Many startup founders desperately try to get PR for their startups, as it’s not an easy thing to do at the start. But here’s some advice that I collected during these last years while trying to create some publicity for my startup. For a few of those steps, our product Tame can help you do the job faster and more convenient, but if you’re a cash strapped founder, don’t worry – all this can be done manually on Twitter and free tools as well.
Getting the attention of journalists is difficult. It has always been. I’ve worked as a journalist and I can tell you first hand that they are always busy. If anything, the journalist’s workload has only increased with the advent of the social web. Hence, if a journalist follows you on Twitter, that doesn’t mean he automatically reads your tweets.
Hardly anyone follows their entire timeline activity. For this reason, the platform is rather serendipitous at any given moment, someone might log in and find something interesting. For our purpose, though, we need to make sense of all this information, and not rely on luck alone to hope our tweets are eventually discovered. We could certainly talk for hours on each of those aspects, but I just wanted to elaborate a little on the points we touched upon during the podcast.
1. Don’t just dump your pitches
So, if you’re trying to get some PR for your startup, don’t rush into it right away. Consider a few things before sending a pitch to a journalist. A mere dump of material into a journalist’s mail inbox won’t get you far, since there is no limitation on how much data one can put into the trash. I know from experience that sometimes up to 80 percent of emails that can reach a journalist inbox are not even opened. And with Twitter, it’s not too different: as many journalists have verified accounts, they are equipped with a few tools by Twitter to filter their incoming messages and simply avoid being spammed.
2. Get on the beat
Journalists working on a beat are constantly looking for updates, which is why Twitter is such a valuable platform for them. What has worked for me and many others is to go ahead and identify the topics that the journalists you are targeting regularly tweet about. You should also know and closely monitor the hashtags and main actors of discussions in your field of expertise. If there’s a debate and you can add your expert view, seize the opportunity and engage with journalists directly.
3. Position yourself as an expert
Needless to say, it is helpful if you become an expert yourself, or in other words: let your own voice be heard. Start commenting on relevant issues, and if you have the capacity, you might start a small blog and occasionally post longer opinions or share some of your internal research. Use the right hashtags and engage in conversations with influential users and opinion leaders.
4. Build relationships
Ultimately, a lot of your success in PR boils down to relationships, which are hard to get if you just started out. Obviously, it’s easier at the beginning to get the attention of bloggers in your field than of the lead
editor of the NYT. However this lead editor might read some blogs during his daily routine.
5. Get help
If you don’t have connections and no time to invest building them, you can get help from a PR agency, who cannot guarantee you a publication, but are usually well connected and can always count on a journalists response at least. They also come in handy when it comes to refining your pitch and story telling. Consider, however, that PR is expensive and relationships your PR agency has, only rarely or to a very limited extent transfer to your person.
6. Become a storyteller
When finally sending your pitch, be creative. A good way to start is to think about stories and content you can tell or produce to get the attention of the media. A flat “This is my startup x and we’re doing y and this is why we’re better than any previous startups out there” won’t do the job. Your job is to identify anything that’s valuable to a journalists’ business: it can be the fact that something is new, but it’s even better if there’s an interesting background story, or something out of the ordinary, quirky, a surprise element.
7. Be patient
Success doesn’t come overnight. Building relationships takes time and includes meeting a journalists in person and taking the conversation from Twitter to a face to face meeting. Usually conferences work well for this purpose.
It's going to take some intentionality to pursue journalists and creativity to sell your story, and making good use of Twitter will get into the right conversations with the right people who will get your startup seen.
What's your favorite PR strategy that has worked for you? Tell us in the comments.