Pitching your startup: Learn how to use a “Hook” to get press.


News articles are all about stories. A great article creates a personification of raw data into digestible, story-sized bites. For example, a headline that read “Precipitation levels dropped 10%” wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as “Fearing drought, farmers resort to watering crops by hand”.

Data by itself isn’t interesting. It’s the story that the data tells that’s important.

These same principles apply when you’re pitching your startup for coverage. You should always have a “Hook” ready. Wikipedia defines a “Hook” as:

“a musical idea, often a short riff, passage, or phrase, that is used in popular music to make a song appealing and to ‘catch the ear of the listener’.”

When I’m trying to figure out what startups I want to write about on TSF, I look for a solid hook I can work from. For example, when I interviewed Tim O’Reilly, I knew that he had a fantastic story on bootstrapping his company. This gave me a specific angle to leverage and helped me to know what sort of questions I should ask.

One of the easiest ways you can get noticed by writers (via email) is to have your hook be in the subject line. Let’s say you’re startup works with financial management. Instead of having a nondescript subject line like: “New web app launching soon”, you should write “How my startup allowed 10 users to retire 2 years early”. The second subject line provides a fantastic hook, and helps the writer know what sort of questions to ask you. Having a solid hook is crucial in making your startup stand out.

Stories with a good hook are incredibly easy to write about, are entertaining, and memorable. If you have a great product, data, and a solid hook, writers will be salivating to write about you.

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  • Need to think of one for http://www.myschoolhelp.com, thanks!

  • JohnMAckbar

    Good advice. Thanks!

  • The idea of ‘hooks’ intrigued me so I googled around for ‘example headline hooks’ and found this resource listing 14 ingredients which can be mix-matched to produce great hooks. The site calls it ‘slants’. Others may find this useful: http://conxentric.com/blog/2009/12/14-best-kept-killer-hook-secrets/

  • Anonymous

    Really great advice.  Thanks so much.  I’m building software for Latin American Dentists and one of the hooks I think I’m going to use is “How I saved a clinic 45 minutes of chair time per patient with my software.”  Thanks again 🙂

  • Aneet

    I agree that you need to have a hook and not sound too typical or vague  or just use technical words around that don’t mean anything.

    But if you sent me an email with a subject “How my startup allowed 10 users to retire 2 years early”, I would have thought that it was spam. Once I notice it isn’t, I would’ve probably thought it just sounded weird; you just don’t say that to people in person, why would you in e-mail?

    I would aim at a more personal subject.

  • @3688209133993047e6bbcd4d63477c72:disqus Thanks for that link! 

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