1. A great story requires a lot of groundwork
  2. Build a few meaningful key relationships, instead of going for quantity
  3. Start with smaller industry publications, bloggers and freelancers
  4. Be concise when you pitch
  5. Write your blogs so that reporters have material to sift through
  6. Write about milestones and your own personal journey, so that you can sharpen your story

Startup’s press guide part II: Laying the groundwork


by Herman Cheng and Ovey Yeung

So you want to tell the world the story about your amazing product or platform. We talked last month about laying out a strategy for landing your startup’s first major story by getting in the mind of the reporter. And now it’s time to lay the groundwork.

The first thing you need to do now is to start by building out a few key relationships:

Build a relationship
Do your research, and aim for quality, not quantity. A spray-and-pray approach won’t work—those are reserved for major brands who pretend not to care about publicity. So look for specific reporters to build a meaningful relationship with, as those pay off in the long run, for both parties. Be careful whom you choose. If you’re a fintech startup, don’t bother targeting a writer focused on corporate sustainability. If you have time, spend an hour or so going through a writer’s history dating back a few years to see what types of technology they write about and what they think of your type of technology.

Finding the right reporter with the background you are looking for can make or break your story.

Get to the point
Be concise. Two paragraphs should be enough to get across why you are contacting the reporter and why they should care. Don’t try to cram all your details into the email. This is not a press release—remember that what you are doing is making an elevator pitch in writing. If they’re interested, the reporter will ask for more.

Remember not to follow up immediately, and to wait a day or two. If you don’t hear back after the second email, try to revise your story or go back to the drawing board. If not, try to find a freelance journalist who writes regularly for the publication—they likely will have more free time than staff reporters, not to mention warmer relationships with the publication, so see if you get them interested in your story.

Lay the groundwork
Every worthwhile story has a build. Before you launch, it is important to get some news out there, so that you’ve laid the groundwork for your game-changing product. Work with some bloggers or smaller industry magazines first so that your company has a third party online presence besides your official website. Tech bloggers, for instance, will be more likely cover what you’re doing. Many print and online publications regularly feature startups, so make sure you hit those connections.

While you are waiting for that one big score, try to carve out time to write your own blogs so you can increase traffic to your site, or at the very least offer some material for the reporter to sift through while they do background research on your company. Write about your vision and the challenges and joys you’ve experienced along your journey. Write stories of customers who have been directly positively affected by your product. Write about your own personal journey, to give audiences more insights into who you are and what drives you. You’ll be surprised how writing can help to sharpen your story and get a better of understanding of how to pitch yourself.

To recap, unless you are terribly lucky, don’t expect that big feature piece on Day 1. Play the long game. Do your research, and make sure you have established the right relationships. Start with smaller startup-focused and industry publications, bloggers, freelancers so that you’ve got your story out there. Workshop that story, and get feedback from friendly reporters and PR pros. Finally, write your own blog and start generating positive stories about your product. All this work may seem small and not likely to move the needle, but they add up to a pretty good chance of landing that big piece.

Startup’s guide to landing their first major story

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