Press Release tips for startups

Vasso Kal
Vasso Kal
Sep 12, 2018 · 6 min read

I googled it. More than 1.6 billion hits.

“It must be something really common”, I thought the first time I was asked to write a Press Release. And well, it is. Some might even say it’s outdated, old-fashioned. One part of me agrees. The other has seen it work. It’s just another free (or almost free) exposure, and we all know cost-effectiveness and amplified word of mouth is of huge importance for early-stage startups.

In this article, we’ll explore the basic concept of a press release from the startupper’s perspective and share some best practices for people who “don’t really have a marketing budget” yet.

Let’s see how it works.

What is a Press Release?

How I understand it: it’s the most controllable communication channel between your startup and the world. A statement from your company to anyone who’s willing to listen to you.

Img: Huffington post

What a Press Release is not?

It’s not social media: It’s not real-time, it usually doesn’t create dialogues, it’s well-thought and it’s not as frequent. It’s certainly more formal and it’s often targeted to a narrower audience.

It’s not a blog article: It has a pre-set structure, it includes some breaking news, and it looks sort-of-objective (yes, looks).

Why publish a Press Release?

1. Announce something good

2. Announce something*

*usually applies to bigger companies or when things are really really bad, we can ignore the second case for now

For me, it’s the most cost-efficient way to create awareness. It’s a way to speak the same language as journalists (we’ll talk about them later). It’s public. It’s on the internet. It’s on an independent publisher who, if you are a bit lucky, can be large enough to add some brand value to you. It will stay there forever, therefore it builds your history and long-term credibility for when other companies decide to look into you. Finally, it may create some interest from journalists to look into your company now and write more about it.

When to publish a Press Release?

1. When you have something really important to say

2. When you need visibility (and then find something legitimate and important to say)

This is also dependent on your industry. Some B2B industries are more familiar with Press Releases, while it’s quite less frequent for smaller B2C brands. As a rule of thumb, wait a couple of months after your last release, but make sure you don’t miss out 2–4 times a year on this opportunity. Big corporations might go for several times a month. Startups usually don’t have so many breaking news to share, so be aware not to sound like the boy who cried wolf.

Components of a Press Release

§ Structure

§ Additional Material

§ Distribution

Story

Some other interesting stories that you can write a Press Release about would be a new, long-awaited feature on your product, a great executive hire, opening a new market. These last ones are not as stimulating as the first ones but could still do the trick.

Stories that are not interesting for Press Releases: a salesy description of your current product that was released one year ago and its exciting (old) features, you smashing your sales targets, growing your team from 5 to 10 developers, and anything that somebody who doesn’t love you would ask “and why should I care?”.

Structure

Finish the structure with a boilerplate and media contact information. Boilerplate is the one paragraph that starts with “About CompanyName” and summarizes who your company is and why what it does is important. It includes the scope, the mission, a couple of highlights, and maybe a few indicative numbers. You can find very useful information about a company and how they position themselves if you google “About CompanyName”.

Additional Material

Distribution

If you don’t, please, don’t spend a fortune to publish your press release on the most prestigious distributor out there. I’ve heard of cases where people spent almost a thousand euros to publish their Press Release on a big distributor and got zero clicks out of it.

At the end of the article, I’m attaching a list of free distributors. They pose a few limitations like you are not allowed to attach photos or more than one link, you may have to tolerate ads by your text and so on. These ones usually have a small fee to remove the ads, in the range of 10–100 euros. Still, better than 1000.

I suggest you post it on as many distributors as you can. After all, you only need one big publisher to pick you up, so anyone of them bringing you in the eyes of the right person is good enough. I’m saying you only need one because the moment you are on Techcrunch, you’ll suddenly see your company’s name everywhere. One big is enough.

Journalists

Another way to connect with reporters is the Help A Reporter Out platform. That’s where the journalists source stories and there might be a good chance you match what they look for.

In a nutshell, Press Releases are the good old way to communicate a great story. It’s structured communication between consenting parties with the aim to break some news and provide publishers with all the information they need about you. It’s possible to distribute the press release in a very low or no cost and keeping your journalist friends happy always helps.

Additional resources:

How often should we send out a Press Release? (Quora)

10 common mistakes in Press Releases (Guardian)

Free (or almost free) distribution sites:

PRLog.org

PR.com

PR-Inside.com

Newswire.com

OnlinePRNews.com

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Vasso Kal

Written by

Vasso Kal

Startup enthusiast, Associate @ VentureFriends.vc

Inside VentureFriends

Stories from a VC Team with Sneakers