the starup 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).
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?). Get Me 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.