An incoming email. It’s a journalist from TechCrunch.
“Hi, thank you for your email. Are you available for a phone interview tomorrow.”
This is the moment you have been waiting for. You panic, what is it she could possible want?
In this article, we’re going to deconstruct what happens when a journalist requests a phone call with a startup. The aim of this is to help you further optimize your company’s chances for press.
What Journalists Are Looking For
Before you get nervous about the call, it’s important to understand what journalists are looking for and why they requests phone calls.
A reporter will request a phone call in order to ensure a story’s legitimacy, to gather specific and singular information, to clarify a company’s press release, and to build relationship with a company’s founder and/or management team.
Once a journalist asks for a call, a company’s founder should not be stressed. From my experience, there is now more than a 75% chance that the publication will write about your company. What is most important is that on the call you are confident and honest, and that you are polite and as helpful as possible in answering each of the questions.
Below we break down each of the reasons journalist request phone calls.
The first reason a journalist will request a phone call is to ensure that a proposed story is legitimate.
Unfortunately with the media, false information is disseminated every day across the internet. An example of this is an incident which occurred to VentureBeat last year here. An entrepreneur pitched a story to a journalist about her auctioning off future income on a new startup platform. When the journalist asked for a phone call the person declined, however an article was still later published. The story was later found out to be fake, and VentureBeat admitted its mistake.
The incident above highlights arguably the most important reason for a phone call, which is to confirm that a story is real and verifiable. I remember when I was writing for VentureBeat, with each of the articles I wrote my editor pushed me to dig further, and to take any opportunity to speak over the phone or meet the company in person.
To Gather More Information
Writing an article on a leading publication requires a great deal of work. Often when a journalist is pitched a story, more background information is needed.
An example of this occurred with Boosterville, which is a startup creating a payment system for educational institutions. When GigaOm was pitched the story about the company’s launch, one of its journalists requested a phone call for more industry information. The journalist asked about competitors and numbers for the market size.
When pitching a story for your company, a journalist may ask you what competitors there are in the market. You should know ahead of time how you want to respond to this question.
Often when receiving a pitch for a product, a journalist may have uncertainty about the startup and questions they would like clarified. In these instances, a phone call is merited.
Unique Insights and Quotes
In the media industry, journalists understand that the same press release they receive is likely being sent to hundreds of other publications. At the same time, journalists do not enjoy rehashing the same information that other reporters are receiving. For this reason, journalists often like to have phone calls to receive propriety information and quotes.
Reporters are often looking to build relationships and to further there networks with founder and management at companies. Journalists, similar to other members in the startup scene, understand that you never know when these relationship can be of benefit in the future.
I hope the above is of help to each of you in your path to receiving press for your companies. If there are any questions you have, I am happy to answer them below in the comments section.