Over the last few years, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with founders who have noticed that we are frequently in the press. They always want to know, “How do you do it?” I don’t have some special playbook, but I do have a few rules and tricks that I think are helpful.
1. Don’t pitch to the top of the masthead.
When pitching to journalists, too many start-ups that are new to PR try to reach out to the top writer or editor or the “face” of a publication. But you are likely wasting your time, these journalists are probably too busy to respond to or even read unsolicited pitches.
Instead, try building a relationship with the newer journalists; they are often hungry for stories and are receiving far less cold pitches. Always remember that the journalist, not the publication, is covering you – so finding the right people to share your story is critical.
2. Find out who covers your industry.
Another commonly overlooked fact is that writers are usually assigned specific “beats,” or have a focus and interest on certain topics. Take the extra time to do some research; find out which journalists cover start-ups or the industries you’re closely related with. These are the people you should be reaching out to.
Journalists receive plenty of spam from people who haven’t taken the time to find out anything about their background or coverage area – don’t be one of these people.
You can do a lot for your PR strategy simply by compiling a list of the writers who are focused on, and more importantly, genuinely interested in your space.
3. Build relationships and be authentic.
Just like any business relationship, building a solid network of people in the media is important. The closer the relationship, the more value they will provide for you in the future. Refer to your list of journalists and find new ways to engage with these people. Engage with them on Twitter, follow their work and send notes with comments showing you read their articles regularly.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a journalist write about you on their own, make sure you reach out and thank them. They are already intrigued by the work you’re doing – build on that interest and continue to share your story with them.
4. Create unique and exclusive opportunities.
By looking for unique ways to engage with journalists, you’ll naturally attract more (and better) press. One of my favorite techniques that we have used numerous times in the past is media dinners.
When we were launching UP Global earlier this year, we wanted to make sure that we got plenty of coverage from all the major media outlets. We organised an intimate and exclusive dinner for the media and unveiled UP Global to them first. We never asked them to write a story; we simply organised a great meal and shared some drinks with a group of people interested in what we were up to.
Unsurprisingly, every reporter wrote a story about us the next morning. Yes, 100% conversion rate. Try accomplishing that with some cold emails sent out to reporters.
Creating environments like the dinner we organised work well because they allow for more authentic storytelling to unfold and relationships built. With so many start-ups pushing to get exposure in the press, it’s inevitable that entrepreneurs must get creative and put in some extra leg work.
5. Think beyond the press release.
Journalists who cover start-ups are constantly bombarded with press releases, and those press releases get ignored most of the time.
Save yourself some time and money; forego the traditional press release and send out a personal email to one of your contacts with a short description of your update and a helpful list of contacts and resources for them in case they want to begin pursuing the story. Even better, just write a blog post about the story (you are going to anyways, right?) and give the journalist exclusive access to that before its published.
Google is a great example of a company that does not use press releases and instead focuses on blog posts and making sure the right journalists know they are releasing a “blog post” about big news.
To increase traction, I keep a curated mailing list of 100 influencers with a combined following of over 1 million people that we send our big news updates to with a simple “click to tweet” button. We see more engagement and traffic driven to our news updates (on our blog of course) just from these people than any national news coverage we have ever received.
6. Understand what’s newsworthy.
Make sure that you understand what is newsworthy and what isn’t. Founders are notorious for sending out updates and stories that no journalists care about. Too often, entrepreneurs blast journalists with emails about the addition of a new feature for an app or service.
This is not news, and unless you are the hot new startup, no one cares.
7. Getting press is just one way to get attention.
Remember that the media is just one distribution outlet for you to get your news out to the public. A lot has changed in the last five years with the popularity of blogs and social media.
You can gain much more traction and eyes on your story by optimising these channels for news distribution.
I’m always surprised that I don’t hear about more people empowering their early customers, advisors, investors, etc. to spread the word about news and updates from your start-up more easily.
The bottom line: Ask yourself regularly if you are wasting the time of already busy people. Don’t send out updates that aren’t news, don’t bombard journalists with press releases, and don’t send information to the wrong people.
Start applying your innovative, entrepreneurial practices to your PR strategy and you’ll save time, money, and see a lot more exposure for your start-up.
