Tap That App

Note: This chapter is part of the book’s Additional Content, which is where I put the parts I don’t think are good enough (yet) to include in the book. My ego humbly requests that you lower your expectations.

Your pitch should outline what your product does, who might use it, why you built it, and why the reporter should care. It should include details about the product’s key features — both the core stuff that’s typical of its category, and the differentiators. But, of course, the pitch must be short and unintimidating. The worst thing you can do is send over a wall of text.

But then how are you supposed to convey the nuance of your app — the subtle design flourishes, the intuitive upload flow — when you’ve got to distill it down to a handful of bullet points?

The obvious answer is to ask the reporter to try the damn thing for themselves.

So: do what it takes to make it easy for them to do so — trial accounts, beta download links, whatever you’ve got. Then prepare for disappointment.

Chances are, if they touch it at all it’ll be for an insulting amount time. A couple of minutes, if you’re lucky. If they decide to write about it then they’ll hopefully give it a good tap-through, but even then a peek at your server logs is likely to be depressing.

Feel free to get cynical, but this is something you need to address anyway. Because no matter how fickle reporters are when it comes to evaluating your app, you can be sure that prospective customers will be even more so. You need to figure out how to convey the soul of your product to someone who doesn’t have a minute to spare.

How you should go about this depends on your product and current trends — I’d check out what the other startups are doing — but here are some ideas.

-Screenshots. Make sure they give a sense for how the app works — a bunch of splash screens don’t help. Make them easy to find on your website, and include a handful in your pitch (I’d save them for a followup email, after you’ve established that the reporter is interested in the story).

-Video demos. Keep it short, with good production values, and explain what the app actually does while eschewing marketing mumbo jumbo. Some reporters are comfortable embedding these videos in their articles provided they aren’t too fluffy, and you can also stick it on your website. YouTube works well, don’t mess with quirky proprietary players.

-Apple ad homages. Nice music, good-looking friends, and don’t forget to tug a few heartstrings.

-Dynamic homepage voodoo, where the screenshots move around and stuff. I think it’s called AJAX.

Whatever supplementary materials you include, minimize the baggage around them. Ambiguous .ZIP files are a no-no. It’s also a good idea to have a section on your website — a link that says ‘Press’ at the bottom of the page is standard — that includes a handful of screenshots, a hi-res version of your logo, and a contact email address.

Finally: if you manage to secure an interview with a reporter, you can use that time to highlight some of the smaller features (and even slick animations) that you’re proud of. Don’t make a big thing out of it, but they’ll be happy to hear about some polish they might have otherwise overlooked.