Startups Who Want to do PR In-house

Want to take the DIY route to creating media coverage for your startup? Read on here is some quality advice and guidance to help you be successful.

Be Honest

Ask yourself honestly what are you doing that is truly newsworthy?

The truth is, many startups simply aren’t newsworthy, partly because very few startups are truly unique or they are solving a problem in a way that simply isn’t compelling. If at the back of your mind this sounds like it might be you, then you may need to make fundamental changes to your offering before doing anything else. However, if you feel your startup is unique in some meaningful way and worthy of coverage, think about your approach to a journalist. You need an angle. It could be the launch of a new product, a high-profile hire, analysis of some original data from research that you commissioned.

Keep It Simple

Using words of one syllable and in one sentence explain what is your raison d’être? Anyone has to be able to read this statement and know with a high degree of certainty exactly what it is that you do. Try to avoid jargon if at all possible, what is familiar to you will not be to those people outside your industry.

Here are some examples to get you thinking.

  • Merck – To preserve and improve human life.
  • Walt Disney – To make people happy.
  • McKinsey – To help leading corporations and governments be more successful.
  • Marriott – To make people away from home feel they are among friends and are really wanted.
  • Nike – To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors.
  • Boeing – To push the leading edge of aviation, taking on huge challenges and doing what others cannot do.

Journalists receive a large volume of unsolicited pitches every single day. What this means is that you have – at best – two or three sentences to convey what is newsworthy about your pitch. The two words that always come to mind for me at this point are relevant and relative. Is your story relevant to this journalist and relative to everything else going on today is it newsworthy?

Relativity is outside your control on any given day – I was involved with the launch of a US company into the UK market. The launch date was Tuesday, September 11th, 2001.

Popular startup keywords


Your Target Audience

You need to decide who you are trying to reach with your message and therefore, which publications might be interested in covering your startup. Once you know the publications your audience reads you can dig around and find the journalist most likely to be interested in your story – assuming you don’t already know who that would be.

Over time you need to know who the key journalists, bloggers and opinion leaders are in your space then you need to build relationships with them. Read their articles and send an email or comment on social media if you definitely liked something they wrote. Be available to give them quotations when they are writing an article about other companies, an industry issue or even one of your competitors.

Studies show that about 80% of journalists want to receive initial pitches via email. Not via social media, the telephone or contact page. So start with an email.

Avoid the spray and pray approach. MailChimp is an awesome tool but taking the extra time to craft custom emails for journalists who have an interest in covering your story is going to be much more productive in the long run. However, writing a beautifully crafted letter to the defense correspondent at the New York Times, about your latest $500 drone, will not generate the result you were hoping for and could even tarnish your reputation.

The Press Release

You can push out a press release over the wire services and these will be picked up by robots and the releases will show up if anyone does an internet search on your company or the topic of the press release. If this has value for you then it’s something to consider.

If your company has solved the challenge of nuclear fusion then a press release is definitely in order.

Make sure the quality of what you send is as high as possible. That starts with spelling, grammar and sentence construction. But also includes getting journalists names and areas of special interest correct.

If you need to create content in a foreign language and/or approach foreign media outlets the chances are you will need to find help from professionals who understand the both cultural difference and the nuances of the foreign langue. This is not the time to use Google translate!

Supporting Evidence

Collateral. Supply high-quality images, video, samples, info-graphics or whatever else is appropriate. In the automotive world, product launch packages that go to the automotive journalists can be very elaborate. Find out what is expected and appropriate in the space you are trying to break into.

Whenever possible have product images shot professionally – it’s a subtle difference at times but the visual impact can immediately raise your credibility. At product launches journalists will shoot their own images and video – but they will still appreciate professional images to use with their article.

PR Jargon

A key term to know is “embargo.” An embargo is when you request that the information or news provided by the source (in this case you) will not be published until a certain date and time.”  Reputable publications will honor embargoes.  But embargoes have been broken sometimes by accident and sometimes intentionally.

An embargo is particularly useful if you feel that reporters will need extra time to research and accurately report the news. The embargo gives journalists time to interview sources at your company, clarify key points and create a tailored story.

Follow Up

Follow up. If a journalist runs an article as a result of your efforts take the time to thank them. Keep it simple and don’t send gifts. In the world of haute couture, it is common to send flowers to fashion editors and key journalists but that is probably not your world. If you want to send a journalist some swag do so when there is no story on the table.  If your story really is a “news bombshell” then you will need to use a media monitoring service to make sure you track and analyze all the coverage you receive.

Finally, if all this sounds daunting then you can hire an agency to do all of the above on your behalf. Selecting a suitable agency is a whole different blog post for another day.

First published by Adrian G Stewart at OOKII.Company

Adrian G Stewart

Adrian G Stewart

About adriangstewart

Senior executive with expert knowledge of all aspects of strategic marketing and a track record of creating sustainable competitive advantage. International management and leadership experience in both B2B and B2C organizations. Specialties:Strategic marketing management including; new product development, product life cycle management, business relationship management, market segmentation, marketing information systems, e-commerce and social media marketing.
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