A Guide to Pitching Funding and Launch Stories

Leo Schwartz is the Media Strategy Lead at Upbeat (YC S10).

Upbeat is a software-powered PR agency that is making PR more accessible and equitable for companies and journalists. We have worked with over 400 clients—many of them early-stage startups—and placed stories in thousands of outlets from the New York Times to TechCrunch.

We tell our clients there are three elements that constitute a good story: timeliness, credibility, and uniqueness. There are two types of stories that easily satisfy all three: funding announcements and launching out of an accelerator. Both are "news events," and both include the external validation of a third party. As for uniqueness, your company is ostensibly doing something novel and groundbreaking to be accepted into an accelerator and/or receive funding—you just have to demonstrate it as succinctly as possible.

Of course, there are a million factors that determine whether a journalist will write or not, but in this post we provide the framework for pitching these two types of stories on your own.

Funding Announcement Template

EMBARGO [Company name] raises [$X round] to [~5 word summary of what makes company unique/matter]

Hi [Journalist name],

I saw you wrote [related article] and thought you would be interested in covering our funding announcement. [Brief two sentence description of why company is unique/groundbreaking.]

  • [Lead investor and other notable investors]
  • [Notable metrics/partnerships/existing customers that establish credibility of company]
  • [Notable metrics/partnerships/existing customers that establish credibility of company]

We're asking for an embargo on any stories until [date of announcement]. If you agree to the embargo, please let me know and I can send over a media kit that includes the full press release, multimedia, and investor quotes. I'm also free to talk [a few blocks of availability] and can set up an interview with [investors]. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Best,
[Founder name]
[Founder title]

Launching Product Out of YC

EMBARGO Y Combinator-backed [Company name] launches to [~5 word summary of what makes company unique/matter]

Hi [Journalist name],

I saw you wrote [related article] and thought you would be interested in covering our launch out of Y Combinator. [Brief two sentence description of why company is unique/groundbreaking.] We're also announcing a [$X round (optional).]

  • [Lead investor and other notable investors (optional)]
  • [Notable metrics/partnerships/existing customers that establish credibility of company]
  • [Notable metrics/partnerships/existing customers that establish credibility of company]

We're asking for an embargo on any stories until [date of announcement]. If you agree to the embargo, please let me know and I can send over a media kit that includes the full press release, multimedia, and investor quotes. I'm also free to talk [a few blocks of availability] and can set up an interview with [investors]. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Best,
[Founder name]
[Founder title]

Checklist

Journalists move quickly, especially when it comes to funding news. They probably won't spend more than an hour on your story. Make sure that they have everything they need to write the story. If you want to set up a media kit, you can use a tool like prkit.co. If you're an Upbeat member, we'll set up a media kit for you that you can edit and send out at any time to anyone you want.

The media kit should include the following:

☐ A longer background on the company, roughly 500-800 words. Should answer the following questions, in this general order:
☐ Lead with the hard news, if there is any (funding, launch, major partnership, benchmark reached, etc.) The strength of this alone could warrant coverage. All essential information should be in the first paragraph or two.
☐ Highlight information on early traction (customers, user metrics, partnerships, etc.)
☐ Background information on the funding round
☐ Explain what the company is doing and why it is unique
☐ Describe the history of the companies and the founders
☐ Team members and investors available for interview (ideally with clear availabilities designated—you don't want to have extended back-and-forth)
☐ Pre-packaged quotes from credible stakeholders involved
☐ Multimedia assets
☐ "A hero image" (something to go at the top of an article)
☐ Screenshots/high-res product photos
☐ Logos
☐ High-res headshots
☐ Demo/launch videos
☐ Links to previous coverage

Embargo Strategy

Unlike other types of stories, a funding or launch announcement is hard news, meaning it will only happen once, and it won't be a story anymore once it breaks. When you pitch the story under embargo, journalists appreciate having time to work on the story, and they also appreciate the guarantee that no one will be able to write before them. With funding stories, if a journalist doesn't write the day the news is announced, they typically won't write at all.

You also want to make sure that no one breaks the embargo. This is why you can ask them to explicitly agree to the embargo, ensuring that they've registered that there is an embargo and that they know the time it lifts. Once they agree to the embargo, you can send them the full media kit.

