In the last two years I think I could safely say that I have spoken to at least 500 people that have been in the process of setting up their own business or startup. Back in the very early days I had to hunt and chase down stories to publish on the blog / publication. I mean I would literally chase people down at events and introduce myself and show them a copy of my A5 sized magazine and sell to them why it would be in their best interest to have an interview with me.
Nobody wanted to know you until you were a somebody back then in the Aussie startup space. In business, to survive, you need to be a somebody to a group of people (customers) and this need to become a somebody is even greater if you are a startup (tech, highly scalable, need a lot of users). Startups live or die on being a somebody and if they don’t achieve that status, they die. Each time I meet a new startup founder, I always ask them how they are going to grow their users and get the word out about their product and what they are doing.
The answer is quite often “a huge media push” “coverage in this publication and that publication” really clued in founders usually say the prior but then also give more commercially viable options like “through strategic partnerships” “cold calling” “marketing” – a combination of the two is a recipe of success. Getting massive ‘global’ coverage for your venture is not hard, as long as you have a good product and you have the right approach. A small operation like myself might be easier to approach, but at the end of the day journalists and bloggers are all looking for the same key components when it comes to telling a good story, and it all comes down to three things:
- Is it clickable
- Is it shareable
- Is it going to engage my readers
If you get these three points right as well as the approach, then you are not going to have any issue getting on TechCrunch, PandoDaily, TheNextWeb or lil’ old ShoeString. Ever. Please cover my Business! There is a reason that media ignores you, our currency is information, the more exclusive or breaking the information, the more attractive you are to me. It is not about journalists being Diva’s or being difficult, it is about journalists and bloggers keeping their jobs.
In larger media organisations like an SMH or Yahoo!7 content lives and dies by the front page, exclusive get’s the front page, breaking get’s the front page. scandalous get’s the front page. If you write a run of the mill article you get a page in a sub category, of a category that people might navigate to from the front page, in other words nobody reads what you wrote, and from my perspective as the owner of a publication, I would question why the hell I am paying you. No clicks for you, means no money for me.
Getting people to write about you is a SALES skill, you can dress it up and give it a fancy name like “public relations” but at the end of the day it all comes back to selling your story, journo’s and bloggers WANT content but in a competitive world where the difference between ranking #1 on Google for that piece of breaking news or article is only milli seconds – you will find they only ever hedge their bets and cover stories that almost guarantee a traffic win.
- Approach journalists and bloggers individually
- Make sure you have plenty of good quality pictures to accompany your article
- Make sure you are clear on what types of stories are covered on a particular publication
- Ask yourself why their readers would want to know about you and share it with their friends
- Make sure you have a clear answer for the above
- Allow people to play with your product, if they can have a hands on demo / interview the relationship and face to face helps close the deal
- Share your articles when they are written about you (not sure if everyone does this, but I keep an eye on it – I like helping those that help me grow)
- Send out the same press release to everyone, the major publications will either never publish or you will be used for filler content (no readers)
Is it Clickable?
Getting people to click on article is part science part luck. One of the things that I noticed in the last year is that as the countries view on the definition of startup started to change, I needed to change the way we thought about “startups” here at Shoe String. Even stories on great e-commerce businesses don’t rank as well now, if the story is not about a person on the startup scene, a tech or high growth business, a disruptive model or scalable solution the chances of it being clicked and read a minimal. Our audience defines what they deem as startup news by what they click on.
Clicks are all about Images and Titles. The title is always up to the writer, they know what will garner them attention, your job is to make sure you are interesting and not fluffy, be direct and sure with the information you provide, a good title will always emerge if the story is good. When it comes to images however, they need to be clear and in my experience people always click on images with founders in them above screen shots of their products. Here are some examples of founders getting it right, there articles averaged around 12,000 readers in the first 24 hours of them being live.
Whether we like it or not when it comes to media coverage, people DO judge a book by it’s cover. An interesting image tells it’s own story and prospective readers (that’s all they are until they click , prospects) will click on something they feel will interest them or they feel a connection with. Do not underestimate the power that a picture of you has on the ability to pull readership. I A/B test articles all the time on our site and the “founder or team money shots” when teamed with a catchy heading always secure the eyeballs.
Is it Shareable?
Word of mouth is important in every industry and in publishing, it is ten times as important. You need to sell to the media in your pitch why people will share your article, shares bring the views and views bring in the money. If someone was in the elevator gossiping about your startup, what would they be saying? Would they be talking about who invested, the amount of capital you raised, the acquisition you just made? When you tell someone about a startup you have heard of, what are the top 3 points you share about them – use that as a guide to discover your UGP (unique gossip points). A UGP can work a number of different ways for a publisher’s story:
- People will praise the startup / story
- People will hate the startup / story
People share when they are in what I call “extreme” zones. They really love something or they really loathe something. As a publisher both extreme’s cause people to share. As a startup you need to make sure your shit is in order because if it’s not you will find yourself in the negative press club.
Is it going to Engage readers?
This part is simple, if I tell your story is it going to manifest a reaction in people? Stories that are topical and on trend always attract more commentary beneath the article. Make sure you give the writer plenty of opportunity to bring you into the story as much as possible. People comment on news but people ENGAGE with opinions.