Living in Silicon Valley, the center of the startup universe, and working as a journalist, I am asked by many entrepreneurs how can they get press coverage. Really what it comes down to is putting yourself in the shoes of a journalist, someone who writes several stories a day. Once you know how to interact with this rare breed of hard-working human, then you will have a better shot at getting your company covered than those who don't treat journalists with appreciation or respect.
One of the people whose opinion I respect most on this subject is Murray Newlands, an Inc. columnist who is well known in startup circles around the world for his expertise in obtaining PR and writing about it. He just released a book with another Inc. columnist Drew Hendricks, talking about some of the tips and tricks they've learned along the way. In How to Get PR for your Startup: Traction, they lay out some key ways to garner press coverage for your company, without having to pay PR companies large amounts of money.
1.) Tell a Great Story
Telling a great story about how you help others is one of the keys to success in PR. Journalists want to write articles and stories that connect with their readers. Journalistic integrity is of course highly important, but these people are pressured to deliver page views each day. Help them do that.
"News about things which their readers care about or will help their readers is compelling content and stories convey this well," Newlands says. "Your story should be about the people you help and the trends to help resolve those challenges; your company should be just part of that story. No one cares that you sell boots and jackets that resist heat--but many will read the story of a fireman who saved the lives of a family because he or she is using your boots and jacket."
2.) Know What 'Pain Points' You're Fixing for People
As a startup you should know what pain points your product or service fixes in peoples' lives and why they should be compelled to use your company's product. These should be easy to illustrate to the journalist and well-researched beforehand.
"Make it highly easy for members of the press to see exactly what you're solving for people," Newlands says. "Reporters get more pitches a day than the average person receives emails in a week. Make it easy for them to see what you're fixing right off the bat."
3.) Don't Assume Press Will Love Your Company Just Because You Do
Far too many company founders think people want to know about their company when in fact very few people do or you actually only reach a niche market. "The appointment of a new CEO at Facebook would be news," Newlands says. "Your company appointing a new sales director/head janitor is not."
4.) Know How Startups Typically Fail at Pitching Press
There's no doubt that entrepreneurs get on the nerves of many a reporter. There are things you can do however to make your pitch go down easier, or let's be honest, simply get noticed. Be extra careful to make sure your email is not considered spam.
"Why is it OK to blanket bomb every journalist's email you can scrape from the internet with your story about your new janitor and then cold sales call them demanding they write about your company? It is lazy, stupid and just wrong," Newlands says. "Read columns that your audience loves to read and then have a story ready that you know those readers will love, then be ready to pitch that story. Hint: in 99 percent of cases if you are more than thirty percent of the story you are doing it wrong."
5.) Grow Your Network
Do the legwork to build your network. Make connections and find a way to be introduced to journalists. When you get introduced ask how you can help them and develop a relationship.
"Then pitch them much, much later, if it feels right," Newlands says. "Sound like hard work which will take time? Well then you're talking about moving into PR that isn't free. Time is worth money. Consider hiring someone in that case," Newlands says.
6.) Make The Most of Your Press
Getting press is one thing but making the most of press coverage is another. Lots of startups do get great press but fail to capitalize on it. Have a press page where you list what press you have received. Newlands recommends buying ads on Linkedin and Facebook to promote the press you do get to potential customers and investors.
"Think about including the article in a newsletter or in the footer of your email signature. If it is truly great press you might want to include it on your Linkedin page," he says.
There is no time like right now to get started with these steps. Overnight success is a fantasy for the vast majority of entrepreneurs. Even if everything goes your way, it's going to take many months if not years of extremely hard work and sacrifice to get where you want. If your company is truly deserving of press, press coverage may almost seem to come to you in many cases. Like many things in life, you want to do the hard work of building relationships before you need help. If you do things for others first, then they may ask you if they can write about you.