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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is behind Upbeat?

Upbeat is a team of software engineers and PR professionals working together to bring the old-school PR industry to the modern world. We’re based in San Francisco and are backed by notable Silicon Valley investors including Y Combinator.

I'm a startup, how should I think about my PR?

Here's a slideshow that others have found helpful. You're always welcome to email us to ask questions.

What does Upbeat actually do for me?

Very simply put, we help you pitch reporters to try to get your story covered.

When you sign up and after we've vetted your idea, you'll be paired with a PR expert on our team who will guide you through the setup process and help you put your best foot forward.

We'll help you:

  • Turn your story idea into something presentable and pitch-able via a simple phone call where we interview you like a journalist who is on your side
  • Recommend strategy and explore various angles and approaches to pitching reporters
  • Research and identify relevant journalists leveraging our proprietary database and matching algorithms (researching 100s of journalists can take you hours if not days, let alone finding the best way to contact them)
  • Manage the email outreach and follow-ups
  • Keep track of your pitch's progress with real-time analytics and email updates
  • Outside of pitching reporters during a campaign, our PR experts are always available by email to workshop story ideas. Our software is also monitoring for media opportunities on your behalf.

What is your pricing model?

By combining the power of software with human expertise, we're able to offer a more cost-effective option compared to traditional agencies that charge $10-20k a month, often with long-term contracts.

The price is $800 for one campaign and an annual membership. Every additional campaign with membership is only $500.

Our pricing was designed to eliminate the waste in the traditional retainer model and predictably scales up and down with your PR needs.

For example, if you are a startup, you might come to us in January with your launch announcement ($800), in March you may have a feature or a big customer partnership to introduce ($500), in May you may have a Mother's Day marketing campaign that you need PR support for ($500), and over the summer you might launch 3 more campaigns to position yourself as a thought leader in the space to get ready for fundraising ($500*3 = $1,500). In November, the election generated attention in your space, so you decided to pitch a story to speak about the election ($500). During the course of the year, Upbeat helps you evaluate the story ideas you are thinking of and monitors the media for opportunities on your behalf. The total spend in this hypothetical scenario is $3,800, which is what it costs to retain a PR freelancer outside of major US cities for one month.

What is a campaign?

A campaign is when we take your story, make it media-ready, and pitch it to journalists for you to try to get it covered.

At Upbeat, a campaign from beginning to end takes 4 weeks, except for when we manage exclusives, which adds another week to the process.

Week 1: We call you to interview you about the story, gather all the materials you have, discuss targeting, recommend tactics, and build you a media brief

Week 2-4: Upon your approval, we start pitching. We have an optimized pitching cadence that includes 1 initial pitch email and 2 follow-ups. We track every aspect of the process and have built tools such as an interview scheduler to make it very easy for journalists to engage. Depending on the engagement, we'll double-down to get a journalist connected with you or remove a journalist from more follow-ups. Prior to the 2nd follow-up, we'll have a chance to "pivot" to a different angle if there is one. Your Media Strategist will be your guide throughout the process, and you can keep track of the performance in real-time from the dashboard.

At the end of the campaign, you'll do a recap with your Media Strategist who will advise you on the best way forward.

Upbeat campaigns create leverage for you as the company operator. Scoring media attention is never predictable, but with Upbeat campaigns, we do the heavy-lifting so that you can focus on coming up with compelling narratives and stories to pitch. We can help workshop your ideas, but beyond that, the best way to know if your ideas are any good is to pitch them and let the market of journalists decide. A failed campaign is not an indictment on your company or story. Customers typically work with us over multiple campaigns, tweaking the messaging, incorporating new elements in their story, and switching up the pitching targets to ultimately result in coverage.

What are the membership benefits?

Membership gives you access to:

  • Launch outreach campaigns at any time for just $500 per campaign
  • Ongoing maintenance of your previous campaigns and media relationships
  • Real-time analytics on our dashboard for all media outreach efforts
  • Hosting for your media briefs and assets
  • Media opportunity monitoring for journalists who need sources or experts
  • Regular access to Upbeat's PR experts, including feedback and brainstorming sessions with your dedicated media strategist
  • Campaigns are the most productive method of getting media attention, but a great PR partner goes beyond that. With Upbeat, we offer a membership layer where we will continue to add value-added services over time aimed at creating more leverage for you when it comes to PR and media relations.

Do you support pitching with exclusives, embargoes, samples or demo accounts and physical media tours?

Yes. We can help you determine the optimal approach to sharing your story. Here are some of our rules.

Exclusives: This is one of the best currencies you can offer a journalist because it means that s/he gets to "break" the story with sufficient time to work and do a good job on it. We can help you decide it it's the right strategy and advise you on the potential trade-offs.

