For many startups and fast-growing companies, media coverage is seen as winning the lottery.
They think having articles written about them will drive awareness, sales, and success.
If TechCrunch covers them, everything will change.
Unfortunately, most companies have a completely unrealistic take on how the media actually works.
They believe that simply pitching an idea is the way to go.
Attracting media coverage isn’t about luck. It’s about doing the grunt work to create opportunities.
Long before the media decides to write a story that involves your company, a lot happens behind the scenes.
This takes time, structure and commitment but it is a necessary evil.
Here are the key steps to attract media coverage:
Build a media database: Long before even thinking about media coverage, compile a “People Mho Matter” list (here’s a template to get you started). It should include reporters, bloggers, analysts, and influencers. Using a spreadsheet, add a person’s name, title, publication, email, social media accounts, interests, recent articles, and other notes.
Build and tweak the list on a daily basis by using tools such as Google Alerts, Accompany, Monitor or Muckrack. Look for who is writing articles or research reports or talking about a particular company or sector. Then, add this information to your “People Who Matter” list.
As the list is grown and nurturing, explore opportunities to reach out to people with relevant and focused ideas, tools or commentary. Rather than pitching a story, look to become a valuable resource. Position yourself as someone who offers perspective, insight, and ideas for stories. Reporters and bloggers are busy so respond well to people who make their jobs easier.
Grow your network – digital and the real world. As you build your “People Who Matter” list, start to follow people on social media, share, like or reply to their updates, and comment on their articles and posts. A great example of someone who established a connection was William Mougayar, who frequently commented on Fred Wilson’s blog posts. In time, William and Fred formed a relationship that led to Fred investing in William’s startup.
At the same time, look for opportunities to meet people. Seek them out at conferences for short “Hey, how are you doing?” conversations, invite them for coffee, or attend events in which they are speaking. When you meet someone, the dynamic instantly changes. It creates a personal connection, even if the meeting was brief. When I was a newspaper reporter, having a single lunch with an analyst made it easy for me to get commentary and their reports.
We live in a digital world but personal networks still matter. As humans, we thrive on connections and interactions.
Monitor the competitive landscape: As much as your company wants media coverage, competitors are looking for the same thing. It is important to monitor who is attracting articles and blog posts. What are the themes, ideas, and focus of these articles and blog posts? Is the competition attracting the spotlight or part of a big picture story?
After gathering this information, update your “People Who Matter” list and look for ways to capitalize on new opportunities. You could, for example, reach out to a reporter or blogger to compliment on the story and mention your company plays in the same market.
Note: Do not complain that your company wasn’t included in the article. Instead, position yourself for future conversations or media coverage opportunities.
Seize Opportunities: In a fast-moving world, opportunities can suddenly emerge. It could be breaking news such as a mega-deal (e.g. Amazon buys Whole Foods), or a high-profile executive is fired (e.g. Travis Kalanick).
When this happens, reporters and bloggers are looking for insight and context. They need different perspectives so their stories are more than just here is what happened. Using your list or doing a quick search, quickly reach out to a reporter or blogger with your thoughts or ideas.
You’re not asking to be included in an article, but acting as a good resource. In many cases, a reporter scrambling to write an article will respond positively. They may include you in their story or reach out in the future. In either case, a connection is established.
Create pitches: For many companies, creating news pitches is a huge challenge. It involves creativity, ideas, and angles that have everything to do with someone’s interests. You need to think about what motivates a reporter or a blogger to write an article or post. What are their interests? What kind of stories do they like to write? What kind of companies do they write about – e.g. large, small, private or publicly-traded?
You’re looking for a new and different angle. Maybe you have reached a noteworthy milestone (e.g. 100,000 users), won an award, hired a high-profile executive or riding a high-growth industry wave. There are many ways to pitch a story – the key is creating a pitch that appeals to a broad audience (aka not you or your employees, investors, friends, etc.)
As important, personalize your pitches. First name (not Mr. or Blogger). Be clear that you have actually read the work of a reporter or blogger. Keep the pitch short and sweets – three or four paragraphs with links to other resources such as videos and press releases.
There are two ways to pitch a story. One is do-it-yourself, which doesn’t cost a lot but requires an investment in time. For early-stage startups, DIY is the best option and reporters/bloggers like hearing from entrepreneurs.
For larger companies, hiring a PR agency is a good way to tap into external expertise on a project or ongoing basis. Be clear about the goals and metrics for an engagement so both parties can measure and determine success.
I work with fast-growing companies looking to grow even faster with marketing that actually works.
My strategic and tactical services, which harness the power of storytelling, are driven by frameworks and processes to create strategic messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies, and content. If you want marketing that makes an impact, let’s talk.
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