Marketing & Promotion
Best Practices for Developers and Publishers for Pitching Your App to the Media
Monday, May 19, 2014
When it comes to putting together a marketing plan for a mobile app promotion, a public relations component is always part of the mix. (Or at least it should be!) The most prominent part of public relations is media pitching: An effort to get your mobile app reviewed on relevant blogs and app review sites. Experience shows us that media relations is one of the most misunderstood promotion techniques out there. Quite often the expectations app owners have for their PR efforts are not aligned with what is realistically achievable.
In this article, we will present concrete steps for effective pitching, but also help to develop reasonable expectations of what will be achieved by having a review of your app published in the media. Our hope is to save you time, energy and - ultimately- jangled nerves.
It is completely understandable that mobile app developers and owners have a certain bias when it comes to their apps. Hence, expectations of the app’s value to the public tend to be out of sync with an app’s real potential to gain traction in the blogosphere. Not only this, but app developers/owners expectations of the ROI of a single media inclusion tend to be overblown, so even when they do get traction, they are disappointed that it doesn’t “convert” into immediate sales.
Blogs like GigaOm, Mashable and TechCrunch are frequently targeted by app owners/developers as where they would like to see their product publicized/reviewed. It is true that an article about an app in one of these publications can result in massive app store traffic, so it’s understandable why traction on one of these outlets is so desirable. But, getting a mention on these esteemed tech blogs is often difficult to achieve. Let’s take a deeper look into why that is and why so many app owner’s experience such frustration when trying to get the attention of tech influencers via the press.
The typical scenario we’ve heard is that the app owner/developer writes an email to a random target within the outlet’s organization, believing the reporter or editor in question will read their request immediately, and will write about their app within days of having received their email.
Yes, this type of naivety truly exists within the business world, and is especially prevalent in the tech sphere, where everyone thinks that their product’s value proposition is world changing. The truth is, for every startup CEO or dev who thinks this about their product, there are a million more similar CEOs or devs who believe the same thing about their own products and have just fired off an email to said random reporter/editor.
If that email was written without a proper plan, research and strategy it is truly just a hope that it will be read. In reality, the CEO or dev most likely will not hear anything back about their solicitation and will make several more attempts to grab the attention of the reporter/editor - attempts which will likely fail, as well.
To understand why this happens let’s take a look at this situation from a prominent blog editor’s perspective. The average reporter or editor receives, on a daily basis, upwards of 100 random email pitches. Already, these editors/reporters work with a huge news stream coming at them from other resources. They rarely have time to get through a third of the email pitches they receive in a timely basis.
For context, read this confession of a former writer in this industry and you’ll understand how intense the daily life of a mainstream tech journalist really is.
First and foremost, when you write a pitch to a tech journalist, you need to really stop and remember that on the other side of that email, there are busy people just like you. They are extremely overwhelmed with information and focus their attention only on the best stories.
Right now you might be shaking your fist at the proverbial author of this article and saying “But my app is so COOL, that editor should put their other story options aside and write about me!! I AM the best story!!!!”
This may or may not be true. Regardless, if you approach media pitching after researching the appropriate target and you have a strategy in mind to capture that person’s attention, you will have a much greater chance of securing the coveted article that you’re after.
An Editor’s Average Biz Day
You do not have to have worked at an outlet like TechCrunch to understand what makes publishing tick. Online news streams are handled by a team of editors who handle different topics. These editors either write short daily news stories, big feature stories or assign topics to journalists within their beat.
Let’s pause for a moment here and discuss what the term “beat” means in context of media pitching. It’s simple, really - a “beat” means the area of news which a reporter or editor covers. For example, within an organization like TechCrunch there are reporters who cover topics like high tech, investments, video games, music, online programs, mobile, etc.
If you’re an app owner or dev who has been working on a mobile game, you wouldn’t want to pitch your product to an editor or reporter who covers investments. It would be a worthless pitch and time wasted on your part. So it is essential that you not just randomly target a reporter or editor within a publication, you need to make sure you’re targeting the RIGHT reporter/editor who will be interested what you have to say. But, we digress, more on this later … back to how the online news cycle works.
Imagine each editor or reporter has an agenda for their day and when your email lands into their inbox it doesn’t go automatically into that agenda. It requires an effort on your end to get them even to read the email you’ve sent.
So how do you get your email read and your app covered?
Step by Step
Tools to find bloggers
It’s important to remember that the Internet doesn’t begin and end with TechCrunch, Mashable, GigaOm, etc. -- the term “blogosphere” exists for a good reason!
There are literally thousands of blogs that cover tech and mobile apps and you need to consider them all as potential targets to approach with your news or from whom to request a product review. Many of these publications are as widely read as the big guns, but they just have a smaller media profile because of any number of factor. Let’s face it, not every publication has a Michael Arrington or Pete Cashmore or Om Malik to champion it. That doesn’t make what they write about any less important to the industry. Think about what you read on a daily basis - sure you may read TC, Mashable and GigaOm, but we’d bet good money you also read a handful of smaller outlets that apply directly to your little niche of the mobile world.
Well, here’s a shocking revelation: So does everyone else! A second shocking revelation: Sometimes the most meaningful coverage doesn’t come from a big outlet!
Hence, we believe the smartest approach to media pitching is to expand your media target list to include as many relevant publications (with decent readership numbers) as possible. Keep in mind, in media pitching the ratio of pitches-to-stories is 10:1. So if you only pitch 10 blogs, you’re only going to get one inclusion. Whereas, if you pitch 100 blogs, you’re likely to get traction on 10 of those outlets.
