Build a Product the Media Can't Ignore
It's important for Founders to understand that press is not a scalable customer acquisition strategy. It’s also not the best way to talk to your early users. It can help you get some early inbound, get you in front of early adopters and potential investors, but it is not something you can rely on for long-term growth. Even if you get an article written about you, if your customers are not impressed, they are not going to come back. So if being on the cover of an elite publication gets you excited, your best bet is to build a great product.
Don't hire a PR firm. You'll be surprised as to how many founders immediately want to hire a PR firm to help them define their story, pitch story angles to reporters, manage company launch and field media inquiries. As a founder, you are responsible for telling your company’s story to first time users, employees, investors and stakeholders including the press. Don’t remove yourself from that process. If you can't sell your company, we have a bigger problem than coming up with story angles. Although you can make the argument that PR firms have established relationships with the media, reporters like to hear directly from Founders. Furthermore, PR firms are expensive and in the early stages of your company, the last thing you want to do is spend money on things not directly related to improving your product or customer acquisition.
Know when to pitch. Before you spend a lot of time getting the word out about what you are making, make sure that what you are making is something people actually want. No amount of press or content marketing is going to help you push something people are not interested in. The only way to know if you have something people want is to talk to your customers and users directly. The more you talk to users, the better you’ll become at creating content, pitching and handling press. If people are not buying your product or are churning, you are just going to waste time and money.
Set specific goals. Getting lots of press is not a goal. Define exactly what you hope to accomplish. Are you trying to drive a trial and get early adopters to your product? Are you trying to reach potential investors or key hires? Figure out exactly what you want to accomplish and who the key audience is going to be. Have a clear call to action on what you want these people to do. Are you hoping they try the product, buy it or sign up? Having this clarity will help you build the case as to why the media should care about your story. If you are not sure, you are not ready to pitch to media.
Define your audience. Reporters are not the audience, they are a conduit. Zero in on who you are trying to reach. Is it investors? Potential Customers? Industry and potential partners? Once you have the answer, the next question to ask yourself is - How do they get their news?
Now that we've established that, lets talk about how to pitch to reporters.
Get organized. Make a list of the top three to five reporters you'd like to reach out to. Note what they cover and what pushes them to write.
Develop an intro pitch. Develop a one-sentence pitch succinctly describing who you are, what you are building and who you are building it for. Keep it jargon free, your goal is to keep it so simple that it’s easy for anyone to describe your company, that's how stories go viral. Add a four to five sentence follow-on hook to get the attention of the reporter – what is the problem are you solving, why is it better than what is currently in the market, why is it relevant – why now?
Hi Mandy, my name is Erika Lucas, the Co-Founder of StitchCrew an accelerator program in Oklahoma aimed at increasing the density of startups in our state.
I noticed you've been covering economic activity in the Midwest - particularly as it relates to entrepreneurship. With 81% of founders never accessing traditional financing and 78% of venture capital spent in three coastal states, we are seeing an exodus of founders leaving the midwest in search of this capital. That's why we are building a collation of regional stakeholders in the middle of the country committed to reversing this trend. Since our launch just 10 months ago, we’ve helped 19 companies in Oklahoma. I'd love to tell you more about the type of startups coming out of our state and the impact of our efforts in the region.
Let me know if you are interested in this story as an exclusive. Thank you!
You got the story, now what? Promote it on social media, blog, email marketing campaigns and send it to investors and friends. Don’t be shy and ask investors, friends and advisors to share the news.
Measure the outcome. Like with everything else, you want to measure effort against outcome. Was the time you spent pitching and securing the story worth it? Did it help you achieve your goal?
If you don't get a story, don’t get discouraged. Use the pitch to develop your own content and push it through your blog, website, email marketing campaigns and social media.