I am sure you get gazillion emails a day. Journalists tend to be on the receiving end even more often. And those fascinating emails start for example with: “Multispot Panretinal Photocoagulation Laser Treatment Preserves Driving Eligibility” or “Finnish software service startup to pitch in Seoul, Korea” or “Another New Version of News Publisher Automation Software Released.”
You read all those words? Good. Because most people would not.
Our attention span is already rather short in the social media era and all of us have to learn how to adjust our behaviour to that, especially when approaching journalists. The fact that you exist or pitch is not worthy of news, neither is the fact that you launched – unless you have an angle. Shoot us your best angle and do it fast.
In an effort to get more of your quality pitches out in the media. And of course also delivered to our inbox and tip form (tip.arcticstartup.com), we want to give you the basics of what you need in order to get noticed and written about without spending thousands of euros on PR.
It’s All About Relationships: Start Early
When startups are in early development phase, pouring resources into PR seems somewhat unnecessary – but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start spreading the word. Using social media channels actively as a part of your business from the beginning gives you the possibility to get noticed by a wider audience and possibly also media. There are endless possibilities to create your own content. For instance, many journalists follow hashtags like #NordicMade, #HELYES or #CPHFTW which are related to their field or region. We definitely do.
Since PR isn’t the first thing for startups to think about, in the beginning, it also tends to be forgotten in a later phase as well. But getting your message out is one of the most important things while launching.
The other timing problem comes from media publication cycles. Surely online media is there 24-7, but they are not too keen to run your story on Sunday or 3 a.m. However, with print it’s much trickier – CoFounder is published quarterly and many others are monthly. If you miss one month’s edition then the next one is four weeks away.
That’s enough for a startup to fail or change direction completely. Back in the day, I took part in one long startup competition, Estonia’s Ajujaht, and got a story of the team onto the cover of a top tech magazine in the country. Unfortunately, it was pushed one month forward by the editorial team and hence had much less impact on the competition than it could have had.
So it is paramount to start early, even if that simply means talking to journalists, following hashtags, spreading information about your company. PR is an ongoing process and it is definitely not just about sending out a press release at launch and hoping for the best.
It is a relationship game.
The Basics: Have A One-Liner
Alright, so you are building relationships, talking to journalists. Then one lucky day, one unsuspecting journalist asks you the question: “So what does your company do?” Your one-liner must say who you are, why you’re doing what you’re doing and for whom. It might seem like a simple line but good companies spend hours – if not days – perfecting it. Trust us, it’s worth it. If you can tell your story in a way that makes it interesting, surprising and shareable, you’ll get coverage.
Be Ready: Have A Press Kit
You got the media interested, we are considering a story. We arrive at your website and it says “Under Construction” or at best it has a decent product page but no information for the press. Thus, there’s nothing we can download and use in order to make our story appealing both visually and through text.
Frankly, it is rare that you can provide everything we need in an email, so we hope you have a decent press page – which almost nobody does. So please, invest a little time into having a press kit on your website. The basic package should include company background, description of your team, contact information, visuals (pictures, logo, videos, etc.), statistics, press releases and past news coverage. Keep in mind that visual materials – such as pictures, videos and infographics – are brilliant captures of information and help us make the story look that much more appealing.
And think visual! When Estonia’s largest daily Äripäev wrote about trademarks and needed a photo I looked up a picturesque spot, took colourful issue of CoFounder and our field spaniel Bruno for the quick photo shoot. The result speaks for itself:
Ready? Find The Right Channels For You
Now that you have everything ready, what most of you do is spam the living crap out of every possible journalist. Whether we write about the weather or Scientology you will send them the press release, and boy do we hate that. Instead of doing that and ending up on every black list imaginable, please be selective. Find the right medias, the right journalists and bloggers – target them. Personalise your email and your approach. Be smart.
Everyone wants to get into the biggest newspapers and online medias – but remember to check through all the available options. There might be an industry-specific magazine that has a small but highly targeted and extremely important audience for you that is going to be both easier to get into and will be many times more beneficial for you.
Things You Should Not Do. Ever. (Real Life Stories)
Writing a one-thousand word pitch e-mail. We call it “the wall of text” and no matter how good it is it gets deleted. Happens every day.
Telling a journalist you have already given a story to many other journalists. Seriously – do not do it. Offer exclusivity if you want, but do not tell people you are already going to be published elsewhere.
Writing an article ready “for the journalist.” This happened more than once, believe it or not. Funnily enough, it even had quoted “by ArcticStartup” in it.
Asking irrelevant questions such as: “Can I pitch you my story?”. Deleted. Because it takes its time to reply. Just send them the good stuff.
Expecting something, anything at all, from the journalist. Most journalists really dislike it when you get frustrated and start asking things like “how is the story coming along?”. If they publish something – great. If not – too bad. Don’t make yourself look bad.
Conclusion: PR Isn’t Expensive, It Is Smart
We live in a world where the definition of PR is changing all the time and with the advances of Social Media and technology – that is truer than ever. The Press Release is not exactly dead, but definitely heavily transformed. Approaching journalists is very different from what it was ten years ago and the type of stories that “work” are not the same either.
Things are actually much simpler now than they used to be and with proper training and the right approach you can do a good job of your all your PR needs by simply investing a few hours into the process. All you have to do is be smart about it and not read too much into PR theory. Oh, and if you want an extra hand, feel free to reach out to ArcticStartup here – [email protected]
Hoping this gave you some insights already we would like to start supporting you very practically right away so we turned the above into a dedicated Media Workshops at Arctic15.
The event offers 2 workshops hosted by ArcticStartup team targeted to give you concrete tools and actionable insights to boost your presence in real media and in social media. You can learn from the influencers, discuss and challenge them and put the information directly into action by utilising the Speed Dating and Deal Room to generate valuable meetings on the spot.
Get your tickets here.