How to Get Press for Anything
I will tell you the secret to getting the word out.
I remember when I was a seventeen year old kid browsing tech news on the Internet from my mom’s house in Mission Viejo, California. How did all these companies get press? Why weren’t people writing about my internet projects?!
I immediately started hitting up writers on Facebook, Twitter, and AOL Instant Messenger. Did they write about me? No! I failed over and over again! It wasn’t until months later that I eventually pitched a story correctly and Valleywag, a tech publication based in Silicon Valley, started writing about me. Were they the best stories in the world? No! Not at all! But I was starting to learn how to get press.
Nine years later I’ve been covered in pretty much every major tech publication, including Techcrunch, Forbes, Mashable, Venturebeat, BusinessInsider, GigaOm, and countless more. I even lived with former Co-Editor of Mashable, Ben Parr, for over a year, and saw first-hand how top publications operate and choose stories. Now I am going to tell you everything I learned.
Should you listen to my advice? Yes, absolutely. I even reached out to my friends at TechCrunch, Forbes, ReadWrite, and other publications so that you could hear directly from the writers themselves on the best way to get their attention.
The secret to getting press:
I know, I know, you want to get press right now. But does it make sense right now? Maybe not. You need to make sure that you are not forcing your press story. Do you want a story for the sake of being in the press? Yes? Then it’s not time for you to get press. Seek press when you have done something amazing that would be incredibly valuable for a lot of people to know about.
Not only should you wait for the right time to get press, but you should have a specific goal when doing so.
Here are a few examples of when press could be beneficial for you:
- Your startup has amazing stats to show off, and you are in the middle of raising capital for your business.
- You have just released a new product that is performing well, and you are looking to get more users.
- You have just announced a new service that is already working well, and you are looking for new customers.
- You have an important opinion about the market you are in and you want to brand yourself as a thought leader.
You need to have a reason and a measurable goal you are working towards. If you do not have these things, it’s not the right time for you to get press.
You cannot approach a publication and expect them to come up with your story for you. You need to come to them with your story already designed.
You need to very quickly and efficiently communicate these things to the publication:
- The specific problem you are solving.
- Proof that your solution to the problem is working.
- Where they can view or experience your solution for themselves.
- Who you are and why you matter (this is relevant only if you have an extremely interesting background or have notable investors, advisors, etc.).
“The best way to court press is to frame your startup in terms of the problem it solves. Don’t tell me it’s revolutionary, will be the next Twitter, or will make a billion dollars. Don’t tell me you have the most impressive backend technology, a killer team, or the best investors (at least not at first). Explain there’s a big problem in the world and how your product is the solution. For example, Uber. “It’s tough to get a taxi. Calling cab companies is annoying and time consuming, and you never know when your taxi will arrive. You have no idea if the driver is reputable, and paying when you’re done is a hassle. Uber lets you instantly book a high-quality taxi with a few taps, you can watch on a map as it comes to pick you up, and payment it taken care of automatically.” — Josh Constine, TechCrunch
You need to condense this info into less than ten lines of text. “But Matt! My startup is so important, there is no way I can fit all this info into ten lines of text!” I don’t care! The goal here is to get the writer interested in you, not to spell out your entire life story. Make it short or the writer is going to look at it and go “Screw this, this is too long to read, on to my next email!” Once the writer is interested in your story, then and only then, do you continue with more details in a follow-up conversation.
Are you trying to get your product in front of wealthy individuals in the automobile industry? Then BuzzFeed, a site for funny and entertaining stories, probably isn’t for you. You need to figure out who you are going after and then make a list of the publications, blogs, and even Twitter accounts that reach that audience you are looking for. Seriously, go do research and make a list of these places and the writers that work there. You can find these publications simply by doing a Google search.
Imagine you are a writer at a publication who specifically covers finance. Now imagine that Joe Schmo startup founder approaches you and asks you to write about their fitness company. Are you going to write that story? Hell no! Not only that, you might even be annoyed that they had the audacity to propose a story that you so obviously don’t and won’t cover.
So what do we learn from this? Always figure out which writers cover the type of story you are looking to get press for. Find the writers who think about your type of story all the time. Find the writers who understand you when you use industry specific terms. Don’t make a silly mistake by pitching the wrong person the wrong story.
Bonus: Make friends with the writers in your industry! These are people who have lives just like you. Don’t hit them up just because you need something from them, that’s not a great start to a relationship.
Take it from some of the top tech reporters “It’s about a relationship, not just that one individual story you want. Get to know the reporter, figure out what the reporter could use help with and find out how you can do that. Don’t just focus on how to get them to write about your own startup. (They have much more of that than they ever need.) Eventually it will pay off much bigger for you than if you constantly push them to cover you.” — Tomio Geron, Forbes
“’Buy me a bottle of whiskey’ I get a few bottles of whiskey and I sure enjoy them. But seriously, just have a great product or great company or great story. That’s really the way to stand out.” — Robert Scoble
“The best results are when you meet said writer at a conference or event and build a relationship first. Even better? Social proof rules. So, get someone that writer trusts to introduce you and say you rock. It’s really hard for me to ignore anyone that, say, Marc Andreessen says to pay attention to.” — Robert Scoble
Above all else, focus on your company. Press should never be something you put all of your focus into. Solving problems with great products is the real secret to getting press.
“I tell my writers to look for learning and action in every story. A startup is a fog of dreams trying to coalesce into some reality. The learning, too often, is that someone somewhere hopes to have a product someday. And the action? There is no action to take based on this knowledge. My advice to startups: Don’t try to get press. If you do, you won’t deserve it. Go do the thing you’re trying to do.” — Owen Thomas, ReadWrite Editor-in-Chief
Do you have something you are working on that you want everyone to know about? Start following these steps and go take over the world! Get motivated! Want to talk to me? Hit me up right now, I would love to hear about what you’re working on. Who knows, maybe I will write about you…
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