SE Asia is abuzz with startups wanting to bring their awesomeness out to the fore. Each wanting their story to be featured on the top tech blogs in the region. But, alas not every story will see light of day. Being one of the top online tech site’s in SE Asia, startups aspire to be featured on e27. Hence, G3 Partners set out to ask one of their premier writer’s Elaine Huang, exactly what startups should and should not do when reaching out to e27 and other media outlets with their stories.

1) How many emails do you get on average a day?

I get about 60 emails a day, which is troubling considering how many I actually open.

2) What factors make you decide which emails to open?

The subject head matters, but not for conventional “use a catchy headline!” reasons. I would definitely open an email if the subject is straight to the point and talks about either: a) a new investment, b) a new launch, or c) a new C-suite appointment, because these are all considered newsworthy to me.

Mails addressed to me personally also get a higher chance of being opened.

3)How do you decide which stories to publish?

I gauge whether stories are newsworthy or ready for publishing with a set of values that are commonly used by many journalists. These values include:

– Proximity
For example, it’s more likely that I’d write a story that hits close to home (Southeast Asia vs. Africa), because of where my readers are based in. That’s proximity at work.

– Prominence
As for prominence, it’s all about whether readers would recognise the persons talked about; typically, people are more interested when the Prime Minister of Singapore stops by a startup hub like Block 71 in Singapore than when a local entrepreneur makes a pit stop for the building in his or her busy schedule.

– Immediacy
Immediacy is another. Many startups would come to journalists with “late” stories (ones that happened two weeks ago and have been reported to death). Most news writers want new, fresh stories that will interest their readers, not something their readers would have already read somewhere else. If you’re trying to pitch a journalist a story that has been reported (funding announcement, HR appointments, new launch of a product etc), use a new angle. Think, “If I was a reader, what would I like to know about this company’s [insert news here]?”

I hate it when people talk about problems without trying to provide ways to improve. I’ll give you an example.

You are a startup, and you want a journalist to write about your funding announcement, but it’s already a month since it was announced. You can reach out and ask if he or she would be interested to speak to the CEO about how the funds have been spent so far, the lessons learnt from raising the startup’s Series A round, and the market potential.

Startups should familiarise themselves with universally accepted news values. If you can’t even identify the newsworthiness of the story, why should you expect a journalist to bother with it?

4)What is your biggest pet peeve when reading story pitches from startups?

I don’t really have a pet peeve regarding story pitches but there are a few things I think startups can improve on.

– Make sure your pitch is written in proper and standard English. That means: no spelling mistakes and decent grammar. Get someone to proofread your press release before you send it out.

– Be clear, direct and straightforward. Cut out the fluff. Delete every word that doesn’t need to be there. I don’t give a rat’s ass whether you’re the leading e-commerce firm in the disruptive market of O2O. If you have to say it, you’re not.

– In the words of Lady Gaga, stop telephonin’ me. I can call you on the phone though. *shrug

5)What factors do you think startups should bear in mind when reaching out to journalists?

We might not have time to cover your company. This does not mean we are not interested. Ask if we know of others who might wish to cover it (we just might!) and if we would like to come back to it at a later time.

Journalists are journalists, not PR practitioners, so no matter how much you wish they would write a stellar review of your app, the truth is, they have a job to do. They have an editor and readers to answer to. Imagine a world where journalists have become cheerleaders of their industries. Think of the news that you read. Do you want accurate or rosy pictures? Choose one.

6)What is the craziest pitch you have ever received?

I really don’t get crazy pitches, but I did get pitched while on a date once. Needless to say, it didn’t go well but he did get an introduction to whoever he was asking to be introduced to.

7)What is the most interesting story you have ever covered?

I’ve covered quite a number of interesting stories (or at least I hope I have). I conducted an interview with Noel Biderman, CEO, Ashley Madison, when the adultery communications company got banned by the Singapore government. That was not that long ago, actually.

8)How do you see the growth in Asia in terms of startups?

The growth is phenomenal. I see a lot more startups realising that there are people who would love to cover their startup journeys.

9)Lastly, what advice would you give to startups that would like to build their PR strategy?
Anything else you would like to add?

I see a lot of startups that try to wing their PR strategy i.e. not researching how they can ace the practice, just going with it, and thinking having a personality and being cheerful is enough to get press. This is an actual industry. You won’t just go into sales or fundraising without googling and studying the heck out of it and hiring people with the relevant skills, so why would you do it with your PR strategy?

Write in proper and grammatical English (if it’s too much work to understand what you’re trying to say, most people will not bother, especially if you’re a very new company), and if you aren’t confident of your work, get someone to at least proofread your press releases before you send it out. Use tools like Twitter and Facebook to engage with journalists.

If you’re running a startup, get the CEO to send out the press releases.

Oh, and stop asking them to edit published posts unless it’s an actual, factual inaccuracy.

Seriously. Stop it. Thank you!

Elaine is a fervent believer that if there ever is a zombie apocalypse, we will all be snapping away at them with our phones and posting them onto Instagram. A Mass Communication graduate of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film and Media Studies, she enjoys writing about technology and entrepreneurs. When not hashtagging her way through all sorts of trouble, Elaine is probably contemplating how to write in the third person. Her work has been published on e27, beSUCCESS, Web in Travel, ASEAN News, Travelog and other publications.

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