Remember, an embargo is different than an exclusive. If you pitch under embargo, there is no understanding that you're exclusively pitching that journalist. This also incentivizes journalists to post their article right when the embargo lifts, to ensure that no one beats them to the news. If the journalist asks for an exclusive after you pitch them (which will sometimes happen with top-tier publications like the Wall Street Journal), figure out if there are any exclusive angles you can offer them—an interview with your lead VC, a specific funding detail, etc.

If you do offer them an exclusive angle, make sure you don't offer the same one to any other journalists until after the news breaks. Be very clear what element of the story is an exclusive, and know that sometimes an exclusive angle is not enough. A WSJ journalist might want the entire story to be an exclusive.

Now this gets tricky. To avoid this situation and if you really value an exclusive story (which often means others won't cover it except for downstream "coverage of the coverage"), we recommend picking one or two journalists who you would be happy offering your story to entirely exclusively and see if they bite first. When you email them, tell them they have a day to claim the exclusive. If they don't, then you can send the embargoed news to the rest of your list.

We typically recommend sending the initial pitches a week before the embargo lifts, following up once two to three days after the initial pitch, and then again the day the embargo lifts with the full media kit.

Make sure no trace of the news breaks until the day of the embargo lifts. This includes Twitter, Facebook, Medium, and company blog posts. If someone else is making an announcement that will include your news (for example the release of the companies in your Y Combinator batch), make sure to coordinate so that the day of the announcement is the day your embargo lifts.

If you want more background on embargoes, including what types of stories to pitch under embargo, you can check out our blog post here.

Finding the Right Journalists to Pitch

Not every journalist is necessarily interested in funding stories, including tech journalists. Once in awhile, you may find a writer that describes themselves as covering startup funding, but most of the time, you have to see if there's a recent track record of them writing about funding news. This is especially true if you've raised less than $5M. Impressive, but not unique anymore. The top publications who cover these types of funding announcements include TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Fortune, PE Hub, Launch Ticker, Business Insider, Forbes, and the StrictlyVC newsletter.

When pitching journalists, see if they've written about funding announcements before. If they haven't, they might still take your story—it just won't be because you're making a funding announcement. They'll use the funding announcement as an excuse to cover the aspect of your company that they're interested in, which is great! To find more journalists like these,, read previous articles to make sure they are interested in your company's type of work, and include slightly more detail about your company and why it is groundbreaking. If you're lucky, you may be able to get a profile from a journalist that's more substantial than a quick funding news write-up.

There are a number of tools out there to search for journalists, but the best ones tend to be Google News, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also pay for a Muckrack account, which has great journalist feeds and contact info. If you don't have Muckrack and want to find journalist contact info, you can use tools like Hunter.io, although they tend to be predictive and therefore fairly inaccurate.

Most of the time, you can use Twitter advanced search to find a journalist's email by entering their handle and the search term "email." They often include their email address in their Twitter bios or personal websites as well. Just be warned, the more public their email, the more pitches they're getting, and the less likely they are to respond. Please treat these public emails with respect.

Even if you follow all of these steps, journalists may still not write for a variety of reasons. They might be too busy, they might be on vacation, they might be working on different types of stories. Most importantly, they're human—they may have just procrastinated and moved on.

If you have anywhere above a 35% open rate, you should consider that a success. We generally have about a 45-50% open rate. Also, even if they agree to the embargo, and even if they agree to write, they might go radio silent. That's ok—follow-up and move on.

We recommend thinking of PR like playing baseball. The way to succeed is to focus on each at-bat, and increase the number of at-bats. The key is to keep bringing journalists new stories, like datasets, product launches, partnerships, and more. Just don't bug them with unnecessary check-ins. You should only follow up with them about two to three times regarding a single story. If they're not replying, it means they're not interested.

If you want more advice on finding journalists to pitch, you can check out our blog post here.

How Upbeat Can Help

This is a general template and pitching guide. Oftentimes, the pitch itself and the targeted journalists should be edited based on your industry, target audience (consumer vs. B2B), company size, and funding round size.

At Upbeat, we handle the entire pitching process for you. That means conducting a pre-interview with you to help you position your story in the best way, targeting journalists using our proprietary software, and managing the entire pitching process. Our software platform provides ultimate transparency to help you stay in control. We've worked with over 400 companies and placed stories in outlets from the New York Times to Mashable. The initial charge for Upbeat is $800, which includes a year of membership and your first campaign.



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