This article originally ran on PR Daily in January of 2017.
Launching a startup is tough.
Between getting your idea off the ground, generating clients and securing funding, you probably think you don’t have time for much else.
For many founders, PR is just a blip on the radar, but good media coverage can help you reach your audiences, including customers and investors. Here’s how to proceed:
1. Be prepared. All your documents should be ready to share. Reporters can call at any moment, and when they ask you to jump, you should ask, “How high”? From doling out press kits and FAQ sheets to having the flexibility to reschedule lower-priority meetings, you should be ready.
2. Customize your pitches. Reporters know when they receive a canned pitch, even if it begins with their first name. Look at their Twitter feeds, read their recent stories, and personalize the content for them.
3. Formatting. Too often, spacing and formatting end up wonky, especially if you’re sending a pitch to someone using a different email program. Always clear the formatting for each email and reformat it. It’s the little things that can make or break your opportunities for coverage.
4. Make it a list; check it twice. Instead of spamming a media list that you curated in a program such as Cision or Vocus, check the contacts listed before you pitch them. Often these databases aren’t updated, and reporters have moved around or no longer cover a given beat.
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5. Build relationships. Receiving any response from a reporter is great, even if it’s a pass. Be sure to respond and thank them, and ask what types of news they’re most interested in so you can tailor future pitches. You might consider offering them your news exclusively in the future or grabbing coffee with them so you can nurture the relationship.
6. Never mail-merge. Reporters can tell the difference between a tailored pitch and a template sent to them with their name and email address slapped on top. The tactic means your pitch will land in many journalists’ inboxes—and then probably go straight into the trash. Don’t do it.
7. Pick up the phone. This can depend on the reporter; often they’ll have instructions on their Twitter account or website asking people not to call them. This usually applies to tech reporters, but some writers—especially those at trade publications—don’t mind a phone call, and having a live conversation can help convert your pitch into coverage.
8. Wait 24 hours to follow up. It’s OK to follow up on pitches if you don’t receive a response, but wait at least a day. Think about everything that pops up in a workday. Think how annoying it would be if your bank sent you another email if you hadn’t responded to one from two hours earlier.
9. Twitter is a great resource. Reporters generally post when they’re moving to a new outlet, and it’s a great platform to follow what kinds of news they find interesting. Don’t be afraid to interact with them, and you can tweet @ them if you’re in need of a quick response.
10. Make it timely. If you can, tie your news to a timely hook, which can give a writer more incentive to cover it. Announcing a new feature for your platform? Show why it’s relevant for today’s political news. Rapid response—offering yourself as an expert commentator—is a great way to insert yourself into the news as well, as long as you act quickly.
We know PR can be the last thing on your mind when creditors are knocking and you’re pulling all-nighters, but if you don’t have time, hire a marketing/communications manager, a freelancer or a PR firm. They can do wonders.