“Tell stories that focus on differentiation… almost exclusively” — Matthew Panzarino, ex-TechCrunch

What makes your app different, says TechCrunch's ex-Editor-in-Chief, is the key to cutting through the noise.

Matthew Panzarino, formerly Tech Crunch, on the Sub Club podcast.
David Barnard

David Barnard

PublishedLast updated

Press coverage is a great way to get the word out about your app. Renowned publications like TechCrunch and The Verge post stories about cutting-edge gadgets and apps for large audiences of serious tech enthusiasts. If you play your cards right, these readers could become some of your most loyal users.

But before you start pitching your app, there are some important things to know. On this week’s episode of the Sub Club podcast, I chatted with Matthew Panzarino, former editor-in-chief of TechCrunch, about how to effectively (and politely) pitch a story to a tech journalist.

The do’s and don’ts of pitching your app to the press

As Matthew points out, tech journalists scan the subject lines of hundreds of pitch emails every day. So what can you do to make yours stand out in a full inbox? Matthew has a few tips:

Do: 

  • Write a succinct, compelling subject line for your cold email
  • Put together a comprehensive press kit (including helpful links and images) that makes it easy to write a story about your app
  • Show you’re aware of current events like a competitor going out of business or Apple changing something about its products

Don’t:

  • Use tracking technologies to check that the recipient opened your pitch email
  • Excessively call or email to follow up on your pitch
  • Write the entire story for the reporter
  • Mock your competitors for downtime or a shutdown

On that last point, Matthew says it’s OK to capitalize on moments when a competitor app isn’t working or is going out of business. But be sensitive, not petty.

For example, say you’ve built a money tracker app like Copilot. Now that Mint is going to be shut down, there’s a gap in the market that apps like Copilot are poised to fill. According to Matthew, the right way to approach this situation in a press pitch is to be sensitive to the Mint employees who are losing their jobs and acknowledge the disappointment current Mint users must feel that their favorite money-tracking app is going away. Saying something like, “We care about helping users manage their finances, and we’re sorry to see Mint go — here’s why our app is a great alternative” demonstrates your knowledge of the industry and highlights the differentiating features of your app without being distasteful.

Choose the right writer

Another important factor is choosing the right author for your story. Tech reporters aren’t just accomplished writers — they’re tech enthusiasts, too. Some write about hardware and gadgets, while others write about the next great consumer subscription app startup. 

When you’re ready to get some publicity for your app, find the writer who will have the greatest personal interest in your story. Not only will they be more likely to accept your pitch, but the resulting article will make way more of an impact. Their audience is likely exactly the kind of potential users you want to reach, and if this author has a high enough profile in the tech community, you can even replace your company’s pitch deck with the published article.

What about PR firms?

You may be wondering whether or not you should hire a PR firm to get more traction for your business. The answer depends on your goals. If you’re looking to acquire big numbers of users, there are better channels to use (like TikTok, Facebook ads, and Google attribution). But if you’re looking to reach smaller, higher-intent audiences, then working with a PR firm or strategist may be worth it for you.

Pitching to TechCrunch

So, you’ve built a beautifully designed app that solves a problem. Great! But… so has everyone else. It sounds harsh, but this is the baseline these days. If you want to get your app featured in a publication like TechCrunch, you have to demonstrate how your app is different and better than the rest. The best press pitches also include personal stories. What motivated you to build this app? What can the reporter and audience relate to in your life? At the end of the day, we’re all human — and humans love a good story.

Listen to the episode: audio / video

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