It is hard to attract attention from the media; even more so, if you are new in the field, with the competition soaring and no sales yet. How can you distinguish yourself from the thousands of other startups when you can’t afford to pay for the services of a PR firm? The best way to do so is hiring a freelancer with a good reputation. Nonetheless, past experience does not necessarily mean favorable coverage by the likes of Forbes, The Huffington Post or TechCrunch.
In this PR for Startups article, I will share with you how I manage my interactions with journalists, to give you something useful in creating your strategy while knowing what to expect.
Earn Their Respect
First of all, never forget that journalists don’t work for you! Avoid asking them to share your information or help you in spreading the word about your project. If you don’t have anything new and exciting to show, don’t bother wasting their time, because by doing so you burn the bridges of any future chances for publicity.
Keep an eye on the media that relate to your industry, know who the relevant journalists are, read up on them, learn how they write, follow them on social media. Before doing so, however, make sure that you already have a vibrant internet presence. Imagine how pathetic it looks for a company that aspires to rock the world, to only have a handful of social media followers.
You can now add your comment on retweets, which is a brilliant opportunity to increase your visibility. Sharing your insider knowledge on the topic with journalists, or suggesting an expert they should approach, even when they are completely unrelated to your company, is highly appreciated. Personally, I use ANewsTip to keep an eye on the latest tweets that journalists post.
Make It Worth Reading
If you properly research the media covering your topic and carefully craft your email messages to journalists, your “conversion rates” will be much higher. Inform the reporter on THE REASON behind your message, and THE WAY information about your product will benefit their readers. Pay attention to the subject of your message and keep an eye on the open rate for each type of messages. In case your first email is not read, send the second one after changing the subject line. You can easily monitor if your emails are opened by using appropriate software, such as sidekick and yesware, for instance. Nonetheless, avoid spamming! Don’t flood journalists with questions like, “did you read my previous email?”. Devise a different strategy, or move on to the next reporter.
Refrain from using words such as “groundbreaking”, “innovative”, or “revolutionary”. Don’t write more than 150 to 250 words and AVOID ATTACHING FILES! Journalists usually use their smartphones to check their inbox, so they are more likely to skip long messages with attached documents. If you wish to share large images or video files, use a file-sharing services such as Dropbox, and send them the link instead.
Pay attention to how journalists and bloggers differ from each other. For journalists, writing about news is a paid job. They receive incredible amounts of information every day, so they prefer short, accurate memos that they can turn into articles without much hassle or thorough research. Many times they have to rely on their editors who assign them projects.
On the contrary, bloggers are free to choose their topics and the timing of their publications. But they don’t get paid for them. So, when you decide to make a contact with a blogger, think about what you can offer to reward them for the publicity they ‘re giving you. It can either be money, a product sample, or a prize for a giveaway. Also, don’t trust the press-kits you receive from bloggers. Crosscheck every bit of information by visiting their social accounts and running a check on their traffic by using SimilarWeb.
Read the editorial calendars and submission rules. It will make it easier for you to find out whom you need to get in touch with and what the media expect you to send them, in terms of materials. Moreover, you can guess which topic is going to be covered next, according to the season or time of the year, for example, “Holiday gift guide,” “Back to School” or “Vacation guide”. Contact the media way ahead! Submission deadlines for printed publications are usually due months ahead of the magazine’s release dates.
Put up a press kit on your web page, so it is easy for journalists to grab a brief intro about your company, products, and management team, as well as high-resolution photos.
Be The News
Make your presence noticeable by participating in startup contests and your industry public events. They present excellent opportunities to expose your product to a large number of journalists at the same time. Don’t forget to follow up on all the contacts you make at these events, within the following week.
Hijack the news. Monitoring news about new laws, celebrities, major controversies and discovering how to associate your products with them is one of the most beneficial strategies. If the Washington Post publishes a story on equal rights, your female founder can share her insight on how to succeed in an industry dominated by men. The next time a hacker group steals information from a global corporation, bring forth the product that addresses online privacy and safety.
Don’t plan major announcements while big industry events are taking place, because the media will not care for it. In fact, it is easier to draw attention when you contact a journalist during a slow season, such as the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. It is a period when the media are more open for new and exciting stories since the majority of traditional newsmakers deal with year-end reports or are slow to respond due to vacations. Thus, your story gains value.
Lay your strategy beforehand, be innovative, be relentless, and always be there for the media. If you make it easier for the journalists to do their job, they will help you gain visibility.
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