I don’t know how many people I talked to at WWDC and adjacent events last week. Suffice it to say, I used my elevator pitch a lot!
It was nice to be prepared when I talked to developers about App Launch Map, but I failed to take something into account: I would also be talking with tech journalists.
Fortunately, because I’d put in the work to succinctly communicate App Launch Map’s goals to developers, I was ready to adapt that pitch to resonate with my unexpected audience. Everything worked out in the end, but this experience and some of the conversations I had a WWDC made me think about how press outreach is often an afterthought.
One of the biggest problems app developers face is discovery. If no one knows about your app, no one can download it. Apple is working to improve this for iOS developers with the redesigned App Store in iOS 11, but even with that change awareness will still be a significant challenge.
One of the very best ways to get your app noticed is to get journalists to write about it. In order to get them to notice your app, you’re going to need to start thinking about press outreach sooner rather than later.
Journalists are people with a variety of interests and perspectives, which is reflected in what they write and who they write for. Your app isn’t going to be appropriate for every writer at every site; therefore, you shouldn’t email every writer at every site.
Instead, take the time to learn about the specific things sites focus on, and the types of things specific journalists focus on. This will ensure you know why you’re reaching out to certain people, which will make your communication with them that much more effective. Start reading sites until you know which are a good fit for your app. Keep in mind that, while you might really want to have your app featured on your favorite tech site, you might have a better chance if you reach out to more niche sites. For example, if your app is an exercise tracker, you may want to reach out to fitness and wellness blogs instead of or in addition to tech sites.
You have to know the focus of the site or writer, who’s in their audience, and how your app will help make their lives better before you send a single email.
Customize Your Message
When you know which writers you’re going to contact and why, you can start thinking about what you’ll include in your email to them. I recommend putting together a simple list as you think of the reasons your app is a good fit for a particular journalist or site.
This is important because you have less than a second to get the attention of the person you’re writing. Your only hope of getting them interested is to appeal to them personally, and the only way you can accomplish that is by emailing each writer individually.
In four or five sentences, you need to tell the person you’re emailing why both they and their audience will care about your app and what makes your app different from similar products. In his Provincial Letters, Blaise Pascal wrote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” As Pascal notes, it’s much easier to write something in five paragraphs than it is to convey the same concepts in five sentences. Take the time to condense and refine your message so it isn’t overwhelming, because overwhelming emails get overlooked.
This is the reason I recommended that you limit your pitch to a sentence or two. This way, you can email writers and tell them why your app is a good fit for them, tell them what your app does using your elevator pitch, include a link to your full press kit, and thank them for their time. I’ll cover all of this in much greater detail in my upcoming Field Guide, so be sure to sign up for the newsletter to learn when that becomes available!
Code aside, major releases are all about planning. Your approach to reaching out to members of the media is no exception to this rule. If you don’t already know which writers and sites will be interested in your app, start figuring it out now so you’ll be ready to communicate with them effectively when it’s time to launch your app!