As a busy early-stage founder fully focused on the first stages of building a business, you naturally spend more time doing than talking. Talking to the media isn’t likely to be at the top of your list of priorities.
However, if everything is going according to plan, there will come a time when you’ll want to share news of your achievements and the milestones you’ve reached with the world, whether it be an announcement on your first raise, the launch of your new product or platform or your first growth figures.
As you’ve probably noticed though, in today’s dynamic, fast-paced media, getting your message out there and heard is no easy task.
So let’s take a closer look at how you go about creating a successful press plan and getting your news out there for the world to see.
What’s the story?
Start by taking a look at the news you’re looking to share and asking yourself: is it really “news”?
More often than not, “news” relates to something out-of-the-ordinary, an unusual or remarkable happening or achievement that impacts a greater public. “News” could be the launch of a new product that solves a well-known consumer or business pain point. It could also be reaching certain milestones such as a successful raise, hitting a certain customer target mark in a given time, extraordinary growth figures or conquering an international market. “News” on the other hand is not your black Friday sales promotion (sorry).
Information is driven by emotion and context
Once you’re clear on the information you want to share, it’s time to put it to music.
Meaning that if you want your announcement to be relayed by the media and resonate with your public, it will need narrative and context. As a certain singer from a well known 90’s British rock band would say: “What’s the story, morning glory?”
To generate interest and be memorable, your information must become a story with a setting and an edge. If you stop at putting bare facts onto paper — without a compelling story behind it — chances are no-one is going to take any notice no matter how exciting you think the latest version of your latest software stack may be!
And what makes a good story? Firstly, one that generates emotion, that has a context and a narrative — illustrated perhaps with a use case — a mission/goal, a problem encountered and overcome and a happy ending.
Secondly, a good story is one that is relevant. In order to stand out from the crowd, you need to offer the journalist not only your news but a way for that news to be presented so it appeals to their audience (and is likely to get page impressions and ad revenue to their site!). It therefore needs connecting to a wider narrative, market news or general trend. For example, if your business is developing technical stacks that protect connected devices from piracy, then your angle could be the explosion of IoT devices in the workplace and home. If your business is developing tools for media companies to edit their content, journalists may be interested in interviewing one of your most impressive clients on how they use that feature to transform their business. If your business is a new dating app that is growing fast, pitch it in terms of the impact this is having on the dating market.
Use facts and figures, include a few (true) stories and let people or industries know why your solution is relevant to them. Then you’ll have a story that will interest others!
Being clear on your “why?”
Once your information has been shaped into a story and given context, meaning and motion, the second thing you need to be clear on are your objectives. In sharing your information with the outside world, ask yourself what are you looking to achieve? What are your goals?
These could be anything from building brand recognition, customer or user acquisition to establishing a strong employer brand and recruiting top talent.
It is important to be clear on your goals as these will define your final audience (consumers, clients, competitors, communities, government, scientific audiences, job seekers etc.). And your choice of audience will, in turn, define how you communicate your message and the type of publication you pitch to.
Selling your story!
Many companies chose to communicate via the tried and trusted press release which they then diffuse to a large array of journalists.
When written and issued properly, the press release is a great tool, as relevant today as it was in the Mad Men era. Keep in mind, however, that it’s not the only, or sometimes most effective tool at your disposal.
How can you go about getting the media coverage for your story without resorting to the spray and pray of the traditional press release? By keeping your goals in mind and getting creative! You may only have one piece of news but there is more than one way to sell it.
Thinking outside of the traditional press release
Let’s get back to your B2B startup that has developed a unique technology for the management of connected objects. Already a leader in your field of expertise, you’ve recently set up shop in a specific area and you’re looking to recruit engineers and sales representatives to improve your tech and accelerate your growth. Adopting any one or all of the below could get you some great results.
Action 1: Raise the profile of your company pre-recruitment campaign by inviting a national economic/tech newspaper to write a feature article on the growth of the connected objects market, the risks associated with these objects and the new tech solutions proposed by your company. Provide relevant facts and figures and tell them about your hiring intentions.
Action 2: Mobilise the local press and offer turnkey reports to local papers, TV and radio channels to announce your arrival in the area and say how this will impact the local community in terms of job creation and outreach. For greater local context and relevance, you could rope the local Mayor/MP into giving a joint interview.
Action 3: Attract talent by identifying the most popular broadcasts subscribed to by engineers/sales teams and showcasing your expertise with interviews containing expert industry insights.
Action 4: Inspire and inform future young employees by publishing a profile article in a top HR magazine with one of your younger team members talking about what it’s like working for your startup. The article will allow readers to identify with the employee by answering questions such as Who am I? What are my qualifications? What is my daily life like in startup X, What are my prospects?
Action 5: Post all resulting publications and broadcasts on your social media accounts.
Timing it right
Timing is as all-important here as your choice of media.
Research your chosen media in order to know when their daily timelines and deadlines are and when they go to press. This will help you to figure out the best time to contact the journalist. If you contact them when they’re trying to meet a deadline or just before the paper goes to press, chances are you’ll miss the boat.
If you’re planning to announce, for example, a raise or the launch of a new product, make sure you give the information to the journalist well before your chosen publication date in order to allow them time to collect all necessary information and prepare their article. Your announcement must be clearly labeled “under embargo” with a clear date and time at which the news may be published.
Keep an eye on current events and wherever possible, give your news greater context by linking it to another piece of important news or an event such as a trade show, conference or national awareness day/week.
Building relationships with the press
As any journalist will tell you, shrinking newsrooms and the rise of digital media in recent years mean that reporters from traditional media are under pressure more than ever to produce more stories and meet deadlines faster. The average mainstream media journalist will receive around 400 emails a day in his inbox. With this in mind, you should take the time to meet the journalist before you pitch to them. Journalists are after all human and taking the time to meet them and find out their story preferences, styles and needs will get you better results. Keep in touch and think to share info and insights even when you’re not pitching.
So, to wrap up this particular story and put it to bed, yes, the world of media is both fast-paced and noisy. But if your information is newsworthy, your story compelling, your media well chosen and your timing impeccable then it is indeed possible to get your message out there and heard, even if you’re a first-timer.
Good luck with your first big press announcement!