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article imageOp-Ed: The insider's guide to attracting start-up media coverage

By Mark Evans     Feb 27, 2014 in Entertainment
Start-ups love the idea of getting media coverage but often their efforts go unrewarded. Here's how to capture the spotlight.
For start-ups, there probably isn't anything more seductive than getting media coverage.
Having an article appear in a newspaper or blog is seen as the magical elixir for their sales and marketing struggles. If a start-up can capture the spotlight, it will give them a significant boost to attract customers and partners. At least, that's the theory.
The reality, however, is media coverage is difficult to attract. There's so much noise and competition that the vast majority of start-ups can't even get their pitches read, let alone convince a reporter to write about them.
So, why do many start-ups fail when it comes to getting media coverage?
Frankly, the biggest problem is they're not that interesting. While an entrepreneur may be enthusiastic about their start-up's prospects, it doesn't mean a reporter or blogger will be as excited or interested.
Another chronic weakness is start-ups aren't good storytellers. Their expertise lies in creating products but they fail to create stories that captivate target audiences, including the media.
To be honest, there's nothing more mind-numbing than a start-up trying get media coverage because they have a slew of cool features.
So how can start-ups get the media to write about them? Here's some simple advice that comes from being a technology reporter for more than 10 years, and as a start-up marketing consultant who helps start-up tell better stories.
1. Identify what makes your start-up better or different. How does your start-up stand apart from the competition? Are there any interesting angles that would cause a reporter to think "Hey, this is pretty cool". It doesn't need to be anything dramatic; it just needs to be interesting.
It could be how two school bookkeepers decided to build their own accounting software after being frustrated with using Quicken and Excel. It could be a story about the pros and cons of running a start-up with your husband/wife. What you're seeking is a hook or angle that will set your start-up apart from everyone else battling for attention.
2. Develop relationships with reporters and bloggers. Here's the thing: reporters and bloggers often decide to write about things based on biases or emotional connections. They tend to write about people they know or like, which means it's important to build relationships with them.
This can happen by introducing yourself at a conference, sending them email with insight about an industry trend, commenting on their stories, inviting them for coffee, or following them on social media. The goal is getting a foothold in their universe that you can leverage at some point down the road.
3. Be willing to be opportunistic and agile: When a news story breaks, it can be stressful for a reporter trying to not only write quickly but offer good insight. To do their jobs better, they need access to good sources and information. This is a great opportunity for a start-up to send an email offering a different or solid perspective that have nothing to do about getting coverage. Instead, you want to position yourself as a good resource.
4. Think big picture: It's rare that a reporter or blogger will write specifically about your start-up, unless you're doing something really different or interesting. It means you should think about positioning your start-up as part of a bigger story or trend. It could be, for example, how law firms are starting to embrace digital technology. Rather than say "Hey, write about us.", you would pitch a story about how the legal industry is being disrupted, and how your start-up is playing an active role.
5. Be smart and strategic about using PR. For many start-ups, it's too expensive to hire a PR agency so they need to focus on finding a boutique or individual that can meet their needs. The key is hiring a PR partner who has strong relationships with people you want to reach. The combination of relationships with a good story/pitch increases the chances your start-up will at least get a reporter or blogger to move it into their consideration funnel.
Another key point is start-ups should use PR on a when-needed project basis, rather than locking themselves into long-term retainers.
At the end of the day, getting media attention is art and science.
Sometimes, it's a result of being smart and strategic. Sometimes, it's simply because your start-up has a great story to tell. Sometimes, it's just luck or being at the right place at the right time.
The key is being realistic about why you want media coverage and how it could help your start-up's growth. At the end of the day, media coverage is pretty sweet but it should not be seen as a must-have for start-up success.
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, which helps startups tell better stories (aka marketing). His services include messaging, brand positioning, strategy and content creation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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