Finding the right reporter to cover your startup

Pitch the wrong reporter or publication, and your story wont see the light of day.
Before you start seeking press, youll need to look for reporters who have reach, respect and expertise when you choose who to talk to. Youll also need to be prepared to accept the truth about your business, even if it hurts. Its critical that you find a writer whos a good fit for the business youre building and the audience youre seeking.
If you dont use a strategic approach when reaching out to journalists, youll get few responses, fewer meetings, and articles that either misrepresent you, shortchange you, or blow up in your face. The goal isnt just to secure positive coverage, because no one will believe it; startups are tough. There are challenges and setbacks and scary looming questions. But an honest article from a respected voice with a big enough audience can legitimize a business as it tries to turn vision into impact.
Here well discuss how to find the publication and reporter who understands you and can tell the story that aligns with your objectives. In part one of this series, we detailed why you should (or shouldnt) want press coverageand how to know whats newsworthy enough to pitch.
In future ExtraCrunch posts, Ill explore how to hire PR help, formulate a pitch, deliver it to reporters, prepare for interviews and conduct an announcement. If you have more questions or ideas for ExtraCrunch posts, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter or elsewhere.
Why should you believe me? Im editor-at-large for TechCrunch, where Ive written 4,000 articles about early-stage startups and tech giants. For 10 years, Ive reviewed startup pitches via email and Twitter, at demo days for accelerators like Y Combinator and on stage as a judge of startup competitions. From warm introductions to cold calls, Ive seen what gets reporters attention and why stories become enduring narratives supporting companies as they grow.

Deciding which publications to target

Which publications do you currently read and respect?
Starting here ensures that youre approaching PR from a place of knowledge with personal context rather than going by what someone else tells you. But you also have to consider which publications appeal in that way to your target demographic. For example, if youre aiming to reach teens, parents, or Chief Information Officers, youll have very different target publications.
If you appeal to a niche audience aligned with a specific publication, you can definitely score some leads and installs, priming the pump so when users hear about you again, they already have a positive association for your brand. You can score SEO to help your get discovered when people search for keywords related to your business, but if youre looking for user growth or SEO, be sure to work with a publication that links to the websites and apps they write about, as many dont. But if youre hoping for the servers are on fire weve got so much traffic attention, you need to first build network effects and viral loops directly into your product.
Once you identify a realistic objective for gaining press coverage, you can figure out which reporters and outlets will best help you achieve your goals.
Typically, youll aim to work with more prestigious publications and writers first, as they can inspire other outlets to write up follow-on coverage. It rarely works the other way around, since top publishers want to be seen as first to a story and forging trends rather than following them with late coverage. These outlets often have greater reach in terms of home page traffic, social following, SEO and shareability.
The exception to this strategy: if theres a specific writer at a less-prestigious publisher whos renowned as the expert in your space whose word has more weight, or if that publication better aligns with your overall goals. For example, you might want to work with a transportation expert like Kirsten Korosec if youre an electric car company, or a publication focused on startups like TechCrunch if youre trying to stoke fundraising. If youre a more general mainstream consumer business or are seeking maximum growth, you might instead choose a popular national newspaper with a big circulation.

Who should tell your story?

After youve set goals and have an idea regarding the kind of publication or journalist you want to work with, its time to build a ranked list of specific reporters. Here, expertise is key.
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