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How do you go about getting press coverage for your business? Tell us in the comments section below…
5 Reasons Your Start-up Isn’t Getting The PR You Need
Understanding and working with the requirements of journalists covering your industry will go a long way toward increasing your company’s visibility.
Getting press coverage for your start-up has become increasingly difficult. With an average of 550 000 new businesses starting each month, you’re facing some serious competition to gain traction with your audience. If you don’t take the right approach to PR, you’ll see your competition pass you by.
Exposure doesn’t happen by chance. Behind every great brand story you see in the media, there is a great PR strategy.
Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes that prevent startups from getting the press coverage they desire.
1. Not taking blogging seriously
Blogging on a regular basis is one of the best ways to impact mainstream discourse. A growing number of journalists and reporters are constantly looking for new and interesting story ideas in the blogosphere. You can make your blog a fresh source of news stories by writing about your story and your industry, and by commenting on different aspects of your business.
To get the right press coverage by blogging, ask yourself why your company exists and what problem your product or service solves. Present your story as human and relatable and make sure it is compelling enough to grab the attention of the media.
2. Not networking with relevant journalists
Networking allows you to build a quality relationship with relevant journalists whom you might not have encountered otherwise.
To get quality press coverage, you need to focus on networking with journalists who cover your niche, and to learn what they write about and what their audience likes to share.
Once you have built a connection, you can pitch them the story of your business.
But before you jump in, keep in mind that journalists hear pitches all the time. If you’re sending generic pitches that focus on only yourself, most likely they’ll ignore your proposal. To make your pitch stand out, tailor your story to fit with their beat.
3. Not making your story exclusive to each journalist
Exclusivity is a strong enticement for a news outlet. Not only will it make them more invested in the story, but it will also entice them to get the jump on their competitors.
Assuming you have exclusive-worthy news, the next thing you must decide is what outlet to offer it to so that it has the best chance of reaching your target audience. The goal is to not always reach the broadest audience but to get your news in front of existing and potential customers.
4. Not using the right tools
To build and maintain a great PR presence, you need to use the right tools; ones that help you amplify and monitor your business’s public appeal.
Some of them are:
- Help a Reporter Out: HARO is one of the easiest free tools when it comes to pitching the media. It lets you gain access to daily emails from journalists seeking interviews.
- Google Keyword Planner: This free tool helps you plan out your blog posts with relevant keywords that people are searching for. Careful word selection will help your blog show up higher in search engines returns.
- BlogAbout Title Generator: My favourite free tool to help me brainstorm catchy titles for reporters.
- Google Alerts: This is a free tool that sends you alerts when your company or competitor is being featured in various media outlets.
5. Not being authentic
Reporters are consistently getting pitched stories from entrepreneurs that want press. To make your pitch stand out, be authentic. The reporters covering news in your industry want to hear your story.
Keep in mind that they need you as much as you need them, and they are actively looking to build relationships with entrepreneurs. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. To get your story covered, you need to find the right reporter and the right publication at the right time and to be authentic.
No matter how good your product is, it may fail if it doesn’t make its way into the public eye. To get the right press coverage, you need to build a strong network of journalists and bloggers writing about your industry.
When you send a pitch, ensure that it stands out and tailor it to fit it with the reporter’s beat. From this list of errors, you can avoid the mistakes preventing you from getting the PR you desire. Fix it and you can increase the visibility of your start-up.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Use Mistaken Inquiries To Drive Awareness Of Your Business
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
At times, we receive inquiries or communication from people seeking products/services that aren’t in our line of work. It can also be someone who has mistaken you for a certain company that you’re not. It’s easy to dismiss such inquiries, by simply saying you’re unable to assist the person.
Don’t miss an opportunity to publicise your company, treat the enquirer as one of your clients. Take a proactive approach, use this as an opportunity to inform them about your company and the services/products that you offer.
In doing this you are building a reputation for your brand, and introducing your corporation to someone who might have never known about. It might happen in future, that the said person needs your products/services when they remember how you professionally assisted them, then they will come to you.
