The Startup PR Guide

The Minimum Every Startup Founder Should Know About Getting Press Coverage


When launching your startup, there are 3 avenues for press coverage worth considering:

  1. Startup press coverage (e.g. TechCrunch, TNW, Mashable)
  2. Regional press coverage (would your local press be interested in featuring you?)
  3. Industry niche news (e.g. if you run a fitness startup, then fitness blogs may be interested)

This guide aims to give a brief overview of how to establish initial contact with press. It won't be going into much detail, but we'll give links to more detailed posts for specific areas. Instead, this is the minimum we think any founder should know for dealing with the press, and we've also given a few email templates that have worked successfully (some are ours, some are other people's).

General Rules

  • What's in it for their readers? Before even pitching a journalist, you need to ask yourself this question. A product launch is rarely a good story - it needs to be interesting to the journalist's readers. For example, an amazing new piece of tech that makes you think "wow, humans are pretty cool", or an inspiring story about a mum entrepreneur, or an idea so ridiculous it worked. If you're pitching a publication, read their latest articles to see what they write about. VentureBeat writes mostly about funding rounds - so is it worthwhile pitching them your product launch? Maybe not. If you're not sure why a publication's readers would be interested in you, then perhaps you shouldn't go after news coverage at all - but you might find Product Hunt or Hacker News or Reddit worthwhile.
  • Targeted. We know first-hand that a relevant pitch to a handful of journalists (15 - 30) is far more effective than blasting a mail merge to hundreds of writers. If you're pitching someone, make sure you know what they write about. Don't pitch your Snapchat-esque app launch to someone who writes about acquisitions or SaaS startups. Try to find journalists you have a connection to (e.g. are you London-based? Do you know who likes to write about London startups?). See which journalists write about your vertical (e.g. are you a virtual reality gaming startup?). Hey Press can help speed up your research to find relevant journalists - try searching for a) companies that are similar to you, or b) the city you live in, or c) your industry niche. Once you've done that, get to know the journalists by reading what they've written!
  • Contact 1 week before launch. Journalists need time to write a story, so generally don't like being contacted the day before your launch with a message that says "hey, we're launching tomorrow!". That's like getting optional homework with a 1-day deadline. However, you don't want to contact too soon either - or you won't be a priority. From our research, most journalists agree 1 week is best.
  • Offer the exclusive. This is mostly important for startup or industry niche news. Before contacting any other publications, contact the one publication you really want coverage at and offer them the exclusive - if they immediately decline, then offer the next publication on your list the exclusive. If there are now only 5 days until launch, then forget about the exclusive and contact everyone on your list!
  • Persist. Journalists are busy, so if you don't hear back, don't be offended. Just send them a one-line reminder. Offering them the exclusive is a great excuse to send a reminder within a short period of time (the following day, or even later the same day). "Hi X, haven't heard back yet but would really like to offer you guys the exclusive. If you don't want it, please could you let me know today so I can offer it to someone else". You might get a short reply from the journalist, such as "Not interested". That's fine - don't email them again, but if you don't hear anything then I'd continue following up every couple of days until you've actually launched.
  • Keep it short. A rule-of-thumb I like to use is 5 sentences, max.
  • Email email email. Forget about Twitter (unless you know a specific journalist likes Twitter pitches). Most journalists prefer email.
  • Subject line is key. My favourite subject line has been poached from Erica Swallow's blog (she's a writer at Mashable). "Exclusive for Tues: blah blah blah". To most journalists, exclusives are like nuggets of gold. So if your email has that word in the subject line, then it's probably getting opened. As well as that, this subject line is succinct and gives a deadline for your story - I haven't found anything better yet!
  • Do not attach photos. Instead include a link to your photos on Dropbox, or use a hosted press kit service like PressKitHero.
  • Different journalists have different preferences, and often they're easy to find. For example, Zoe Fox at Mashable doesn't like more than 1 follow-up email, so if she hasn't replied then she's probably not interested. Just Google "how to pitch [journalist name]", and find their personal website + blog + Twitter to see if they give any tips.

Startup Press Coverage


Mike Butcher has given an insightful presentation here, which is worth a watch if you want more details. Otherwise, here are a few startup-specific press guidelines:

  • No press releases. Most reporters prefer conversations over press releases - so your aim should be to start a conversation. If they have questions, or need quotes, then they'll ask you. Having said that, I think it's generally good to provide bullet-pointed information as a footer to your email (and include some whitespace below your email sign-off, so the email doesn't appear overwhelmingly lengthy). Info should include competitors, notes on the founding team, as well as anything else that would make the journalist's life easier.
  • Make sure all photos provided are web-resolution. Startup news is generally web-based, so any photos that are included will need to load reasonably quickly - now is not the time for monster full-res images.