Embargoes: Embargoing a story is a way of sharing a story with journalists with the understanding that they must not write about it before an agreed upon time. Not every journalist honors embargoes, and most stories don't actually warrant embargoes. For example, simply telling a journalist that the story is under embargo until Tuesday without a real consequence is simply telling the journalist that she doesn't get to cover this story exclusively or in a meaningfully different way than anyone else. A real reason for an embargo is when you can make a strong case that everyone's going to cover the story (e.g. a big announcement from Facebook), and by agreeing to an embargo, journalists get to work on the story in advance and publish it instantly as soon as the embargo is removed. Another example is when Apple plans to approve your app's launch to the App Store on Tuesday, so publishing a story about your app prior to Tuesday would simply be a disservice to the readers. Your Upbeat Media Strategist can help evaluate if you have a fitting scenario for an embargo.

Sending samples or managing demo accounts: We can help you reach out to journalists who might be interested in receiving samples or demo accounts to test out your product, but you must send them the samples or set them up for demo accounts yourself. Please be mindful the shipping time and the time it takes for a busy journalist to actually give your product a try. Note that sending samples or demo accounts does not preclude the need to have a noteworthy story.

Physical media tours: Typically when you are launching a physical product, journalists want to see demos before they decide if they want to cover it. We can help you reach out and invite journalists to meet with you for an in-person demo. We ask that you make yourself available in media centers like SF, NYC, and LA. If you can't bring it to the journalists, we recommend booking a convenient location to showcase your wares. Because of the physical presence required, please make sure you give enough time for journalists to book it on their calendar. Also note that depending on what it is you are showing, journalists may not be interested, and when they do choose to cover, how they choose to cover you is up to them.

How do you compare to sending a press release through services like PR Newswire or doing it myself / hiring an agency?

Here's a handy comparison table.

Upbeat Newswire services Do It Yourself Hire an agency
Effectiveness at securing true media coverage Highly-targeted and personalized outreach with tactical and story development support Untargeted email blasts to hundreds or thousands of journalists, depending on the package Variable depending on how much work you are willing to put in Targeted and personalized outreach with tactical and story development support
Cost $800 to start and $500 per additional campaign $249 membership + $350-$3,500 to send a 400-word release depending on which distribution list you select + fees for additional words and multimedia items. Sample costs: $4,000 annual subscription to media database software, $40 a month for simple CRM, $25 a month for simple email campaign manager, $25 a month for media monitoring or reporting tools $5-30k monthly retainer with long-term commitment
On-demand Yes Yes No No
Low management overhead Yes Yes No No
Dedicated PR manager Yes No No Yes
Modern software Yes No No No

How will my story be presented to journalists?

We send personalized email pitches to targeted journalists and we follow up with them up to two times if we don't hear from a journalist. We monitor journalist engagement closely to make sure we in good standing with them. For example, if we find that engagement with a journalist is particular low, we stop sending new pitches in order to collect more data and learn more about their preferences before we continue pitching.

Here is a sample email pitch we send to journalists

Sample Pitch Email

Through the email pitch, a journalist can easily access your media brief for more information to help them cover the story. The media brief consists of an edited transcript from the 30-minute interview you did with your Media Strategist, along with any images and videos you provided. If you have a press release or a blog post available, we will use that as the media brief after editing. While your Media Strategist is responsible for getting a journalist interested in your story over email, journalists can book an interview time directly with you from the media brief.

The Media Brief we present to the journalists, with the interview scheduler button

How the media brief works

What can we expect in terms of results?

We don’t guarantee media coverage.

Most agencies lock you into long-term engagements precisely because outreach campaigns are prone to fail. Even the best stories can suffer from poor timing or simply bad luck and not attract the attention of journalists.

Working with Upbeat is affordable and requires minimal overhead. You can expect a predictable and transparent effort from us for every PR campaign, as well as the guidance of your Media Strategist to help you become more successful over time. Instead of being bogged down by the details of executing an outreach campaign, we help develop your story with you, create the campaign materials and turn it into a media-ready media brief and pitch, identify the journalists most likely to write about the story, and handle all of the pitching, including multiple rounds of outreach and personal follow-ups. You can consult the dashboard and your Media Strategist to figure out how to best focus your effort to attract media attention. Between campaigns, you'll have a list of journalist leads that we can help you nurture and build relationships to ultimately result in more predictable media coverage in the future. Ultimately, our goal is to help you create leverage and put you in control of your PR.

Am I a fit for Upbeat?

We have worked with hundreds of companies. From large enterprises to non-profits to individuals to startups in all industries (e.g. education, real estate, trucking, pharmaceuticals, human resources). We can also coordinate with in-house marketing and communications teams, external agencies and freelancers, and other partners to deliver more efficiency. Because our software platform helps us learn about all kinds of journalists, we can work across any industry, locale, and work with any type of story. We have secured featured coverage from top brands like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, TV appearances on Good Morning America and local network affiliates, NPR radio and podcasts, and trade magazines, niche blogs, newsletters, etc. Check out our case studies to see the range of work we've accomplished. We believe we are a fit for most people as long as you have a good story to pitch.

