The recent success stories of companies like Uber, Airbnb, and others have the press buzzing about startups. But just because these companies paved the way doesn't mean your business has to make a sizable impact like these "unicorns" in order to generate press coverage. However, for my startups, I've found that there are some very effective ways to get the media to cover your new company. Consider the following avenue for garnering press mentions for your business:
- Do your research. I spent a considerable amount of time researching writers on the various sites and from the many publications I identified as ideal places to get media coverage for my startup. It's important to read the stories of the writers you target as well so you can see their style, approach and focus. Also, research the best time to send a pitch to these writers, including the day of the week and the actual time of day -- especially if they are located in a different time zone.
- Approach writers on social media. Social media is a great place to start a dialogue with key writers you have targeted who may consider writing about your startup. After all, it's not the publications, but the individual writers whom you need to befriend if you want them to write about you. The old school way was to write a pitch letter and email or cold call them, but that never seemed to work out too well. Now, the various social media platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook, are perfect ways to get noticed. You can interact with them in a place where they are most likely spending a lot of time. I've been able to find out what specific writers were interested in via their social media channels, which has helped me craft my pitches to them.
- Focus on the benefits, not the product. Similar to the approach of selling and marketing, the press also doesn't necessarily want to hear about a product or service. Instead, they want to see how the benefits your startup links directly to specific issues their readers are interested in. I've made more progress with reporters when I provide them with the key issues and related benefits my startup addresses than if I just sent them a press release about my product or service.
- Don't hire a PR firm. I did all the legwork with contacting the press and, at times, used freelancers to help me. As an entrepreneur, you don't have the capital to put into an expensive monthly retainer that a PR firm often requires. Instead, it's better to put in the hours yourself to keep the budget in check. Another benefit is that the reporter likes to hear from the founder rather than a PR firm representing that startup. This also allows them to interview you directly.
- Create the idea of exclusivity. Writers are always looking for that scoop that no one else has, so help them out by letting them know they are getting the exclusive story on your startup along, with exclusive content. Their readers will also like to know that they can't find that content anywhere else.