TechCrunch Editor Has Some Tips on Startup Pitches

Mike Butcher says the press release is dead...for young tech companies, at least.

Mike Butcher is editor-at-large for TechCrunch Europe, so he gets A LOT of pitches every day from startup companies.

And he’s had it. No, really.

In a post that went live last week on his personal blog, Butcher shared some thoughts about the current state of the tech pitching game.

He is concerned, first and foremost, with startup founders and app-makers who try and fail to handle their own self-promotional duties; you may be shocked to learn that many do NOT double as well-trained PR professionals.

Still, he has some advice for firms pitching these companies. Beyond the basics (keep it short, research the reporter’s work, build a working relationship, etc.), he would prefer not to continue getting emails that read something like:

“Hi, we exist. Can we have a post on Techcrunch now?

Can I send you a press release?

Can we take you out for coffee?”

In the absence of any information about WHY the company deserves a post and why Butcher might want more information, he rightly perceives these messages to be a waste of both his and the sender’s time. For that reason, he’s the latest of many parties to declare the traditional press release DEAD.

So what does he recommend in his own particularly sharp tone?

  • Keep it current: if you’re pitching your client/company in response to big news about, say, Apple, time the email strategically so that it hits as reporters are writing their responses to the original story.
  • Write subject lines like headlines and opening lines like news summaries: no need for pleasantries, even if you know the guy.
  • DO NOT ATTACH ANYTHING, especially not PDFs; include links to any relevant materials, preferably via Dropbox.
  • If you’re going to mention funding or user totals, don’t be coy: get very specific with the news, because he sees a lot of these releases and he can tell when you are trying not to answer the inevitable questions.
  • Make sure the story is an exclusive and skip the embargo: if you’ve chosen TechCrunch, don’t pitch to multiple outlets simultaneously.

Most of the points in Butcher’s Q&A address the angle used to pitch the product. Was it created to solve a specific problem? What is that problem and how is it solved? Does the product fit with a separate trend piece? How so, and why should this particular outlet’s readers care?

This will all sound familiar to those with a history of pitching new tech clients to tech media. In short, there’s no need to run through the entire presentation…and one’s first responsibility lies in explaining, as immediately as possible, why Mike Butcher and his readers would be interested in whatever you’re sharing. Five part email exchanges should only occur when absolutely necessary, meaning NEVER.

The press release isn’t really “dead,” of course. But what does such a release on its own do for a guy like Butcher? Less than nothing.

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