Another possibility is that at that moment they are connected to someone who needs your services and they don’t know anyone in your field. Should you play your cards correctly, you might gain a client for the future or the present.
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
Your response should be structured in a manner that will make the enquirer feel respected and not embarrassed about the mistake they’ve made. When responding to emails ensure that you do so quickly. Sympathise that you cannot assist them because your company only specialises in different services/products. State clearly what is it that you provide and how you do it.
2Show how you solve problems
In the process of explaining your services/products, demonstrate how you can solve people’s problems or meet their needs. This means that you describe your products/services in detail. However, your description should be a comprehensive summary, consider that the enquirer has a life to live.
3Make your brand visible
When responding to emails, remember to include your logo, motto and other things that your brand is identified by. Your offices should be designed keeping this in mind when someone walks in, they should immediately see your identity.
If you have samples to give, kindly offer them to the enquirer. Should you have demonstrations/presentations that you do, politely inform the enquirer about them. Let them know how they can get hold of this.
Related: How To Impress The Press
5Provide them with an opportunity to come back to you
You can share your business card with someone you meet, this should have all your contact detail, i.e. telephone, fax, e-mail and social media details. In an email, these should be nicely positioned at the end of your email, as part of your final greeting.
6Refer them to a relevant business
Should you know of any company that offers the services/products they need, refer them to it without hesitation. If possible, provide them with contact details and a contact person to assist them.
How You Can Avoid The ‘Facebook Effect’
Don’t let perceived realities – of your business or those of your competitors – derail your strategies.
As a young entrepreneur, I received my first bit of publicity from a daily in Durban. It was massively exciting and stroked my ego tremendously because after all, what I had achieved was considered newsworthy enough to be published in a newspaper.
There was a big photo of me on page four, with my interview where I talked about the success of a promotion I had conceived and implemented. My friends saw the article and called to congratulate me, and in my distant social circles people discussed my story and congratulated me too.
Perception versus reality
What they didn’t know was that my business was barely breaking even at the time. The perception of my success was very different to my reality. I proudly showed the article to my mentor (naively expecting a pat on the back) and instead he asked: “Do you believe what they say?” “What do you mean?” I said. “Do you believe all the things the journalist has written about you in the article?” he asked again.
I didn’t answer him because I knew deep down that they weren’t all true. I wasn’t the hugely successful businessman that I was portrayed as in the article.
“If you believe all the good things the press write about you, you’ll also believe all the bad things they say. Be grateful for the press, but do not let it govern your emotions.”
Beware curated reality
In today’s era of social media, fake news, memes, and overly filtered photos, it’s very easy to become envious of the perceived lives that others showcase.
Much like the envy we experience when scrolling through our friends’ posts of their expensive destination holidays — where they can be seen showing off their tanned, ripped bodies while sipping expensive champagne — the same type of envy occurs between business owners when they scroll through competitor’s company timelines and witness their competitors winning great awards, attending glitzy launches and receiving kudos from the press.
In my experience, the perception created by these often-boastful social media posts is seldom close to reality. Like the article on my Durban business, what my friends perceived was nowhere near my financial reality.
Be cognisant and sceptical of this curated reality, so that you as a business do not react in one of two ways to a competitor’s posts:
- Don’t try to emulate their strategy based on what seems to be working
- Don’t end up feeling depressed based on your jealousy of this curated reality.
Instead, your reaction to witnessing these posts should be to:
- Frame your competitors’ posts simply as marketing. They have carefully curated these posts to only show followers the great things about their businesses, products and services. The ‘make-up’ hides the imperfections.
- Use your emotions to make a change. Use the energy their posts ignite inside of you — not the content they project — and pump that energy into YOUR strategy to reinforce it.
- Drive your differentiator harder. Make sure your business stands out as being unique and a thought leader in its industry and not one attempting to copy others. Your differentiator should not be influenced by what you are seeing either positively or negatively.
Always remember, your competitors’ posts represent selective truth-telling because they curate what they want you to see online.
They will never post when times are tough and they are losing clients and not making a profit at the end of the month. Don’t believe everything you see, and most importantly, don’t let these ‘perceived realities’ affect you or your business strategy in any way.