Startup Guide: How to Crush Your First Media Interview

By Matter

As a startup founder, you’ve poured blood, sweat, tears and capital into your company. You’ve invested in the right talent, built a differentiated product or service, acquired customers and maybe raised some funding, and it’s time to launch your startup into the public eye.

Media coverage is one of the most cost-effective ways to generate brand awareness for your startup at launch. The right journalists can help validate your idea, build authority for you and your company, and attract the attention of new customers and investors.

But getting visibility for your work isn’t easy. The number of U.S. startups has grown for the third year in a row, with 310 out of every 100,000 adults becoming new entrepreneurs in a given month, according to the 2017 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity.

It’s a crowded market. So, when you do land a coveted media interview, you want to crush it.

How should you prepare? What questions should you anticipate, and how do you maintain the relationship? Here’s your crash course.

How Should You Prepare?

When preparing for a media interview, always start with your messaging. Know your mission and vision statements, and be able to articulate what you do in brief, plain language.

Working with the media for a living, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to avoid jargon (see our “Startup Guide: How to Talk About Your Tech”). And if you can’t explain what you do in 10 to 30 seconds, go back to the press when you can.

Once you have your elevator pitch down, turn to key messages. Every media interview is a chance to drive core messaging about your company, industry and view for the future. Identify two or three key points, and relevant stories to support them.

Remember, plan a media interview. Never wing it.

There are other simple dos and don’ts to be aware of before meeting with a journalist. The right PR firm can advise you of any reporter-specific prep, but generally:


  • Turn off your cell phone or email
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Be concise and repeat key messages
  • Encourage a two-way conversation


  • Don’t be late (five minutes early is best)
  • Don’t say “no comment” or go “off the record”
  • Don’t lie or mislead
  • Don’t talk negatively about competitors

As a final step, create an internal FAQ to prepare for questions a journalist may ask. Here are a few ideas to get you started.


What Questions Should You Anticipate?

With both journalists and investors in our network, we see striking similarities between pitch decks and what startups present to the media. Media want to know about the problem you solve, your company and team, the market, and evidence of your traction:

  • What does your company do? (did we mention brief, plain language?)
  • Who are your competitors, and how are you different?
  • When was the company founded?
  • Where is your office(s), and how many employees do you have?
  • Can you name specific customers or partners?
  • How do you price your product or service?
  • Have you raised any funding, and can you disclose the amount or investors?
  • What are next steps for your company?

Inherent in all of of this are statistics. The more numbers you can reveal, the better, including total revenue or revenue growth, funding, headcount, number of customers, etc.

Add to the list tough questions about your brand. Are you in an exceptionally crowded space where a journalist will question your differentiation? Are there security and privacy issues surrounding your product or service? Anticipate and address these questions head on, and you’ll fare well with media.


How Do You Maintain the Relationship?

When all goes well, your first media interview is only the beginning. Send the journalist a thank you with links to relevant resources, and keep him or her apprised of future news.

Of course, not everything is news. For more on that, check out, “What Really Counts As News” from Matter account manager and fellow startup advocate, Vanessa Boynton.

When it comes to PR, the most important relationships you can develop are with media contacts. Think about them with just as much care as you would your customers.

Need a PR firm that lives and breathes media relations? Give us a call.

McKenzie Mayer’s ‘Startup Guide’ is an ongoing series on the Matter blog. Designed for those building a business or just building their brand, each post is a crash course in startup communications. Ready to get started?