Real Talk on getting Press in Japan, when no one cares about your startup

After a year of hard work it was time to release our shiny new startup into the wild; GetUp the career search chatbot. It felt too soon to release the product in its current form but there was one thing we had to know if we were to move on, will anyone use it? This had to be tested so my cofounder could quit his day job to focus on this full time. Time to get serious and do a press release.y

Long st0ry short we were happy with the results of the launch, it was enough to bring my cofounder on full time so now we are building a product we can really be proud of. I feel I have a pretty good understanding of digital marketing however I really knew little about the age old world of the press release, I hope this saves you some time.

How hard can it really be to get press in Japan? I choose to focus on marketing space over the past 5 years working as a recruiter here in Tokyo. One benefit of being a recruiter is that you hear a lot of stories from many a professional marketers about how they built brands in Japan however I have not heard too many people talk about the how to run a good press release.

“One benefit of being a recruiter is that you hear a lot of stories from many a professional marketers”

The reason I am seeking press is that I recently launched a startup with a friend. It is a service is called GetUp and it is a career search chatbot which helps bilingual job seekers find new careers in Japan.

I set an ambitious growth goal in the lead up to a new version launch (coming first week of January) In this month of December we are aiming to grow the user base ten times, 10x growth. This will take us from hundreds of users to thousands.

Media attention is not something that usually gets massive user growth, but I felt I should cover it as it is something we had to figure out. Maybe writing about how to get press will get me more press than when I tried to get press…

Over the next few weeks I will be brutally honest about what we are trying, what is working and what is not. So lets get to it, the first activity we did when we launched GetUp, the press release.

Writing a press release

I knew that we should write the press release as story, as if someone was writing this about us. We had two points of interest about our business, firstly our product was unique, and we just won an award at the Creative Business Cup pitch contest the week prior so I included this in the release.

I wrote the press release in English and then had a friend translate and adapt it into a Japanese version. The friend was Alex Kubota from Yelp, he worked with media/ PR agencies and had great advice, he changed the format and tried to get all the information onto two pages. We packaged this into a press kit that included our logo, a photo of me receiving an award, some screen shots etc.

One resource which was very useful for making the screenshots look decent is Mockuuups, you can simply drag screen shots on to their photos and download.

Link to press kit:

“I had a secret weapon, I had a list of a few hundred media contacts”

So I had my press release all ready, also I had a secret weapon; a list of a few hundred media contacts (acquired via sneaky headhunter methods) I even gave the “scoop” to Nikkei (Japans most prestigious news company), giving them a day before sending it to the media full list which would obviously make our startup famous.

No reply to our beautifully crafted Japanese email. Time to break out the big guns I thought, so we mailed the list and…

Nobody cared about my press release

There was no interviews, no posts online, no phone calls. I sent it to my mum, she didn’t care, nobody.

I contacted one of the journalists on that list who I had met at a couple of events. A writer from Tech in Asia, I connected with him on Facebook and messaged him to ask why I was failing so gracefully, here are a summary of tips which he gave me.

No one cares that you launched a business, unless its super unique, you have a metric ton of users or you were invested in by a major VC. Peter recommended that I write stories about what we are going through or share some insight we have as an article.

Hard hitting words, but I was ready to hear them.The best thing we did at this stage was create a member site on the Bridge and link to it from Facebook to get some good traffic which led to us getting our first hundred users, however I will cover facebook soon in another update.

PR Wire services

This actually worked, a wire service is what PR agencies use to blast out news stories to journalists and bloggers. We used PRtimes which charged us about 30,000 JPY. You will need a Japanese native to fill out the form correctly and help you schedule the post. There are loads of options to choose from so block out a couple of hours, they will then verify your business and maybe even call you then you are ready to go.

I was happy with the results, from our posting on PRtimes we were posted on multiple media sites (over 20) which should give us good links on google. Also a major tech news media contacted us for an interview which is what we really wanted. I will certainly use this service again.

I got some press, now what?

So you hopefully got some press, now what can you do with it? You shouldn’t expect loads of users from it, but you can put the logos of the media on your website to look more legit to users/ potential investors and add more links to your website.

I think it is worth the time investment to great the press release. This slide deck called what tech journalists want was very helpful (made by Rick Martin, former editor-in-chief at the Bridge)

Now back to actually getting users, more on this soon.