Getting press is a very important factor in growing a company from a small startup to a money-making mammoth. Yet, good publicity can be very elusive. While a lot of press doesn’t mean the startup is doing everything right, press coverage can take you very far when you are a young company.
We look at some of the most prevalent reasons that prevent startups from achieving the press coverage they desire. One important thing to remember is that “good press does not a good startup make.” In other words, just because you are getting a lot of press doesn’t mean you are on top of the startup chain. You could be getting a lot of press, yet it doesn’t convert to any action because your startup’s product is just shoddy.
1. You don’t know your startup goals
It’s important to have your startup goals in mind and articulate them correctly when you do get a chance to. Outlining these goals correctly will have an impact on what people think about your business.
When you don’t have goals for your startup it shows that your business lacks a foundation to drive it. This makes everything you are trying to achieve pointless because it lacks direction. The press like to hear about startup goals. That’s the ultimate point of focus when you are pitching your product to them. Ultimately, your goals are a big part of what makes your story interesting.
For example, Airbnb’s goal is to help people share spaces they aren’t using for a fee while at the same time helping the renters to spend less money by offering an alternative to expensive hotels. This goal inspired the beginning of their story. Everything that came after that sprung from this initial goal.
2. You don’t know your target market
When you don’t understand your target market it is very difficult to know what kind of press you are trying to get. Your choice of news outlets to carry your story will also be ineffective.
Assuming you are a gaming studio that has come up with a new PC game, your target market is the gaming community. Knowing that you are targeting the gaming community will send you to the right news outlets for gamers. These are outlets that gamers visit almost daily to get the latest news and updates on new games and already existing games. You would be expected to go for news outlets like Gamespot, PCgaming, IGN, and Kotaku among others.
When you don’t know your target market here is what you will find yourself doing: Let’s assume you have created a game inspired by the Game of Thrones series. The first mistake you will make is to assume that everyone who watches Game of Thrones will be a fan of your game. What you forget is that not everyone who watches Game of Thrones is a gamer.
The second mistake you will make is to approach IMDB, ITV, TV.com, and Rotten Tomatoes telling them you have a game that depicts Game of Thrones. They won’t reply because their target market is people interested in movies, not games.
Understanding your target market takes your story and your startup to readers who are invested in your story. On the other hand, not understanding your target market will achieve the opposite. The writers working for gaming news outlets will be happy to write about your new game to their readers who will be grateful because they now have a new game to play. The writers working for movie news outlets like IMDB won’t bother to reply to you.
3. You have no idea the type of story you are pitching
There are many stories that go to press about a startup. It could be a new product launch, a hiring announcement, a milestone, or a funding announcement. Approaching the press while trying to pitch all these things at once will probably not get you press. However, focusing on the most newsworthy story for that day can get you a lot of press.
A good example would be a funding announcement. If you have received $100 million funding in your Series A, which news outlet won’t want to be the first to break that story? That story would spill over and go into a full-blown press story about your startup and its products. By focusing on just one story, you have still gotten all your stories covered.
Another example would be a hiring announcement. Usually, when a new person is hired in a startup, it’s not news. Even so, ‘big hiring’ news exists. If you have a startup that’s looking to venture into the car designs market and you went and hired the VP of Product Design from Tesla, that’s very big news. Pitching that story to tech and automotive news outlets would get you a lot of press because you just took somebody from Elon Musk’s innovative car company. The coverage from this story would also spill over to other stories about your startup.
4. You didn’t demo your product
Nothing buys press like a nice demo. Showing what your product can do is a very huge bonus when pitching to journalists. Sometimes this may involve sending a video to them but, even then, you should focus on your email copy first. I don’t advise sending attachments when you first cold-email a journalist but you could place images in an email to show what your product is capable of achieving.
The demo step usually comes after the initial first contact. At the second level of contact, you can demo your product and catch their eye. Sometimes sending a link to the demo page in the initial email also works. The bottom line is that if you show what your product can do, it will definitely get you press.
5. You haven’t built relationships with reporters
Having a few reporters who you can call on is great. Even so, it’s not easy to establish a positive relationship with journalists. In order to do this effectively, you need to identify journalists who might be useful to your brand in the future. Once you’ve identified these journalists, you can start interacting with them as early as possible, before you need them to publish your story.
One influencer online gave an example of how she did it. She began by sending story ideas to specific writers she thought she would need in the future. They would then call to get a source for the story. Eventually, she built relationships with a number of reporters and now she reaches out to them for the necessary press her company needs.
6. You don’t get in front of your startup’s PR
Nothing is more fundamental than the image of the founder of any startup to the outside world. Even when you hire an external PR agency to handle your publicity needs, reporters still want to know the face behind company XYZ.
For example, look at Steve Jobs whose personal brand is intertwined with Apple’s brand image. When there was a product launch or even a big news hire, it was Steve Jobs who faced the press. Apple received a lot of PR because the founder was in front of everything. The same goes for Microsoft with Bill Gates when the software company was starting out.
PR firms can help you with contacts and media outreach, but – as the founder – you need to play a big role in writing your startup story. Founders need to collaborate with media contacts as much as they can, this will only get them more and more press.
7. Your product isn’t unique or valuable
Building a product that isn’t unique or valuable will not get you in the papers or online magazines unless your startup or its founder has a very impressive background. The experience your brand offers needs to be unique enough to differentiate you from your competitors.
For example, let’s look at Facebook for a moment. It wasn’t the first social media network. The idea of people communicating through online platforms wasn’t launched by Facebook. However, Facebook did build something valuable. Their user experience was built on a simple system which was a breath of fresh air compared to the cluttered MySpace user interface. Facebook’s early adopters were so excited about the platform that they generated a buzz which in turn attracted media attention.
