7 Ways To Generate PR For Your Crowdfunding Campaign
Crowdfunding & PR are a match made in heaven, as long as you strategize.
As a contributing author, I’ve seen thousands of pitches from companies using crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The senders are generally in a state of desperation, frantically trying to get media coverage before their campaign window ends. They view media attention as the Holy Grail (or Hail Mary) of marketing to drive traffic, add credibility and set them apart from others.
There’s nothing like being able to put “As seen in…” on your crowdfunding page followed by a list of high profile outlets, they’re thinking, or to use each article as an opportunity (or excuse) to fan another message out to your lists.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs don’t know how PR works best within the crowdfunding arena. (I’ve talked about this in a prior interview with Jeff Hays, who raised $1.6M in 6 consecutive campaigns to develop his documentaries, here.) Founders typically reach out to the press after their campaign has started. They devise a template pitch and send it to 500 journalists.
Content analysis platform BuzzSumo found that many writers receive between 25 and 100 crowdfunding pitches per day. (Believe me; I know. Nothing makes me more irritated than a canned pitch about a wrong topic.) Journalists hate these pitches because 1) the product may not make it, making their story irrelevant, and 2) they despise being pestered to use their time not to interest or educate their readers, but to serve as unpaid advertisers for a near-term fundraising need.
Rather than having your pitches deleted (and angering reporters), here are seven better ways to get the coverage that will help your crowdfunding campaign succeed.
1. Build relationships ahead of time.
There are many reasons someone hires a PR firm like mine, but a big one is that we have relationships with the right people. That’s not something that comes from merely sending a pitch. The best way to get PR for your campaign is to be able to pick up the phone or send an email and say “Hey Bob, I’ve got a story I’d like to pitch you on,” and because you know Bob so well and he likes and trusts you, you know with 95% certainty that he’ll publish your story (or give you good advice on who to approach if he can’t).
This type of relationship takes time, and that means working on these relationships with no promotional agenda for months or even years in advance of launching your campaign.
2. Attend events.
One of the best ways to build relationships with journalists and contributors is to meet face to face. Rather than emailing them and inviting them out for coffee, find out what events the journalists you want to meet are attending.
If you’re a tech-oriented hardware startup you might want to hang out at events like Web Summit, Startup Grind, or HardwareCon. In this environment it’s easier to chat with the press and get to know them than to approach them via email or phone. However, don’t go to an event assuming you’re going to land a story on the spot, or you’ll come on too strong. Instead, ask journalists what stories they’re working on and offer to help them with what they’re already doing, even if it doesn’t benefit you.
By providing value first, you’ll become valuable to the journalist. Over time the opportunities will arise for you to be included in their articles.
3. Test and modify.
Crowdfunding consultant Samit Patel has helped companies like smartwatch maker BLOCKS ($1.6M raised) and Joy, makers of the Octopus kids watch ($1M). One of his tips is to A/B test your email pitches. “We use software like Yesware to check whether a journalist is opening up our emails,” Patel says. “We A/B test different headlines and use automation to make this process simpler. If a journalist doesn’t open our email, we target a different journalist at the same publication with a different email and see what works best and keep refining it.”
4 Create a viral challenge.
While I haven’t seen this tactic work on a large scale for a consumer product, it’s worth mentioning because it’s been used with great success for charitable causes. You likely remember the wildly successful ALS ice bucket challenge which attracted a massive amount of PR and led to breakthroughs in research. A modern incarnation of the viral challenge is Ben Stiller’s challenge to raise money for victims of the famine in Somalia, which has been attracting worldwide news coverage of late.
5. Make a video.
The mattress company Purple has built its brand through video and innovative products. “Our two Kickstarter campaigns were record breaking in their categories and we give a lot of credit to video as a driver,” says Alex McArthur, Purple’s CMO. Purple’s first Kickstarter video generated 274,000 views on Kickstarter. Their second video, for the next campaign, generated a whopping 2.4 million views on Facebook and led to that campaign meeting its initial goal in one day, and ultimately raising $2.6M. “At this points our videos have had more than 400,000,000 views across all platforms, which has led to a lot of PR,” McArthur says.
6. Target your ads.
Larry Kim, CEO of Mobile Monkey, has a clever way of targeting journalists with his content. “I would run ads on Taboola — those are the native looking ads that appear on news sites like CNN, etc. with an unusual headline like: ‘This Shockingly Brilliant Invention is Disrupting the [X] Industry’,” Kim says. “Alternatively I might run a similar ad on Facebook, targeting people who write for publications in your industry, to drive PR mentions. Typically the cost for Facebook ads is around $8 CPM, so for a small investment of under $50 you can get in front of most of the bloggers covering your space.”
7. Create an Infographic.
Sometimes a little eye-candy to accompany your pitch can make all the difference. For example, Blackbird Label is running a Kickstarter campaign for men’s dress slacks made of custom yoga-pant material, so you can look professional at the office while feeling as comfy as sweatpants. They created infographics like the one below (click on it to see the full version), knowing writers will appreciate material that makes their articles more likely to be shared. They’ve also tied their theme to current political events (anything with Trump gets attention, it seems) to further strengthen their pitch.
In short, PR is an excellent complement to the crowdfund ecosystem. But before you pick up the phone or press “send” on another mass email, think about the strategy you’re pursuing. Match the method you use with the medium that is best for achieving your business objective. By doing this, you will be helping both your business and your campaign to succeed.
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