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Pitching Advice from a Former Tech Journalist

Bekah Grant is no longer a tech journalist. But she covered startups, apps and acquisitions (aka our clients) for more than two years at VentureBeat, and she has some advice worth heeding beyond these truth bombs:

In a Medium piece last week, Grant offered PRs some general guidance on understanding and interacting with the writers who cover the tech beat.

First, some insights into her day-to-day:

“I wrote an average of 5 posts a day, churning out nearly 1,740 articles over the course of 20 months. That is, by all objective standards, insane.”

True, but it sounds shockingly familiar to us.

“Perhaps now you understand why reporters can sometimes seem standoffish, skittish, bitter, unresponsive, or downright grumpy…We have to prioritize. It’s nothing personal.”

Well, yeah. Now for basic truths:

“We the tech media do not owe you (or your clients) coverage. My job is to cover the news, not to promote your company. If press is your only user acquisition strategy, you have a bigger problem…Treat us with respect, and you may just get respect back.”

And you know this. Grant’s complaints about tech PR may strike you as painfully familiar. Her main point? PR joins the conversation too early for many tech companies.

“PR people get in the way of stories more often than they enable them, in my experience. They unnecessarily staff interviews so they can bill more hours and seem to think it unreasonable that a journalist would want to talk to a source without a patrol present.

“I do not want to cast aspersions across an entire profession. PR certainly has an important role to play, but in the startup scene, it has too strong a presence too early.”

Our favorite point in Grant’s piece is one worth repeating: the story is more important than your client, and a product launch almost never amounts to a story, especially in isolation. This is PR 101, but it’s helpful to read it coming from the other side of the screen. Sure, you’ve heard it all before—because in many cases it’s true. And we’re not just talking tech.

Last week, for example, we got more than one email pitch about this product:

skis

Not sure what it does and even less sure why we should care. Even if the message had included some sort of angle, we would still wonder how we ended up on the mailing list.

At any rate, Grant’s promises that her next piece will be a pitching how-to. You should definitely check it out.

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