We call it outreach. It's the art of getting in touch, usually by email, with bloggers and journalists, and then asking them to write about your startup.
It's never been an easy game. But startups and entrepreneurs have to play the game if they want attention and want to build community around their work.
Deadline writers have little time, and once you pitch them, they have to successfully pitch your story an editor to get a green light to write. Bloggers, for the most part, don't answer to anybody but themselves, but are interested in building their audience and showcasing their domain expertise.
Those are your mountains to climb, but there are ways to make the trek and win by getting coverage in your favorite media outlet. You start with deciding who you will contact.
That is one aspect of the game that just got a whole lot easier. There are two apps I use every day that have made the outreach search-and-discovery process fast, efficient and fun.
Pressrush makes it easy to search for journalists who might be interested in your startup. You just enter a keyword in the Pressrush search field and it returns a list of journalists who have written about that topic area before. Just like that, you have a curated list of contacts.
Inkybee is a dynamic database of bloggers. There's a search bar for you in this app as well, and when you enter your area of interest or the community you're trying to reach, inkybee gives you a list of blogs that might cover your startup. Justreachout.io performs a similar service, but they do the work for you. (And you pay more for that.)
There's just one thing missing with this smooth, API-driven techie approach.
Using these search and discovery apps, you may get yourself the best list of journalists in the world, but that list won't mean squat unless you've developed some kind of relationship with those journalists.
That's why Pressrush offers a journalist outreach course with every Pressrush subscription, and inkybee offers an excellent white paper all about optimizing your contacts with bloggers. I also recommend starting to follow journalists and bloggers on Twitter. You can get to know them, see what they're interested in and writing about, and make your first, 'cold' email a little warmer.
But what if you've written to a perfect list of bloggers and journalists - and still, nobody is responding to you? Maybe you're making one of these top ten mistakes.
TOP TEN PRESS OUTREACH FAILS
1/ You start your email pitch with a variant on 'There's nothing new on this topic, but I'm contacting you anyway.'
2/ You try the longshot approach: 'I know you write about wine. That's why I'm contacting you about shoes.'
3/ You overstuff your email pitch with links: 'Here's a YouTube video, a PDF, ten links to show my credibility, and a GIF of a cat to make you laugh.'
4/ You got started too late with your campaign. 'Can you write about this right away because I'm in a hurry?'
5/ You get a little too friendly a little too soon: 'I saw on Twitter that you want to go to Tuscany on vacation. Can I recommend some restaurants?'
6/ 'I'd like to send you a case of wine if you write about me.' Gifts are bribes. They generally annoy journalists who find them compromising, and bloggers have to disclose them.
7/ Nagging: 'Did you get my last email?'
8/ A sensational subject line that is spammy: 'You'll never believe what I heard about you.'
9/ 'You were friends with my college roommate's girlfriend.' Um, well. I hope you have better credentials to offer than that.
10/ Self-evident: 'Can we be friends on Facebook?'
It's never been easier to find the journalists who want write about startups, but the game hasn't changed when it comes to writing a good pitch email. You have to get to know what the writer writes about by reading their stuff, and you have to write an email that is as much about them (and what they want to write about) as it is about you.
I teach classes at General Assembly in Los Angeles about culture building for startups and outreach to media sources. View the class schedule here.
Photo credit: Journalist by Esther Vargas via creative commons license.