One of the most important strategies of a public relations campaign is obtaining press coverage. While advertising comes with a price and is often ignored by consumers, one thing I have learned as CEO of tech PR firm Cutler Group is that press coverage offers tremendous value and can boost credibility in the eyes of prospective clients and/or investors. Rather than paying to be put on the back page of a magazine, startups should instead aim to grab a spot on the front cover. Simply put: Ad space is bought, while editorial space is earned, that is if you have a good story to tell and can capture reporters' attention.
But getting an article written about your company can be difficult. There are millions of stories out there and yours -- by nature of it being from you -- is probably biased in the eyes of a journalist or writer or blogger. The trick is to convince a publication that your story is worth telling from their perspective.
Fortunately, there are five concrete steps you can take to get your startup covered by the press. The time and effort committed towards obtaining good press will likely be well spent -- being featured in a premier publication like Forbes, for example, can provide validation, increased visibility amongst the website's (and magazine's) viewers and new business for your company.
1) Have a good story to tell.
If you know the types of publications that would cover your startup's story, make sure it's a good one, something you might expect to see on their pages. Ensure that the story is relevant to readers of the publication -- meaning it should either be tied to a current event or trend, or be in and of itself significant news in that industry (a funding or acquirement announcement, for example).
2) Craft a professional, catchy press release to tell that story.
Your press release should be written like a news story -- to the point, short and objective. One page is optimal for a press release, and two pages is the absolute maximum. It should be proofread heavily before its release for flaws in style, grammar, spelling and tone. Most of all, it should convey why this is important to the publication's readers -- explain the implications this story could have on the company and the industry as a whole.
3) Research publications -- and specific writers at those publications -- covering similar stories.
This is where much of the strategy lies. You need to put in your research to figure out which publications would be interested in your company. Even more time should be put toward understanding which reporters cover the beat your company falls under -- you don't want to pitch a startup announcement to the writer who reports broad economic trends, for example. Pick 15-20 publications you'd like to be in, then comb through those choices for writers who would cover your company.
4) Find the contact information for those reporters and reach out to them personally.
There are several ways to find the contact information of the writers you wish to
correspond with. Those with the funds to spare can use tools such as Cision and Vocus -- subscription software that contains media databases. For bootstrapping types, you can always call up the publication directly, or scour the web for their email addresses and telephone numbers. Once you have this information, send out brief pitches detailing your story and encouraging them to contact you for more information.
5) Be persistent in following up until you secure the story.
It's all in the close! Following up with the writers you've contacted is just as important as your original pitch. Simply casting a wide net and hoping to pull in an interested writer probably won't cut it. Reporters are always looking for good stories -- however, they are often overwhelmed with pitches and are short on time. Ensure that they've seen your email and remind them to get back to you. If the story is good and the press release is well executed, they likely won't mind being emailed multiple times -- they may, in fact, thank you for it once the story publishes and gets many views!