Getting press coverage, like it or not, is, and should be part of any marketing strategy right alongside advertising, social media, content, and SEO. Some people believe in PR and think it can drive meaningful growth, others might disagree, but there is no denying that good PR can help any company raise its profile and increase its brand awareness.

The thing with PR though, is that so many people misunderstand it or even confuse it with content marketing. Here are five common misconceptions and their corrections as far as getting press for your startup.

Journalists don't work for you, give them a story and you both win.

One of the biggest mistakes I see startups make all the time is thinking that journalists are sitting around waiting for you to send them information about how revolutionary you think your startup is so they can then write that in an article. That is not how this works and journalists are not part of your marketing team.

More importantly, over the years when I would pitch a journalist, which led them to writing a piece, I would always write a thank you email after. Their response was consistently "No, thank you for the story." This confused me. Why are they thanking me? Then it hit me. Just like that journalist is helping me, I am helping them by feeding them a good story. 

That is an important point to remember, PR is a mutually beneficial situation and if you have a good story, both sides gain when the story gets covered. 

A press release is not marketing material, and writing it as such will get you nowhere.

Words like "Revolutionary", "Amazing", "Market-leading", and other superlatives have no place in a press release. Those are self promotional marketing words, and a press release is supposed to be an informative and relatively dry document that tells me, the journalist what the story is. I then, as a professional decide if the product is revolutionary.

The last thing you want your press release to do is make the journalist feel like you are selling them something. If you raised money, then the title should be straight forward and factual "Company Announces its $15 million round A to continue its market expansion", and not "Revolutionary company raises $15 million to disrupt the market and continue to dominate the world." I read that and the Delete button on my email becomes my best friend.

Content marketing and public relations are not the same.

This is a mistake I come across a lot. Your website that has copy on it, your blog that has content on it, and the press, which has information about you on it, those things are not the same. All three have words, but that is about all they have in common.

When you write the copy of your website, you need to cater to someone interested in hearing more about you and is already familiar, hence them being on your site. When you write your blog, you are catering to people interested in your industry and who might have stumbled upon your article from search or social. When you pitch the press, you are hoping to cater to an expanded audience that would otherwise never have heard of you or your company.

Don't confuse copywriting, content marketing, and public relations. 

You think press coverage happens overnight, but you could not be more wrong.

Like most things in business, and more specifically in marketing, press coverage takes time. The actual outreach takes a minute, all your doing is sending an email. The preparation for that email can take months or if you're doing it right, years.

Building trust with journalists takes time, getting to know their areas of interest requires research, and familiarizing yourself with the way they like to be pitched demands your attention to detail and professionalism. 

Following up might actually be more important than reaching out.

If you think you're going to buy some list of journalists' email addresses, send a few cold emails and hope for the best, you are in for a not so pleasant surprise. You will fail.

The actual outreach is a tiny part of the process and in addition to the preparation mentioned above, the process of following up, making sure your email is seen, thanking the journalist after the piece goes live, and keeping them in the loop on future stories might be as important, if not more than the initial email.

Public relations and the resulting press coverage requires long term strategic planning and anyone who thinks otherwise will not be able to deliver and help you achieve your goals with the press.

Published on: Jan 19, 2020
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