What’s the best way to pitch a story to a media organization? That was the question of the hour during a recent workshop we conducted in partnership with 1776 for 20 of their startups.

You can watch the full workshop above

We joined 1776 last year not only to connect with startup companies working in areas important to local communities and media, but also to lend our expertise in appropriate areas. Our workshop, “Pitching to the Media 101,” was geared toward startup companies looking for appropriate, effective and realistic ways to get their stories in front of the media.

We enlisted the the help of several panelists to provide tips, advice and examples of effective pitches. Our panelists included Tommy McFly, Morning Show Host, CBS Radio Washington; Mitchell Miller, Senior News Director, WTOP; Matt McFarland, Tech Reporter, CNN Tech; Stan Melton, Creative Services Director, WJLA.

Tips for pitching:

  • Have a strong hook
  • Be timely and relevant
  • Make it a good fit to the journalist’s audience
  • Keep it brief and specific
  • Be accurate. Do not overstate or be vague
  • Be clear about why the journalist should talk to you

Generally, when a startup company thinks about crafting a pitch, the goal is to secure funding, so the definition of a “pitch” to the media was addressed first. There are striking similarities between the two types of pitches.

For example, an effective pitch includes a good “hook” that connects a story to the recipient. In this case, the recipient is the person(s) responsible for developing a story for their audience.

The panelists also discussed the need for the hook to be timely. A good hook will usually include something that ties the story to a current or recent event. During the workshop, one startup working to provide real-time information about transportation options tied the story to the recent events involving the DC Metro SafeTrack updates.

A good pitch should also be concise. The experts explained how some of the better story pitches connect to something very specific and don’t require an essay-length email.

Startups should also think about all platforms and media when pitching. Not all stories are a match for a broadcast or publication’s broad audience, and startups should consider all outlets including the media organizations digital site, other niche sites and social media.

Two startups, TransitScreen and HeroHomes volunteered to pitch their story ideas to the panel at the end of the workshop.