We are NOT a fit if:

  • You are looking for a full service PR agency to do everything. We can't create content for you or do significant editing. We can't offer you in-depth strategy. We can't manage your social media, plan events, provide media training, and generally be on-call for doing various media-related tasks. Our specialty is strictly media outreach. In fact, many agencies work with us to help with outreach campaigns so they can focus more on strategy and creative services.
  • You are a crowdfunding projects with little credibility or proven traction. Many media organizations have explicit rules to not cover crowdfunding events due to a history of failed projects or successful projects that fail to deliver. We recommend getting some momentum going first on your own, and when the crowdfunding project has clear traction, you can work with Upbeat to try to score some coverage for an additional boost.
  • You want to pitch book, music and movie reviews. These categories are typically more "insider-y" and have obvious review and event requirements. We recommend working with a specialized firm or freelancer.
  • You want to pitches to non-English media.

What makes for a good story?

While it varies depending on the journalist and her audience, a good story in the traditional journalistic sense has the following qualities.

  • Timeliness: Why now? Is there a real time hook forcing me that will move this story to the top of the list?
  • Prominence: Does it involve anyone that matters to me? (e.g. celebrities, star investors, companies I care about, etc)
  • Impact/Consequence: Why does it matter to me?
  • Surprising: Tell me something I don’t know that I can in turn surprise my readers with
  • Proximity: Is it near me? Does it “hit close to home” for my readers?
  • Conflict: Does it take a stand on a hot-topic issue?
  • Human Interest: Will people want to read it?

Before we can pitch a story for you, we first evaluate your story against the criteria above to make sure it has a chance of receiving coverage. Of course, we are wrong all the time, but we will get better at it.

You can read more about what makes for a good story by consulting these resources.

When should I initiate a campaign with Upbeat?

We are on-demand and can launch an outreach campaign in the matter of 24 hours. However, we recommend budgeting 1 week to set up with Upbeat before pitching. If you feel like your story is more complex in nature, we recommend reaching out earlier than 1 week before to make sure you have everything you need for us to pitch.

Generally, you want to have:

  • An idea or several ideas for a story. Check out what makes for a good story and see some of our case studies.
  • Supporting evidence to back up your ideas. Imagine if a journalist were to write an article, would she have everything she needs to write a good article? If you are unsure, try writing a blog post or a press release first.
  • No dependencies. If your story is not valid until a feature is launched or a partnership is signed, make sure you get those items done first.

How should I best coordinate with Upbeat?

Some things you should definitely communicate with your Media Strategist upfront:

  • If you are working with other external partners to pitch the story, we'd need to coordinate with them to make sure we're not stepping on toes.
  • If you plan on publishing something on your own blog, posting to sites like Product Hunt, or making your story public in other ways.
  • If the story is contingent on events that are subject to change, communicate. Over-communicating is preferred.

When will the story get published?

We can’t guarantee when the stories will get written or published after pitching. Most of the time we'll get a sense of how much interest there is within the first 3 weeks of the initial pitch date. We've seen stories get covered immediately on the same day as the pitch as well as several months later. Depending on how interested a journalist is, you can usually get an idea from the journalist. The more timely the story is, the easier it is to predict.

Do we have to write our own pitches or articles?

No. We write the pitches; journalists write the articles.

Can you pitch something I wrote and make me a contributor or guest blogger?

Yes, but you have to know that the chance of success is low.

If you are looking to pitch something you wrote for syndication or to be published as a contributor, we can help you pitch it to editors of sites that would take submissions, but the bar is much higher because the content is coming from a 3rd party instead of their in-house writers and vetted freelancers. Please discuss this with your Media Strategist to understand the chances.

What do you recommend for crowdfunding projects?

Many publications explicitly forbid writing about crowdfunding projects because so many end up failing or not delivering, which is a disservice to the publications' readers.

How are you so affordable? How much is automated?

We’ve streamlined the PR process and built a set of software tools to assist our PR experts.

The process is partially automated, and no, we don’t spam. A real human PR expert is reaching out to the media on your behalf. Some of the automated and semi-automated processes we’ve developed include:

  • Customer dashboard and account management workflow
  • Matching algorithm and powerful search to help us efficiently identify the perfect media targets for your stories
  • Pitch email campaign management
  • The biggest and most up-to-date journalist database
  • Media monitoring and analys

Do you write or distribute press releases?

No. Our Media Brief replaces the function of a press release as a definitive source on the story we are pitching for you.

If you are looking to distribute a press release through a newswire service, we recommend learning about it first. Some things newswire services will not be able to do for you:

  • Increase SEO: In 2014, Google Panda 4.0 significantly reduced the SEO value of press releases. SEO experts agree it’s no longer effective without resulting in media coverage.
  • Garner media coverage: Most journalists don’t read press releases unless you’re a big company they follow. The only gating factor for distributing a press release is money, which is not a strong signal for quality. Some media outlets have an arrangement to syndicate press releases just to have more content on the site, but they are typically buried to readers and not indexed on Google.