Sometimes insider knowledge can significantly benefit your PR campaign. We asked Simon Cocking, one of Ireland's leading freelance journalists, to share his insider knowledge on how start-ups can get journalists to write news stories about their business.
Apply the ‘would I bother reading this story myself’ filter to your own company’s potential news stories. You’d be surprised what some companies think is of interest to the wider world. How has your product helped other people? Is your product changing the world? Wait until you have newsworthy information before you pitch your story to journalists.
We need good images to illustrate our articles. If you don’t have them, stock images will be used, or another company with good visuals may be covered instead. This is something you have control over. Make sure you supply strong and visually impactful images to increase the chances of your story getting featured. I would recommend using a professional photographer to take the photograph. In order for the photograph to catch the eye of editors you should include props and visuals clues that will help to explain your news story.
A good company Twitter bio has a short, clear explanation of what they do. Do you have one? If you do, you make it easier to us to tell other people what it is you do, in your words. Similarly, if you have a great, snappy, clear explainer video it’s not unheard of for the journalist to even include it in the piece about you. If you do not have one then that is a missed opportunity.
We have long memories, and Google is our friend too. Far better to gradually build up a relationship with a journalist, rather than be smart and annoying in your attempt to get the coverage you want instantly. If you can be of help to them, replying to requests for quotes or information, they will remember this and will be more likely to mention you favourably in the future. Also covering business, tech and start-ups is a relatively small scene, so chances are you will cross paths at multiple points in the future, better to gradually build up a positive relationship rather than have to rebuild a negative one.
We get press releases all the time about things like this, often over 50 in a week. Without out being rude, it isn’t that interesting that you’ve hired X from Y, however, PR companies seem to feel this is an interesting news story. Lots of press releases we receive are basically HR announcements about people moving jobs. This isn’t news, it’s just people changing chairs. Would you read it?
Journalists receive a lot of press releases. It’s clear when you are just on the receiving end of a very long cc list. To the journalist, there is little appeal in running something that is the same story everyone else has received. Take the time to know what a particular journalist is (and is not) interested in. It will impress them and increase the likelihood of getting your story covered.
If you must bulk mail out your press release, do take the time to check who it is you are mailing it too. On more than one occasion we have received emails addressed to rival outlets. This makes you look bad, sloppy and gets you off on the wrong foot with journalists.
Be creative, be imaginative, come up with ideas about why the idea you are working on is newsworthy. Think about what excites you, and how it is helping others. This is a better starting point for pitching your company and achieving coverage. Ideally, your PR / marketing people understand what the product does, and have heard about positive customer experiences which can then form a good starting point for developing interesting, shareable stories.
There are lots of places where start-ups are regularly featured, both in print and online publications. A smart start-up will know where and who these are, and be mailing them to feature your company. These journalists are always looking for future content, by following the tips above why not make their life easier and increase the likelihood of getting your own company featured too! Use Google Alerts to get notified of new articles featuring start-up stories.
In the world of online search you can improve the visibility of your brand by focusing on producing quality content. How? By writing about it yourself. Many smart start-ups have increased the amount of traffic to their websites and improved awareness of their products by publishing articles on their blog. Often this has been done by the founders themselves, they know the company’s story best of all. It is a great way to ensure the conversation is about the areas of your product you are most happy about. It is the perfect opportunity to share all the positive feedback and happy stories from people who your product(s) have helped.