The #1 Reason Why We Don’t See Diverse Tech Founders in the News

Muhsin Muhammad of Axum Capital Partners with Sherrell Dorsey. Photo: Jon Strayhorn

We’ve named a number of excuses for the absence of women and people of color in technology fields. The blame has fallen on a variety of the industry’s sins against humanity, like those pesky mythical pipeline problems or severe lack of venture capital funding for startups led by women and minorities.

Representation of diverse tech founders within the daily news cycle, however, remains an untouched topic.

Sure, there are niche-based publications and blogs doing their best to make up for the lack of representation in mainstream major publications. Nevertheless, addressing the real challenge of why journalists aren’t emphatically delivering breaking news stories at scale about the work of founders of color and women is worth pausing for. But this issue might not entirely be their fault.

The number one reason why we don’t see diverse tech founders in the news could be that pitches from said founders aren’t making it to the editor or reporter’s inbox, if at all.

I’m usually on the other end of the pitch email. On an average day, I receive 50–100 emails from publicists, founders, and interns across a spectrum of industries pitching whatever scope of news they’re selling for the day. Many of these pitches lack thoughtful or interesting storylines I can run with and are immediately added to the trash bin. The companies might be great, but the pitches are packaged poorly.

Without an early communications strategy, founders of color miss the opportunity to grab the attention of journalists and get them interested in a storyline that goes above and beyond the diversity conversation.

While systemic issues remain, there are a few proactive strategies I recommend to bring better stories and coverage of tech’s other crop of newsworthy leaders:

Emphasize media relationship-building from the beginning — Don’t be the greatest story never told. Arm your momentum with a marketing cadence that allows outside spectators to follow you along for the ride. Though most early-stage companies prioritize spend on talent and growth, a strong emphasis on content marketing is worth its weight.

Key strategies for building quality relationships with journalists and influencers: introduce yourself and your company in a meaningful way at tech conferences. Digital outreach can also reap benefits and value where appropriate.

Seek to serve as a resource and then become the go-to source — Add value immediately. If you find out a reporter is working on a particular story and you can provide insight or connections to industry experts, show yourself useful and make quick introductions on their behalf. You’ll be seen as helpful and during every interaction, you can mention what you’re working on and offer them a chance to review your work. No promises asked. Just a friendly hand in helping them meet their deadlines.

Make it matter — Pitch emails shouldn’t be overtly self-serving. The types of emails that make it ThePLUG’s general email list on a daily basis are often cringe-worthy. Cut the grandeur. Less about how awesome you are and more about how relevant the technology you are building fits into a larger news or industry trend. Make it smart, brief, useful and relevant to their prior topics covered (a little Google to find out what they’ve covered never hurt nobody).

Clearly, there are still major barriers to becoming regularly embedded in the news cycle for founders of color and women outside of aggressively pitching smarter storylines and making ourselves visible to journalists. But it’s step toward change and the idea that when you’re so good with your storytelling, they can’t ignore you.

I share my thoughts on the state of the tech ecosystem and implications for diverse innovators every Friday in ThePLUG — the daily tech newsletter covering black founders, innovators, and investors.

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