The dos and don’ts of pitching to the media: MaRS Media Mashup

The dos and don’ts of pitching to the media: MaRS Media Mashup

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.” — Joseph Pulitzer

Last week, five of Canada’s top journalists came to MaRS for our first-ever MaRS Media Mashup: Pitching the Press event in the MaRS Studio.

The Media Mashup Panel by MaRS MediaEleven MaRS clients across all practices presented their two-minute verbal pitches to the distinguished panel of journalists, moderated by Wendy Bryan, former CTV producer and current senior advisor, new media and communications for the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

The session panellists included:

  • Sean Stanleigh, assignment editor for the Globe and Mail’s small business section;
  • Helen Bagshaw, assignment editor for CBC’s national news desk;
  • Jon Cook of Reuters and the Mississauga News;
  • Zena Olijnyk, senior producer at BNN and formerly of Canadian Business Magazine and the National Post; and
  • Dan Verhaeghe, columnist for

The interactive session included a panel discussion and interactive Q-and-A session with each startup after their pitch. The startups gained a better sense of which angles work best for some of Canada’s leading media outlets, as well as story ideas.

The five panellists also offered some dos and don’ts for startups interested in obtaining media coverage.

The dos 

  • Be succinct and get to the point immediately. “People tend to bury the important information in the fourth paragraph. Bring this up to the top and explain what the story is about right off the bat. Get me excited.” — Sean Stanleigh
  • Do your homework. “Know who you’re pitching to and get to know the personality of the show/publication beforehand.” — Zena Olijnyk
  • Focus on the local news angle. “Ask, what’s your connection to the city/town you live in? Find real people in your story and don’t forget compelling visuals.” — Helen Bagshaw
  • Be clear and concise. “Be careful not to get spun in the wrong way. Be clear, concise and say your message three times.” — Dan Verhaeghe
  • If you can, use the venture capital angle. “If you’re working a prominent name, use this as a segue to gain journalist interest. Even if you’re just in talks with them, let the journalist know that there could be a story down the road.” — Jon Cook

The dont’s

  • “Don’t pitch a story without actually being ready for media coverage.” — Sean Stanleigh
  •  “Don’t bombard a journalist with emails or pitch every single department within an organization, as we have no visibility into these.” — Zena Olijnyk
  • “Don’t pitch me a story just about ‘the really cool entrepreneur.’” — Helen Bagshaw
  • “Don’t give the same story idea to every journalist out there. Be sure to adjust to the changing realities of the media landscape.” — Dan Verhaeghe
  • “Don’t request to see articles before they are published. It’s not a press release.” — Jon Cook

The 11 MaRS startups that pitched at the event were:

Information technology, communications and entertainment (ICE) practice + JOLT Accelerator

Social innovation practice

Cleantech practice

Life sciences and healthcare practice