ENTREPRENEURSHIP / SEP. 15, 2014
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How to Get Media Coverage for Your Startup

Media coverage has become more and more difficult to get, especially for a new startup. In a world where anyone can push and promote themselves online via social media, traditional media and journalists are reluctant to cover just anybody. They need something special.

So why bother when you can just do it yourself? Traditional media still carries a lot of weight. It gives a sense of importance and even authority in a world where anyone can announce and cover their own story. In short, it makes you stand out. It helps to attract potential customers and investors. It’s worth the effort to chase after it, so here are a few tips to help you get the coverage you need:

Prepare a Press Kit

A press kit, complete with high quality photos, is an excellent idea. It should include basic background information, product/service details, a press release, recent press coverage, and contact information, among other things.

What’s Your Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is a brief but persuasive sales pitch. It explains what you do (or more specifically, what you can do for your customers) in just a sentence or two. It’s so short that you could easily deliver it in a typical elevator ride. But it needs to be strong, precise and powerful. It’s an ice-breaker. Take the time to craft a truly amazing pitch, and then use it in email or telephone conversations with journalists. They don’t have a lot of time, so if you get their ear (or eyes) for 30 seconds, make it count. If your elevator pitch is up-to-scratch, they’ll want to know more...

What’s Your Story?

Journalists are in the business of telling stories. Not fictional, but stories nonetheless. It needs a compelling narrative, a dash of conflict, and interesting characters. A beginning, middle, and end. Have that ready, and you’ve got their attention. Don’t make anything up. Just tell your story. Where did they idea for your startup come from? How did you go about starting? What obstacles did you encounter?  

Newsjack, Newsjack, Newsjack

As a new and heretofore unknown startup, newsjacking should be your friend. It refers to injecting yourself into breaking news stories and coverage of other events or companies (and if they happen to be your competition, so much the better). There is a slight risk to it, especially if you try and inject yourself into something tragic or serious with ill-conceived attempts at humour. Tread lightly.

But used effectively and appropriately, newsjacking can be brilliant. A well-timed tweet or post can immediately bring your name to the top of the story. DiGiorno Pizza offers two recent examples: one a classic of example of newsjacking working, and the other a bona fide disaster. During the live broadcast “The Sound of Music” event last year, DiGiorno tweeted a picture of its pizza with the caption “#thesoundofmusiclive Can’t believe pizza isn’t one of her favourite things”. Simple, but effective. It was retweeted and favourited by hundreds of people. Just recently, though, they attempted to inject ill-timed humour into a serious subject. The “WhyIStayed” hashtag was trending on Twitter in connection to the Ray Rice abuse story. Many women were sharing their stories of either staying or leaving abusive partners. DiGiorno tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza”. The response was swift and overwhelmingly negative, causing DiGiorno to delete it and apologize.

Newsjacking makes you part of the story. But use it wisely.

Research Your Journalist Targets

Identify at least ten journalists to contact about your startup. You want journalists that write about your industry, niche, or neighbourhood. If they have written about people, companies, or products similar to yours in some way, they are more likely to do so again. Do some homework. Never send out packages or form letters to journalists you know nothing about. It just wastes their - and your - time.

Have at least ten researched individuals on your list. Media coverage is often a numbers game. You don’t want all your eggs in just one media basket. Reach out to them, with just your elevator pitch or something short and to the point.

Stand Out from the Crowd

Journalists receive a lot of letters and messages from people hoping to get coverage. You need to stand out in some way. But remember to ALWAYS tell the truth. Never try and manipulate through unscrupulous methods.

  • Be emotional. Is your story particularly moving in some way?
  • Be shocking.
  • Be honest.
  • Be unusual.

Other Useful Links

Getting the attention of a journalist isn’t easy, but you can get it done. Have a persuasive and strong elevator pitch. Find journalists that already write or cover your specific area. Have a press kit ready, you can’t afford to ask them to wait while you put something together. Do that and they will have already moved on. Newsjack whenever you can (and more importantly, whenever it’s appropriate). Media coverage gives you instant credit, instant authority, and instant exposure, in quality and quantity and just isn’t possible on your own. You have to work for it, but it’s worth it.

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