As entrepreneurs, we tend to think we've got the best idea for how to deliver the very best solution for our industry's most stubborn pain point.

Sound familiar? It should. We wouldn't be in business if we didn't demonstrate that our idea is unique and creates value where it didn't previously exist.

The hard part is convincing everyone else of that value, from investors to early adopters to vendors and everyone else along the supply chain to success.

There are plenty of resources available to help crack that nut, including crafting the perfect elevator pitch to quoting market research. But we tend to overlook one of the most important, vocal, and influential groups of people, when it comes to convincing others of our value proposition: members of the press.

I've been on both sides of the pitch desk and, let me assure you, members of the press have seen every shade of hard-to-believe errors sent their way, from pitches to female journalists that begin with "Dear Sir" to pitches whose subject is completely unrelated to our beat. Nothing makes us click the Delete button faster.

Here's how to avoid that happening to you, with thanks to PR pros who pull back the curtain.

1. Prioritize publicity.

Is securing good quality publicity at the top of your startup agenda? Yes, as a strategy, right alongside product development and pricing, according to Rebecca Hopkins, communications strategist with Folio Fine Wine Partners. Equal consideration should be given to all three, including giving the right amount of publicity, researching the most appropriate press, and preparing a succinct and compelling pitch.

2. Know who to target.

Blanket press releases serve their purpose, especially if they're distributed via a trusted platform. But researching the appropriate press in your own field is a key step as you prepare to pitch, advised Hopkins. Know what they are writing about, and why you want them to write about your company, message, or news.

3. Call people. Like, on the phone.

"Because it's fallen out of practice, a voice on a phone can be startlingly effective for generating a sense of genuine collaboration," said Erica Nonni, Managing Director of Nonni Strategic Marketing. The more time people spend on email and Instagram, she believes, the more impactful older forms of approach are; they underscore the value of human relationship, person-to-person or voice-to-voice, so to speak. But be careful: It's less about selling, and more about connecting. So be helpful and genuine. "Everything useful in building a business is in pursuit of a relationship, not a sale," she said. 

4. Give them a reason to care.

Writers write for their readers. Writers do not write for entrepreneurs. Keep that distinction in mind as you articulate, purposefully, why a particular writer should care about your particular business. Even if most of your waking hours are dedicated to your startup, a writer will always need an answer to the question of why should their readers care? Hopkins calls this the GAS element, as in why a writer should Give A Sh*t.

5. Tighten up your press materials.

Good press materials -- the kind that convince writers that you're actually serious about your business -- take time and care to develop. Stephanie Teuwen, President of Teuwen Communications, offers six suggestions for what to include in press materials that make your business stand out.

  • A one-page overview written in a factual way. Avoid superlatives like unique or best, etc. unless they're actually true.
  • Bios of principals
  • Product description
  • Q&A with the CEO
  • Photos in high resolution and low resolution, and identify them. Instead of xyz.jpg, write CompanyX_CEOJohnSmith.jpg, CompanyX_Headquarters.jpg, etc.
  • Spokesperson and key messages: identify who can speak on behalf of the company and make sure they know the key messages.

6. It probably won't work the first time.

Very few pitches land on the first outreach, Hopkins said, so take a "no" as an opportunity to build the relationship with key press targets. Stay in touch. "Good quality publicity takes time, so invest in it," she said.

Published on: Sep 19, 2018