else to write that’s more pressing.
Who do you want to talk to when you’re working on a story?
I prefer to talk to the CEO or someone who can speak directly with as much honesty to the topic of the story. I want to talk to whomever owns the project and can talk about it the best.
Titles matter but the content matters more.
Rule of thumb: if I’m not a priority, your story isn’t either.
When someone offers you an exclusive, does it make the story (if there is one) a better offer?
There are some stories that an exclusive can potentially help. Some however, won’t. Writers have some kind of say what they will write. Since 90% of the things that journalists write are based on interest a journalist may make time for it.
How can companies help support your writing process?
By being ready to talk about your product or service. Ideally, you’ll have a fact sheet or press release that I can refer to. Images. Journalists do not just want a logo or boring headshots, so include various visual assets.
Key Takeaways for Your Business:
- Pitch product launches no more than two weeks out. Journalists are busy and the news cycle is daily – pitch too soon and they’ll forget about your launch when it arrives.
- Take time to research a journalist’s beat and interests beforehand. A key factor of successful pitching is connecting with a journalist who is interested in what you’re doing.
- Find out how a journalist prefers to receive pitches and send accordingly. Each journalist has a routine that works best for them.
- Make your story worth a journalist’s time. Ensure the person speaking on your company’s behalf is both passionate and knowledgeable about the product.
- Focus less on canned content and more on the story itself. Fact sheets are good, but quality content and compelling visuals are better.