The whole point is that if your product is valuable and unique in one way or another, it will put you in that sweet spot where your cold emails are not ignored. Other times, the users of your product will speak about it to the press and get the press flocking your offices to write more about your company.
8. You don’t ask for people’s opinions on your product
This does not directly get you press, but it puts your brand out there and builds brand awareness. What’s more, customer feedback could be the bait a journalist needs to come knocking for your story. Asking people for feedback either through word of mouth or via social media networks could propel your startup. Word of mouth spreads fast, and hearing good things about your brand could spark a journalist’s interest. If they think you are worth writing about, then they will follow up.
Let’s assume you are building a tech product. Services like Reddit give you a platform where you can ask people to comment just by posting a little information about your product on a subreddit related to tech. Product Hunt is also another service where you could add your product and wait to see how many upvotes, downvotes, and replies you will get for your thread. The more upvotes you get on these platforms, the easier it gets to be seen by reporters who are looking for stories to write.
9. You don’t have a targeted list of writers and journalists
When you don’t have a list of targeted writers and journalists whom you want to reach out to, you will end up contacting reporters who are not interested in your product. It’s true that it takes a while to build a media list.
How Pressfarm can help
As a founder, you might find that you don’t have the time and energy required to build this list while also doing product improvement. If this is the case for you, Pressfarm might be just what you need. Pressfarm is a PR agency that specializes in generating publicity for startups. Once you sign up, the experts at Pressfarm will build a personalized media list for you, containing media contacts in your niche. As a Pressfarm client, you also get access to a comprehensive media database of over 1 million media contacts across different industries. Beyond pointing you in the direction of the best journalists to write about your story, Pressfarm also creates quality content that can help you build a memorable brand image.
By writing winning press releases, developing engaging feature articles and designing creative media kits, Pressfarm has what it takes to help your brand earn the publicity it deserves. With this content, you can be sure you will capture media attention when it is time to pitch the journalists on your list. If you’ve been struggling with media outreach, signing up for Pressfarm’s services might be one of the best moves you make for your brand. Reach out today and let us take care of your PR needs.
Journalists have fanatics and readers who want to read their content every time they write. In fact, I could give an example of myself. I loved reading reviews of gadgets, phones and tablets written by David Pierce while he was at The Verge.
That means that if you successfully pitched a story to David Pierce before he left The Verge, then you probably had my attention. But to get David Pierce’s attention you had to make a tech gadget, and then make it worth his time to review it. Since tech is his niche, he would be happy to review an exciting new product. I would then read his review, and maybe even buy your product. This is just an example to show you how targeting specific media professionals can work in your favor.
10. You don’t know enough about your targeted journalists
Journalists, just like other human beings, will pay attention to you if you adopt a more personal approach. Personal attention shows that you pay attention to what they write about. The only way to do this is to learn more about their work. Google is a good place to start.
Writers will listen to you more attentively if they know you are one of their loyal followers. I bet they will even write about your startup and its big product launch just as a show of thanks for your support. We talked about this in our guide for cold emailing journalists.
11. You didn’t make your story exclusive to one journalist
So you went and told every journalist about your story and you still expect them to write about it? Why would they waste their time? Imagine for a moment how it would feel to be the journalist who breaks a story about some big hiring news or the largest series A funding. That’s like gold.
A journalist from publications like the BBC, Fortune, Time, The Washington Post and the WSJ will be more receptive if you told them that the story is exclusive. How do you achieve this? In your initial contact, let all the journalists know that the story is exclusive and you will make it exclusive just to them. It gives them the motivation to come for more of it. If say two journalists from either of these five publications come back to you asking for more of it, you will have to fulfill your promise to one of them. This is a choice you will have to make when the moment comes.
Eventually, if you stick to The Washington Post journalist, your story will probably go viral. All the other news publications will then carry it while referencing and crediting the initial journalist who wrote about it. That’s how exclusivity works – a win-win for both parties.
12. Your startup doesn’t have an active blog
Where the hell do you tell your stories if your startup doesn’t have a blog? How do you share your brand story with the few users you have accumulated? Buffer’s founder has said before that the reason they got a lot of press coverage was that they had a very active blog. The posts they wrote were shared a lot by some of their users, and continued to get more shares and features in notable blogs.
Building a quality blog brought the press to them. They got a lot of exposure – more exposure than they did from the news outlets they tried to reach out to.
13. You are reaching out to the most prestigious and busiest of journalists
Forget about the prestigious journalists and writers. They get a lot of pitches like yours every day. In fact, they probably get hundreds of pitches every day. Imagine how long it would take them to get to your pitch, if they ever got to it at all. Even you wouldn’t read all those emails. Do yourself a favor and focus on the rising stars. These are journalists who don’t get blasted with hundreds of emails a day. These are the ones who are actually looking for a story.
If you need help with your pitching, then Pressfarm’s email pitch templates will help you create the perfect pitch.
Narrowing down to the rising writers in your industry is easy. Just go the publication you want your brand to feature in, and check out their writers and the stories. They have written about in the last few days. Additionally, finding out if they are new journalists in the publication could help because these new hires are usually looking for stories to write about. Those are the best journalists to approach. If you put too much effort in approaching the busiest of journalists, I can assure you that 95% of the time those efforts won’t bear fruit.
Getting press coverage can be challenging. Nevertheless, with the right strategy, you can capture media attention and generate positive publicity for your brand. Follow the steps above and start building a memorable brand image for your startup today.