If you are starting a company, one of your goals is probably to get written about in an influential media outlet in your space. For us in the digital space, Inc., Mashable, Wired and TechCrunch are some of the top publications you want to be featured in. A post can fast track your company to be on the radar of venture capital firms, top talent looking for their next challenge and clients inquiring about potential deals.
Why should your story be published? What’s your engaging story? How exciting is your product? Let's be realistic, if readers don’t believe you are in a hot area or have the interest of influential investors then large news outlets won't touch you. To be fair these publications know their audience and what stories get page views and action. Given the large number of companies starting every day, the reality is that there is a bigger chance that you won't get picked up. Is your PR strategy doomed if you don't? What can you do?
The good news is that you can be extremely successful without ever having been in any of the top publications. Look at SwagBucks.com for example: millions of users around the world, nearly a million fans on Facebook, profitable without institutional investment, turning a somewhat abused business model (online incentives) into a brand that advertisers benefit from and people can trust–based on ethics that our founder, a Rabbinical student, firmly believes in and ingrained in our business.
Did you count how many great story ideas?
- Profitable start-up
- Social media success story
- Making incentives popular with users and advertisers
- Founded by a…Rabbi!
Just that last point should be enough for a great story but guess what? We never got picked up by any of the top national publications. Here are five ways you can get heard when the big boys won't publish your story:
- Start Local
I'm based in Los Angeles which only recently has been dubbed Silicon Beach due to its growing number of influential digital companies like DocStoc, Shoedazzle and BeachMint. Ten years ago I could count the number of companies in the digital space 0n my fingers. That's why it's important to seek out and support our local media. News sites such as SoCalTech.com and events organized by folks such as Damian Pelliccione of New Media Vault, Jason Nazar of Startups Uncensored and Kevin Winston of Digital LA can help you see and be seen and network with the right people. A lot of times you will find that other entrepreneurs are willing to help you out. If you can become well known on your own turf, there is a better chance of getting picked up by national media, or in our case, the Silicon Valley outlets.
- Enter Start-up Competitions
Somebody told me that he would not enter any competitions for fear of not winning in public. I disagree wholeheartedly. The exposure and contacts you can make in these events, not to mention the potential prize money and bragging rights are well worth the effort. And if nothing else, it forces you to polish up your pitch and convince judges and an audience (typically comprised of investors, peers, future clients and yes, reporters!) that your product rocks and they need to be investing or working with you. Many of the influential publications typically cover those events so you may get published as part of that story. Inc. compiles its own distinguished list (Inc. 500), but there are many others around. In my previous company, Compass Labs, we participated in three competitions including South by Southwest Accelerator, Dealmaker Media’s Under the Radar and the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Start-up Challenge (the latter limited to clients of AWS). Other competitions in the digital space include TwiistUP LA, Accenture Innovation Awards, StartupBus and Fast Pitch Competition by Tech Coast Angels.
- Get Blogged
There are millions of blogs in the U.S. alone. Find the ones that write about your industry or fits your user demographics and approach them. Bloggers are always looking for stories, exclusives and revenue sources. You can get written about if you grant them an interview, let them break news about a new product launch or give them numbers they can report on your company or industry with a story pitch. Depending on the relationship you may even be able to create a formal referral program for new users or clients. You can find popular bloggers in blogger events, conference panels or simply browsing the web.
- Put Social Media to Work
There is ongoing discussion in the space about the value of your social media presence (including our own Ron Leshem’s article on Inc.com). As a marketer I believe that there is enormous potential in the ability to reach your audience directly and craft your message on a one-on-one basis. There is a larger discussion on how to be effective, but properly implemented a social strategy can become your most powerful outlet to reach users directly. Word of mouth can help drive your business to new heights at a much lower cost than any advertising campaign. You can also use your social following to help you make the news. Also, don’t forget that you can easily reach out to influential people on Twitter like Robert Scoble who can promote your product with in depth video interviews or a 140 character post.
- Show Them the Numbers
Due to our success we've earned a place on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing, privately-held companies and in the Los Angeles Business Journal. Other lists include the Deloitte Technology Fast 500. All start-ups start at $0, so as long as you have good growth it would be silly not to apply.
Even after successfully following these five tips you may not get the attention from top publishers. The good news is that you will have good enough results and be successful to the point where whether you get picked up or not won’t make such a big difference in your business, just your ego.