It’s no secret that press coverage is very helpful in growing awareness and thus getting customers to your business. But how do you do that?
Here’s some tips I can share from our experience. Everplaces has been covered in 29 countries with around 200 articles, blog posts and videos.
1. Build Relations
For some reason people treat journalists (and VCs, btw) differently than all other people. They seem often to be viewed purely for their access, and treated calculative, rather than people investing proper time trying to get to know them. But try to turn the tables around and act like a human. Don’t jump straight into a pitch, the poor guy has probably heard 100 of them today. He’d probably much prefer talking about soccer, gadgets or the wine selection.
What happens when you hang out with people is that you inadvertently build relations. Once you know each other you’ll talk about your businesses, and that’s a much better time to present your story
The added bonus of building a stronger relation is that these people tend to be really fun. Some of the best times I’ve had over the years of being an entrepreneur is with investor or journalists. Both see a lot of action and tell amazing stories. So they are well worth hanging out with, trust me.
Relations go two ways, always, so what can you do to help them in their job? Perhaps you can introduce them to other good stories or you have data or business intelligence that’s useful to them in other articles.
2. Tell good stories.
Sad but true, your startup isn’t news in itself (until you’ve made it big, and then you don’t need the free press, paradoxically). So try to see your company with the eyes of their their typical reader, what would they find interesting?
Can you pitch the difference your product is going to do for these people, is it an advance in science, an evolution in product or tie in to a larger trend. Everplaces is often mentioned in connection with the ‘travel is going mobile’ trend and that works well for us to set the scene.
Once you’ve come up with the right angle then spend some time trying to telling it like a story. Mike Butcher from TechCrunch once told me this list of which topics make good stories. It’s a good check list.
3. Know your publications and approach them one on one.
If am sure Spotify can get away with just bcc’ing 50 tech writers and they write about them, but you probably won’t be able to. Instead send personal emails to each journalist you’d like to interest with your story. Know what they focus on, and why your story is interesting for their audience.
It’s helpful to understand the dynamics between publications, they are competing and they’d all like to get the story first or by themselves. So pitching one journalists with an opening line essentially saying ‘your competitor covered this yesterday’ isn’t going to work.
If I give a story to several publications I make sure they get it at exactly the same time. It’s important that none of them feel I treated them unfairly. Typically I send them to story in advance and then put on an embargo “not to be shared before 24 Jan at 4pm CET” for example. Then those who want to cover it can have something ready.
Other times I give it solely to one journalist. The big blogs and papers have other smaller publications looking to them for news so if you can manage to get New York Times to take it, you’re likely to have many blogs take it from their site. The best we’ve had was a story that Fast Company did on us, it spread to almost 30 other sites, many in different countries all over the world such as Taiwan and Brazil.
Small blogs often take themselves surprisingly serious. So if you send a relevant story to a small time blogger they will probably ask for money to write about it or say they don’t write advertising. I spent a lot of time trying to build connections with small bloggers before I realized that seeding it to larger blogs such as TechCrunch is much more effective. Then they consider it a story, not advertising.
4. Advance warning
Tell people in advance when something is coming up so they can schedule time to talk to you and space for it. Generally write an email 2-3 days ahead of your news making sure he knows/ remembers who you are.
"Hi Pete, we meet at MMC, thanks again for the tip on skiing in Alaska. I just wanted to give you the heads up on some good news we’ll be coming out with on Wednesday. If you’re interested I can make sure you’re kept in the loop?"
The purpose is just to touch base, don’t reveal the actual news (!). If your news is in relations to a context which gives at a bigger meaning this is a good time to mention that as it will build interest.
5. Make it easy for the journalist
With the internet there is an insane pressure on journalists and bloggers to produce stories fast. So it helps to be helpful and include names, key contact info, supporting stats, quotes from relevant people and lots of good quality screen shots.
For example, when we first launched Everplaces, we tried to set the scene by including numbers that supported the opportunity. Like the size of the travel industry ($709b excluding transportation), the value of our segment ($27b), and the trends (75% use their mobile to find information and book when they travel).
I also try to link or attach credible outside reports, so it’s not just our word for it. Often these reports have juicy facts. They can cost several hundred dollars so its a nice thing to share. Your goal with this is to give the journalist confidence that they have enough facts to write a correct story.
5. Be quotable
Try to answer in short, precise sentences. And include suggested quotes in the material you send them.
6. Make it visible at a glance
Many people don’t bother opening attachments, especially if they don’t know you or your company. So just attaching a press release as a pdf is bound to fail. Instead paste the first part (third or half) of the story into the email so its instantly visible.
In the attachment (which they now might open) you should have formatted the story nicely with images. And you should include a link to where all the images can be downloaded. I use Ge.tt for this
7. Human stories are interesting
People make stronger emotional connections with the people behind a company than the corporate shell, so be personal. It’s a million times more interesting when Mark Zuckerberg says something on behalf of Facebook than when a press persons does.
So it’s a good idea to have a human face that people associate with the company. It should be the same person always since you’re building personal relations. In Everplaces case this person is always me, consistently.
It’s also a good idea to share the human side of the company, like stories or traditions that set you aside. In our case we throw big champagne parties. We don’t do it because it’s a story, we do it because we think it’s important a team has fun together, but it doubles as a nice anecdote.