It can be a challenge for startups to attract the media spotlight.
There is a lot of competition from hundreds, if not thousands, of other startups looking for coverage. And, as important, many startups struggle to develop pitches that reporters and bloggers would find interesting, relevant or newsworthy.
So how do startups break through the noise to capture the attention of reporters and bloggers who are being inundated with pitches? From my experience and a newspaper reporter and marketing consultant, there are several ways to improve your startup’s chances of getting coverage.
Everyone, including the media, likes a good news story, particularly when it involves a scrappy startup that succeeds despite strong competition and a small marketing budget. It could be attracting thousands of users, winning awards or competitions, or being selected into a startup program such YCombinator or FounderFuel. And, if a reporter or blogger happens to be the first person to put the spotlight on a successful start-up, that can be a win-win proposition for the reporter and the start-up.
New and innovative
Everyone is curious about new products or services that seemingly come out of nowhere. The appeal of new and innovative is heightened when you can wrap it within an interesting narrative that makes its accessible and user-friendly. That is a powerful and newsworthy proposition. A good example is Muse, which developed a brainwave-sensing headband that helps people reduce stress and increase concentration.
Stories with a twist
One of the things that attract coverage are stories with an unusual slant or approach. These stories can be challenging to create because they are not black and white propositions such as raising money or attracting lots of customers. But they can be effective because they are different – and different can be a good thing.
Hijack the news
Sometimes, media opportunities happen when they are not expected. For all the planning to attract media coverage, a window can open when a major news event unfolds. It could be a big acquisition or an emerging trend involving other companies. The opportunities are inserting your company into the conversation. It could be offering commentary or perspective about stories that reporters and bloggers see as valuable to enhance their coverage. This is one of the reasons why start-up entrepreneurs need to position themselves as thought leaders.
Part of a bigger story
Too many startups try to make themselves the star of the story. Unfortunately, they are not that interesting, innovative or successful. Truth be told, it is really hard to get a reporter or blogger to write about a single start-up, unless something makes them stand above the crowd. A better approach is being part of a bigger story that involves a trend or a new way of doing things. This may mean your startup plays a supporting role in the story, but it is positioned as a key player.
Relationships with reporters
Having personal relationships makes a huge difference. This can be done in the digital and analog worlds. It can start with following and engaging with a reporter or blogger on social media, sharing their content, and commenting on their blogs. It can involve sending email to reporters and bloggers with story ideas or insight. And, of course, relationships develop in the real world at coffee meetings, conferences, etc.
One approach is sending an email asking a reporter or blogger for coffee. Tell them who you are, why you want to meet them, why they would be interested in what you are doing, and how you would be happy to meet near their office for a quick coffee. In other words, make it easy for them to say “yes.” When I was a newspaper reporter, it took only one face-to-face meeting to create a relationship that created a win-win proposition for both parties.
Getting media coverage is often a matter of being creative and committed. It can time to establish relationships with the media, as well as effort – and sometimes luck – to develop story pitches that get people interested. Startups need to look at media coverage as a journey, not something that happens overnight when they want or need it. In other words, it is a long-term investment.
Mark Evans is a marketing consultant who helps startups and fast-growing companies tell better stories. To learn more about startup marketing and the power of storytelling, check out his new book, Storytelling for Startups.