The next logical question is - how do you find these other relevant blogs?
The old school answer is, “To the Googlemobile!”
This is still a valid way to find tech blogs and information on reporters and editors, but it’s time consuming. There are a number of media relations tools available that streamline the process of compiling a media list. We recommend:
- BlogDash: BlogDash is a media database built to help the media relations industry.
- GroupHigh (Blogger Outreach Marketing Software): GroupHigh’s blogger intelligence software helps you identify influential blogs, automate research and measure engagement to make outreach marketing more successful. One of the key advantages of this tool is it handles email communication with bloggers and will keep a full log of all emails you send so you do not have to weed them out of your email in-box to see how your efforts are going.
- My Media Info: This is a tool used by public relations professionals to find contact information for specific writers and editors. Using this tool you can also monitor publication editorial calendars to find out when your particular product will most likely fit into their news pipeline and monitor what news coverage your product is receiving. Granted, this is a pricey tool and might not be a good fit for every independent app owner/dev - but, if your company has in-house marketing or PR staff, it would be wise to arm them with MMI, as it will greatly assist them in doing their jobs.
Coverage on a variety of blogs can help your app get extra downloads and be positioned higher on the iOS App Store or Google Play. But, it doesn’t always. Press traction doesn’t and cannot guarantee the volume of downloads needed for your app to hit the TOP charts.
There are many variables to media relations that cannot be controlled or predicted. Such as, the timeframe in which a publication will actually run a story about your app, how many people will read it and how many of those readers will be sufficiently intrigued by that article to pop over to their mobile app store and download your product. But, press traction is one of those situations in which you have to embrace the “won’t hurt, could really help” philosophy to life.
Do Your Homework
As we mentioned before, before writing a pitch you need to pick a specific target within a publication you want to reach out to. Your starting point should be searching that publication for articles written about direct competitors of your app and about topics relevant to what your app does. If a person at one time wrote an article about your niche of the mobile world, it is compelling evidence that the topic, at least tangentially, interests them.
The next step is to read through the writer’s last five or six articles to figure out how often they write for the publication and what the scope of work they are doing now is composed of. All this information will be helpful for you to use to initiate a discussion about your app.
What is a pitch? Basically, it is professional jargon used to describe the email you write to a journalist or editor soliciting coverage of a product. A good pitch is SHORT and delivers enough information about a product that it hooks the reader of the email into wanting to find out more details. (More on this via Guy Kawasaki’s book “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.”)
Here is what else you need in your pitch:
- A brief introduction to you and your company.
- Reference to why you’ve selected the person you’re pitching to receive said pitch. (Citing the reporter or editor’s most recent relevant work and providing a quick insight you’ve gleaned about the topic from reading their work is a solid way to communicate this information.)
- Two to three bullet points that summarize the major features of your app.
- Links to your press release, where your app lives in the app store and any social media profiles you have for your app.
- If you have a 30-second video demo for your app, include this! It increases your chance of being covered substantially.
- Contact information for how the reporter can get in touch with you if they need additional information.
- A direct call to action: ComboApp’s Senior Media Relations Manager, Kate Rice, worked as a freelance journalist for five years before joining our team to head up the Chicago PR team. She says, “I was always amazed when reading pitches how many people would go to great length to provide piles of irrelevant information about a product or company or person and would fail to do the most basic thing you should do when pitching a journalist: Ask them for a result.” Whether you want the editor/reporter to review the app or schedule an interview with a principal of the company or post about the app via social media, you need to ASK them directly to do that.
A good pitch should briefly encapsulate the highlights of your product so that the person you’re sending it to can read it in 30 seconds (or, less) and come away with a complete understanding of what your product is, why it’s relevant to them and what you want them to do with this information.
Finally, make sure to proofread your pitch thoroughly. You get one chance with a journalist and you need to present your best face. Typos can and do influence a journalist’s decision to cover you. (Again, Kate Rice says “I used to immediately delete any pitch that used the term “irregardless” and ones that had spelling mistakes in them. If the person writing the pitch isn’t concerned with the impression they’re presenting to a professional writer, why should I be concerned with their product? My thought is that they probably had the same lack of attention to details in developing the product they’re pitching me.”)
To significantly increase your chances of getting the attention of the appropriate contact within a publication, try using different communication channels like LinkedIn, About.Me, Facebook and Twitter to initiate a conversation with your media target.
Pitching Schedule and Tracking
Pitching the media is not a one time action. You should follow up with the editors and journalists you target at least three times per news release. It is advantageous to create a media tracker that includes the contact information for the outlets you’ve reached out to, the date you first made contact, notes on the specific pitches (were they rejected or did they result in coverage?), the promo code you used to provide the outlet with a free copy of your app and any notes you have about your specific communication with that person.
Such a list will help you in the future when you pitch that journalist other apps from your portfolio. Having a database of media contacts saves you time and streamlines the pitching process tremendously. Further, at the core of successful media relations lies the relationship between the journalist/editor and their source, and if you frequently reach out to the same sources with solid, relevant information they will eventually come to you directly when they need material for articles which your business fits into.
We hope we’ve provided you a solid roadmap to successful media pitching. Here at ComboApp we truly believe that objective media inclusions and a robust PR plan are one of the key components of a successful marketing campaign.
This content is made possible by a guest author, or sponsor; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of App Developer Magazine's editorial staff.
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