Media coverage is one of the most important components to increasing brand awareness and credibility as a startup. While you have the resources to publish your announcement in the form of a press release or blog post, it drastically helps to have a reputable source share your story to a developed audience.
At some point it may make sense for you to hire a PR firm to manage your media relations. You don’t necessarily have to wait until that time comes to start getting coverage for your brand. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever too soon to begin building relationships with reporters and editors.
Here are six steps startups take to secure media coverage.
1. Sign up for HARO.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a free service that reporters use to send out inquiries for stories. Those who sign up for the service receive two-three (2-3) emails a day that include subjects ranging from Lifestyle, Technology, Health and more.
2. Know the publications.
Not all media coverage is created equal. Focus your resources on getting mentions in publications that your audience reads. Remember that this may include small, niche media outlets. Don’t limit your startup to only large publications.
3. Know the reporters.
Create a list (I created a spreadsheet) of reporters for each of your top publications. This should only include the reporters that cover your niche. For example, if you’re a technology company you may include reporters covering technology, startups, Internet, etc. Include information in your list or spreadsheet such as his or her name, Twitter handle, email, publication, and a note about what they like to cover.
4. Use social media.
Most reporters are active on social media and have links on their webpage to follow him/her on Twitter and other social media. Use this to your advantage. On Twitter, I create private lists for each publication and add reporters to it accordingly. For example, I have a private list for Mashable reporters, TechCrunch reporters, and more. This helps me easily engage throughout the day or week. I will “Favorite” or “Retweet” tweets that I find interesting. If I share a story, I make sure to mention the reporter and thank him for sharing the information. I want the reporter to start recognizing my face and name so when I approach him with a story idea for my business he will be more apt to respond.
5. Learn how to tell stories through consistent blogging.
In one of my recent emails I discussed the benefits of blogging. One benefit I didn’t mention is how consistent writing helps you create better pitches for the media. This is because to successfully cultivate a following you have to create content that keeps people coming back to your website. It forces you to see the world from your viewers’ / readers’ perspective. Reporters’ job is to share irresistible stories with an audience. Once you become comfortable and knowledgeable in how to craft stories for an audience, you’ll be more likely to think of ideas that will interest reporters.
6. Pitch the story.
Most reporters prefer pitches through email. Calls should be limited to reporters you have a more solid relationship. Once you’ve made contact and started a conversation, ask what his or her preference is for receiving pitches. Treat this like you would any other relationship and get to know their likes and dislikes.
Secure Media Coverage
You know the steps. Don’t wait to start. It’s simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. Media coverage is prestigious because not everyone secures it. Reporters receive dozens, if not hundreds, of story ideas a day. Not every one of those will be deemed news-worthy.
The best thing you can do is learn what people care about and how to deliver that message. Remember to not think as a CEO (or whatever role you have with your company), but to think as the audience. What does the audience want to know? Only when you make this discovery will you be able to capture reporters’ attention.
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