What startups should know about getting their story into the media [Opinion]

Pixabay via https://pixabay.com/en/users/Skitterphoto-324082/

It’s the new year and you’re thinking of getting some publicity. How do you go about getting your story into the media?

First off — to attract the eye of a journalist you need to have something worthwhile and interesting to say. You could think your startup might be the next best thing since sliced cheese, but this doesn’t mean a journalist will find it interesting.

Journalists are in large a cynical kind of people. They’ve seen it all before. Just another app to solve this or that or “to disrupt” this or other market, might not cut it.

What they are looking for is whether your startup is really a hit.

The best way to tell if your startup might fall into this category, is if it has received funding, been selected by an acclaimed acceleration or incubation programme or won some competition or challenge. Like this your startup already stands out from the multitudes of other new companies.

Still another way to grab the headlines is if what you are doing is newsworthy.

The best way to tell if your story is newsworthy is if you startup has received funding, been selected by an acceleration or incubation programme or won a competition or challenge

For example, you’ve written a book claiming to have made a million by aged 22 (see this story) or you’ve come up with a crazy concept of fog farms or producing water from air, to tackle Cape Town’s drought (see here and here) — or how a Cape Town former Rocket Internet man landed up in Bangkok building companies (see here).

If you have a good story to tell what do you do next?

You could approach one of the many public relations (PR) companies that serve the startup sector. For a fee, PR agents usually offer to write a press release for you and take some photos and then send it on to a network of news websites, magazines and newspapers.

The benefit here is that some have good relationships with the journalists (who will often just use the press release as it is) out there.

But you could just simply contact the news organisation yourself.

Find out first who the right person is to speak to there, before calling. Don’t just send an email. Journalists often get masses of unsolicited emails on a daily basis. It’s best to follow up any email with a phone call.

Expect the journalist to ask a lot of tough questions. This, after all is their job.

Have some basic facts at hand (things like approximate revenue figures or sales growth, number of employees and customers — journalists love figures, as it gives the story some credibility).

It’s important to also have some press photos that you can send the publication as soon as possible — so have them ready beforehand. Some publications will need them right away if they are going to print or publish that day.

Importantly don’t expect that the journalist will always run the story you want them to run. You can’t manage the message, but being honest and truthful is the only approach to take here. If you lie your credibility could well be at stake.

But, sometimes journalists get it wrong — they make spelling mistakes or mix up figures or names. If you spot any errors you should not hesitate to contact the publication and the journalist specifically.

Any respectable publication should then acknowledge in writing that they made a mistake (either by adding a note to the footer of the story if it’s online, or by publishing your letter to the editor if it’s in print).

But there are facts and there is “getting the context wrong”. Again, where the facts are clearly wrong (figures, names etc) this should be acknowledged. It’s a completely different thing to when a journalist took a certain angle on the story you didn’t like.

At all times try to remain respectful of the work that the media does, you never know when you may need them next.

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Featured image: Pixabay via Skitterphoto



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