Seven Ways to Get Your Startup Noticed by the Media
By Stewart Townsend on Nov 23, 2009
1) Make sure your press release stands out, but don't overdo it. A clear, concise, and brief press release that gets your message across without a lot of excess verbiage is far more preferable than a long release filled with flowery adjectives and an overabundance of information. It's not necessary to fill a press release with every detail of your company and staff history -- save those for your interview.
2) Make sure your Web site has a press kit and plenty of contact information. Nothing tells a reporter you're serious about media coverage more than giving them easy access to the tools they need to research your company. Here's the place to discuss the history of your company, patents you hold, future goals, and groups you're affiliated with. If you're a technology startup, make sure to include details about about any software licenses you use, especially if you develop software in-house. Feel free to add as much information as you wish, because you never know what information will strike a reporter's fancy.
3) When you land an interview, respect the reporter's time and they'll respect yours. A good journalist won't expect you to drop everything to talk to them, but if you commit to a meeting or conference all, keep the appointment. The reporter is probably working on a deadline and their time is just as valuable as yours. If you're really pressed for time, offer to conduct the interview via email and many reporters will be happy to comply.
4) Offer prep materials ahead of the meeting. Point the journalist to a press kit, create a slide deck to illustrate important points, or offer access to your product so the writer can be as familiar as possible with what your company does. It's fine to offer revocable access to a Web-based service or request a review product be returned -- in fact, an ethical journalist will insist upon it.
5) If you want your PR person to sit in on the meeting or conference call, that's fine -- but don't let them run it. It's only natural for your marketing guru to want to make sure you highlight all the important points of your company, but make sure the reporter has a chance to get the information he needs for his story. Nothing turns a writer off faster than sitting in a rehearsed sales call where there's little chance to glean any unique insight into the company.
6) Relax. It's easy to get nervous when faced with the prospect of seeing every word you say in print for everyone to see. It's also tempting to worry that the journalist will try and dig up dirt or portray your company in an unfavorable light to draw attention to themselves. The reality is, most reporters are very down-to-earth and are typically reporting on industries and niches they find fascinating. A good reporter's job is to educate readers about your company and why they should want to know more about it. That said, don't hesitate to research a reporter ahead of time to get a feel for their tone. If a journalist seems overly negative, or historically paints the companies they cover in a bad light, you may want to consult with your PR person for advice before your interview.
7) If you notice any issues or discrepancies once the story appears, politely contact the writer and point it out. Honest errors can be fixed and, since the reporter's integrity and credibility are also at stake, they will be just as concerned as you are about correcting the situation.
It's not easy to get your startup noticed above the din of all the other companies vying for the media's attention. Handled correctly, though, it's easy to develop an ongoing relationship with the journalists who cover your industry by establishing mutual trust and respect right from the start.