Over the 10+ years that I’ve been reviewing web and app content for BBC Click, I have been approached by a lot of rookie developers hoping to secure coverage. This is completely understandable as exposure on a global show like BBC Click can really make a difference to a young company, and I take my responsibility very seriously. Having just composed the same email that I send to many requests of this nature I thought I would write the information here… partly to save myself time in having to write it out again and again, and partly because I hope it will give those not experienced in dealing with the press some insight about how best to approach the task. Obviously I speak only for myself, and I welcome comments from other journalists and reporters if they want to add to the advice in the comments below. But if you are pitching your development project to me, for coverage in any of the outlets I regularly work for, here are my top tips:
- Be patient: Firstly you should know that I handle all requests for coverage democratically, to give a fair chance to everyone and not just those with enough marketing budget to pay someone to harass me… Pitch your content by sending me a link (ideally through Twitter as this is my first port of call when clearing communications backlog) and I will add it to the queue for consideration. Once you have had a reply from me to that effect then please just be patient. Spamming me with update info and links to other people’s reviews will not do you any favours. In fact quite the opposite as the more people who have covered your project the more out of date it is to me. It’s also worth noting that I have complete editorial control over what initially gets selected for inclusion in Webscape, so if you have had a reply from me to say it is on the list, spamming my colleagues at the BBC will do you no good as they will simply pass your information on to me and I will be irked because I already told you I’m considering you.
- Watch your language: When approaching journalists for coverage (especially if they work for the BBC) it’s not the best idea to pitch your request as wanting to secure coverage to promote your product… editorial outlets are not there to promote your projects, that is the role of paid advertising or advertorial. I know this is just a matter of semantics, but you will always put a good journalist on the back foot if they think editorial bias could be construed from your communication string. The way I think of it is, if a Daily Fail hack was reading over my shoulder would they be able to make it sound dodgy?
- Follow up in a reasonable amount of time: Typically it takes 8 weeks for content to bubble to the top of my consideration list so please do give me a poke after that period of time to inquire about progress.
- Keep me informed of newsworthy events: If you can link your project to a current event or trending story there is the chance I can bump it up to be reviewed in the weekend of that event. So have this in mind and do please send me a tweet letting me know if your project can GENUINELY be linked to a current or newsworthy event. I select trending content for the weekend’s show by Tuesday morning, so make sure you get in touch by then if you think you have something.
- Don’t be a one-trick pony: At the BBC we take great care to cover all platforms equally and there is a large portion of our global audience who do not have smartphones. For this reason I have limited review spots each month for single platform smartphone apps (in other words if your app is iOS only it will wait in a queue about ten times longer than the other smartphone platforms as this is without doubt the most saturated market). The shortest queues are for those products which cover multiple platforms and have a web element as well.
- Do not sign me up to your newsletter: Seriously. If I want to join your newsletter I will join it… if you sign me up for it without my permission you will just annoy me and the likelihood is I will delete your project from my consideration list because I do not like to recommend companies to my readers that operate such shady marketing practices.
- Understand the meaning of innovation: If you are going to tell me your product or service is ‘innovative’ or ‘ground-breaking’ be very sure you understand what those phrases mean. If the first paragraph of your press release is littered with inaccurate superlatives I am very unlikely to take you seriously.
- Get to the point: The main reason I favour Twitter as a communication stream is because you have to get to the point in 140 characters, making the amount of communications I handle each week much more manageable. You are welcome to send me an email if you really want to (firstname.lastname@example.org), but for pity’s sake get to the point! If you send me a novel-length press release with the project you are pitching buried somewhere in the tenth paragraph I am going to bung it straight in the waste basket. Sorry, but you need to give me a single paragraph at the top of your release telling me exactly what you are pitching, and if I want to read further information I will do so.
- Webscape is for reviewing content: My section of BBC Click is very well defined; it’s a place for short reviews of current content… no interviews, no back stories, no previews or teasers… just plain old reviews of working content that is available (and relevant) to a global audience. If you think the technology behind your project is interesting enough for a Click feature in the main show then that is a different matter, but I have no control or influence over that. You’ll have to email email@example.com in that instance.
- This is not a focus group: I would love to have time to testflight your apps and give everyone development feedback, but if I did that I would have to give up sleeping, and possibly eating and going to the toilet too – which, let’s face it, nobody wants.
I hope you find these tips useful.. they’re certainly meant to be, and I genuinely love hearing from anyone who has websites and apps to pitch. So if I have directed you here following a request for information about pitching to me I look forward to hearing from you soon!