So you’re a startup, and you have big news… Now what? The magical world of public relations can be some what of a mystery for many of us, and getting started can be as challenging as finding your way out of the desert without a compass—or these days—cell reception. The good news is, with time, research and preparation, your news can and will hit the front page.
We recently sat down with Torch Communications, a specialized communications firm at Workbar that helps innovative companies tell their stories. A great resource for their neighboring companies at Workbar, Torch has helped several members with press releases, crafting story angles and overall PR strategies. Most recently, Torch helped another Workbar startup, SnapKnot, an online wedding photographer directory, fine-tune their communications strategy after their big feature last week in TechCrunch.
5 things to do TODAY to get your startup in the news:
1.) Watch HARO – Help a Reporter Out: This is the first stop for anyone looking to get press, and the easiest. HARO gives you real-time media opportunities, straight from journalists on a deadline who need a source. You can filter opportunities by industry and start submitting your stories immediately wherever relevant (e.g. a reporter from MSNBC is looking for a source on trends in mobile tech, and you’re a developer or an investor in mobile tech … your story might be just what they need to finish their article).
2.) Track industry editorial calendars: Because magazines and online publications rely on advertising revenue, they post a publicly accessible editorial calendar at the beginning of each year for prospective advertisers to plan their budgets. You can find these calendars on the advertising or media kit section of their websites; check out Fast Company’s editorial calendar for 2012, for example. Using this calendar, you can plan your own strategy and pitch with relevance when you know the magazine is looking for the news you have to give them. As a point of process, you want to pitch 2 months in advance to give reporters enough time to craft their story and to have any chance in swaying their story with your angle.
3.) Demonstrate thought leadership and engage reporters: What better way to catch a reporter’s attention than to engage them on a story they’ve just published, the story they have a personal and professional interest in sharing with the world? Although you may respond directly to the comments section of the article, the best way to contact a reporter is to send a private e-mail where you demonstrate thoughtful analysis and commentary on their piece. Is your business related to a story that just made the front page of the Wall Street Journal? Email the author and show them why you’re a valuable source for future and related industry news—and, while you’re on the topic, ask them if, based on their article, they’ve considered an alternative conclusion or aspect of the issue, and why they should.
4.) Update your little black PR book: This should be a running list of writers and reporters, their contact info and article archives related to your company and industry, both nationally and by trade. First, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What is your audience reading?
- Who are important writers at these outlets?
Using SnapKnot as an example, they are currently looking to target brides with the release of their new bridal dashboard. What are brides reading? Besides bridal blogs and wedding publications, brides read lifestyle magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour, both of which have a national readership. At the local level, SnapKnot will need to take a closer look at city-specific publications, such as Beantown Bride in Boston and Chicago Bride in Chicago. Most importantly, each audience must have their own master list, in which case, our example company SnapKnot will need two separate directories: one to reach brides and one to reach photographers.
5.) Create your ‘elite’ press calendar: Your elite calendar should list the publications you want to be written about in and how and when you’re going to make that happen. By creating this calendar, you’re creating a relevant strategy to connect consistently with the reporters you care about. First, gather your resources; use the editorial calendars available to you and your little black PR book to craft who you’re going to pitch to, when and how – consistently in one month intervals over the next 6 months. That means, each month, you’re going to find a relevant reason to pitch your company to each and every reporter/publication on your list.
This includes article comments, emailing (read: NOT spamming) reporters, pitching news relevant to editorial calendars, national timelines (i.e. March is Diabetes month) as well as company milestones. In the case of SnapKnot – with an exclusive on their website relaunch using a Pinterest-style layout – Tech Crunch was the perfect media outlet and aligned well with both the writers interest and the type of news they report on.
Yes, you have homework…
We realize this is a lot of homework, but we warned you; this is going to take time, research and preparation. In part two, we’ll talk about crafting your pitch and how to stand out in a sea of pitches the next time you reach out to a reporter. Here’s a sneak peek to tie you over…
The next time you email a reporter, let them know why you’re a good source – why they should listen to you. “I’m the CEO of ___ and I’ve been working in the space for 10+ years with experience in …” Reporters want reliable sources to associate their names with ,so let them know right away that you’re no Joe Shmo off the street with an opinion.
Torch Communications is a specialized consulting group serving the communication needs of the disruptive technology, life science, clean energy and health 2.0 communities. With more than three decades of experience at some of the world’s top public relations agencies, founders formed Torch Communications to create a new service model better attuned to meet the needs of the innovation economy. For clients large and small, Torch offers the kind of creativity, flexibility and passion for work that can have a lasting impact.
About the Author: Evona Niewiadomska is the Events and Digital Media Manager at Workbar. As of January 2013 she is an independent Digital Media & Design Creative with a specialty for infographic design and social media strategy. Check out her website, evonawiktoria.com or contact her via email firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @evonawiktoria.