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…
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.
6 Simple Ways To Build Brand Credibility On A Tight Budget
How to build media credibility for your business in 2017.
- Old school: Unlimited marketing budgets.
- New School: Smart and cost-effective ways to get noticed — despite an over-crowded market.
It’s no secret that when there is an economic downturn, advertising and marketing budgets — even in big businesses — take a knock. Most SMEs have much smaller advertising and marketing budgets, and we need to constantly find creative ways to build trust and credibility with potential clients, as well as increase our share of voice in our industries.
One way to do this is to build credibility with the media and generate exposure for the business to increase visibility, which in turn can translate into sales.
Where would you start?
1Follow and listen
Seeing your company’s name grace the glossy pages of your favourite magazine or your spokesperson appearing on your favourite business show can be very rewarding and lead to more opportunities.
The reality is that media outlets, editors, journalists and producers are bombarded with more stories than they can work on and most of those stories are irrelevant.
The key to increasing the likelihood of your business story being featured starts with understanding your chosen media. This includes drilling down to a specific journalist and the editor on whose platform you would like get coverage.
Do your homework, find out who their audience is, what sort of features they publish, and who they view as thought leaders. Start by investigating what the chosen platform is likely to focus on to ascertain whether or not what you have to share will be relevant and appealing to it.
Just as you researched your market before you tried to sell to it, learn who their target market is.
Editors and producers balance audience interests around their platforms, which is critical to their growth, and they also need to remain relevant in a crowded marketplace to increase advertising in an era of dwindling advertising spend. Aside from being featured by the media, listening to existing conversations and following target platforms is significant if you and your business story are to be relevant.
2Share industry changes and stories
The advantage of living in this era of information and content overload is that information and data are everywhere. But, most of it is not well organised. The ability to organise information in ways that make for interesting and insightful reading can turn media attention towards your business.
How often have you read a story and found comments from people who are industry experts? Sharing knowledge and becoming the go-to industry voice builds credibility and positions your business as a team of experts, and most people would rather buy from companies that are specialists in their field.
3Share your progress
Part of the challenge of starting and building credibility with the media is the lack of ‘story’ behind the business and the new idea. A silver lining that emerges from the sad finding that nine out of ten start-ups fail is that when small businesses make progress, it is worth celebrating.
This may not always be a cover story or sought after article, but making contact with key media about progress in a year or two sometimes leads to mentions and these can attract more coverage.
4Review a relevant event
Industry and business events tend to have interesting nuggets of information that sometimes go unnoticed and if you attend these events, there could be interest in a post-event write-up. One of the stories that we shared which garnered solid traction was about various speaker’s insights from an overseas conference that we attended.
The African continent is becoming more interested in local voices, in developing what the continent has to offer as solutions. Some of these solutions emerge at events that are not attended by media, which can give you the opportunity to write a publishable opinion piece.
5Share an industry success story
It’s tempting to write a press release that focuses on your business and hope that the spotlight lands on you. It’s like putting up your selfie in a public domain, but with the potential to be seen on TV or in print. Avoid at all costs.
Similar to sharing your progress, talking about an industry colleague — without overly marketing them or the competition — can make you the source of relevant industry information. Most industry commentators whose insights are sought after, are perceived to have relevant industry information and this also leads to more coverage linked to your business. Position yourself as the insiders with insights to share.
6Make it newsworthy
For your story to attract attention, it should interest the editor or the journalist and must be newsworthy. Unless you are someone important, and can offer an audience a new perspective, a personal story without a newsworthy angle increases the probability of your email address being redirected to the spam folder.
The notion of what makes news varies from one title to the next, from one show to another and listening to what is important in a handful of chosen platforms increases the chances of becoming a story that is worth telling.
As you build your credibility in the marketplace, foster relationships that will be valuable over time and build them by offering useful content that separates you from industry peers. After all the people with whom your business interacts and builds value can be its greatest asset.
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