Subject: Exclusive for TC: Launching Padpressed - make any blog feel like a native iPad app

Hey Mike,

Launching PadPressed tomorrow at noon EST and TC gets free reign on an exclusive before then. PadPressed makes any blog look and behave like a native iPad app. We're talking accelerometer aware column resizing, swipe to advance articles, touch navigation, home screen icon support, and more. We've built some pretty cool tech to make this happen smoothly, and it works with your existing layout (iPad layout only activated when the blog is accessed from an iPad). Okay, I'll shut up now and you can check out the demo links/feature pages below, which are much more interesting than my pitch.

PS- Would also be happy to do giveaways to TC readers. Thanks again and feel free to reach out if you have anymore questions (skype,phone,etc. listed below).

Video Demo: http://vimeo.com/13487300

Live demo site (if you're on an iPad): jasonlbaptiste.com

Feature overviews: http://padpressed.com/features

My contact info: j@jasonlbaptiste.com, Phone: 772.801.1058, Twitter: @jasonlbaptiste, Skype: jasonlbaptiste

Notes

The Good:
  • Subject line is direct, with the most important info first, and you can immediately tell this isn't a bulk email.
  • The story is interesting - it's not "hey, we launched this product". It's "we help any blog look and behave like a native iPad app", at a time when there's a growing debate about tablets as the future of publishing.
  • "Exclusive" for TC readers. Great to include this is the subject.
  • Giveaway for TC readers (what's in it for the readers?)
  • The pitch was tailored - e.g. "accelerometer aware column resizing" is of interest to TechCrunch readers, but probably very boring for readers of a publication not tech-focused.
  • Additional info they might need is included (but it's not a press release - it's demos, and a list of features)
The Bad:
  • Short deadline (1 day before).
  • Perhaps a little too long - not by much though (test it in your inbox).
(source)

Regional Press Coverage


You'll probably find local press coverage quite easy to score - if you've done something vaguely interesting then you may well be the most interesting story of the day. You may also find that local press coverage snowballs into wider-region coverage, and may even reach nationals (we did!). Having said that, there are definitely a few extra guidelines that will help you get coverage:

  • Try phoning. Most local papers have a number you can call in on - phone them up and ask to send your story in.
  • The story is probably you. Local papers care about local people - whether you're a mum entrepreneur, or a 19-year-old tech prodigy, or a fitness startup founder who used to be morbidly obese, there's probably an interesting angle about you as a founder.
  • Write a press release. Regional journalists are used to this, and it'll help you direct the story favourably. Aim for 400 - 800 words, and just paste it as plain text at the bottom of your email (leaving plenty of whitespace below your email signature). Keep the body of text fact-based and neutral, but mix in plenty of quotes that provide opinion or controversy. There are plenty of guides online for this - here's one - and here's another
  • Nationals are hard. Whilst small local papers are quite easy to get into, nationals are a different game (you're no longer only competing against next door's prize-winning cat!). Your story will need to be much more interesting, and you'll have to be more persistent (unless of course they come to you following some local coverage).
  • Make sure all photos provided are full-resolution. You're going to print, baby!

Industry Niche News


  • Make their life easy. The readership of industry niche publications tends to be low, and there tend to be far fewer writers as part of a 'news team'. With a constant pressure to produce content, niche publications are often grateful to a) receive a press release that is ready to be published as a story, or b) to have guest writers create content, or c) host a Q&A where they provide the questions and you provide the answers. Leo from Buffer has had a lot of success gaining attention for Buffer as a guest writer, so it's worth reading some of his posts on the subject.


Subject: [unknown]

Hi guys,

As a guy just starting out with a few basic webdesign lessons, I found onextrapixel extremely helpful, so just a quick thank you on that note.

I wanted to ask if you are interested in a guestpost that I have drafted, which I titled "10 Tools To Make The Most of Twitter". It covers a few of the latest Twitter Tools, which help me a lot to stay productive.

I hope you can let me know if you think the post could be interesting for you.

For reference of my writing style, I published recently on Six Revisions, SocialMediaExaminer, Inspiredm

Best,

Leo

Notes

If you're normally the blogger for onextrapixel, this is the email equivalent of "NO HOMEWORK TODAY!". You can take it easy, edit someone else's post, and still provide interesting content to your readers. Providing the guest post is both relevant and interesting (which Leo's is), then why wouldn't you publish it?

(source)

If No Reply

Upvote

Ed & Harry

JournoRequests