10 Tips to Get Media Coverage for Your Startup

Media coverage can be a major driver in raising a startup’s profile and growing its user base. But, scoring coverage is easier said than done.

How do you get publicity? How do you stand out when reporters, editors and bloggers receive dozens of pitches a day? They get them via Twitter, email, phone and – in one occasion that I’m aware of – the urinal (yes, a journalist recently told me he was pitched once in the washroom).

As both a freelance writer and communications consultant for startups, I myself have been on both ends of the pitching spectrum. I’ve pitched and I’ve been pitched. I’ve seen great pitches and ones that prompted me to hit ‘delete’ within seconds. Here are 10 obvious and potentially not-so-obvious tips for getting publicity.

1. Have a compelling story.

This may be a no-brainer, but I still receive pitches that are non-news: “Hey, I thought you may be interested to know that our startup moved offices.”

I mean it’s great that you got a bigger and better office (kudos to you!), but something like this is really only of interest to you. If your startup raised $2 million in seed funding, entered into a high-profile partnership or just launched an app that changes the way users do things, that’s news! Ask yourself, “will others care about this beyond us?” Ensure your story has broad appeal and captures public interest.

2. Develop a tailored media list.

Having a good story is only part of the equation. It’s also about strategy. You wouldn’t – and shouldn’t – just pitch anyone.

If you’re pitching just for the sake of pitching – and the journalist probably wouldn’t have any genuine interest in your story – they probably shouldn’t be on your media list. Put yourself in their shoes. Another question to ask yourself: “will the recipient want to cover this?” You need a carefully developed and tailored media list.

3. Think outside the box.

While focusing your efforts is key, don’t get too restrictive! Suppose you launch an app that will better help students prepare for their SATs. A story like that would appeal to both tech journalists and those covering the education beat too.

4. Do your homework.

How do you know if they may be interested in your story? This is where good ‘ol quality homework comes in! Get to know the journalist, research their beat and what they cover. Scope them out on Twitter and LinkedIn, and see what grabs their interest.

5. Build relationships with media contacts.

Don’t just pitch them when you have a story. Instead, take the time to build a rapport with them. Follow them on Twitter and comment on their stories. Offer resources and tips even though it may not guarantee you coverage. That way, when the time comes that you actually do have a story pitch, it makes you more visible.

6. Leverage social media.

Last year, the Indiana School of Journalism conducted a study on journalism in the digital age. Researchers surveyed 1,000 journalists on how they use social media. The results? Forty per cent of them said social media is “very important” to their job. Over half said they use social media to research story ideas, find sources, promote their work and connect with their readers.

What does this mean for brands? There’s definitely an opportunity for you to connect with journalists on social media, build those relationships and consider pitching them.

7. Ask them for their pitching preferences.

This leads me to my next point: how do journalists want to be pitched? Honestly, it depends on their preferences. Some may prefer receiving a pitch via email with a link to a press release. Others may actually prefer Twitter. It forces us to get to the point quicker in 140 characters or less.

Simply put, ask them how they prefer to be pitched! Knowing how they want to receive information will make your pitch stand out.

8. Get to the point quickly.

Journalists live busy lives. Unfortunately, they just don’t have the time to read every single pitch, especially ones that read like novels (I’ve gotten those before).

If you want your pitch to be read, be simple and succinct. That’s why Twitter can be a great pitching platform; it forces you to do that. In any case, whether it’s over email or social media, I should be able to gauge what the story is from the first few words of your pitch. If journalists are interested, I guarantee they’ll be in touch for additional details. Leave them wanting more.

9. Create more visual content.

Infographics, memes and other visual content are also great ways to tell your story versus the traditional and often dry press release. I once even received a video pitch from a startup. So, get creative in how you tell your story!

10. Follow up and maintain post-coverage contact.

“Once you crack a certain outlet, don’t just move on to the next media conquest,”wrote Jonathan Long, Founder and CEO of Market Domination Media. “Every media contact you make should be treated as a valuable business relationship. Relationships that lead to additional media coverage down the road.”

Stay in touch via email or phone, and continue offering them feedback and support. At the end of the day, media relations isn’t just about publicity and pitching. Publicity is the end game. It’s about creating and managing relationships.

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