How to get your startup to appear in the media [Opinion]

It’s a new year and you’re probably big on getting your startup noticed. One way is to get media coverage.

As a startup one of the hardest challenges is that no one knows about you. You might claim to be doing amazing life-changing work, but the fact remains, if no one knows who you are, you’re unlikely to get anywhere.

Like this, startup founders often complain that getting a mention in the media is so darn difficult.

It can often seem like a chicken and egg situation — you need to have done something newsworthy for newspapers, blogs or online news publications to write about you, but without having any previous mention in any media, how will they even take notice of you?

How then does one get your startup to appear in the media in the first place?

Just keep doing what you do

The number one best way to get noticed by media is to just knuckle down and get on with the work you’re doing. Really focus on what you do best and the rest will come.

Every time you have some exciting story to tell (for example you’ve launched a new product, won some prize or been accepted by an accelerator) get in touch with the media. Try to get some feedback as to what kind of stories that publication carries.

Founders often complain that getting a mention in the media is so darn difficult, so how do you get your startup to appear in the media

You don’t need some fancy PR person to do that yourself. A down-to-earth carefully crafted email will suffice.

Don’t blow things out of proportion. Don’t use fancy words (it’s confusing and often disingenuous). And always be honest when dealing with the media (as you should be doing as a founder when dealing with anyone).

But, above all, always read a few stories from the publications you plan to engage with, before emailing the editor. It’s amazing how many people who get in touch with a publication, know nothing about what the publication in question writes about.

Also, always ensure you’re dealing with the right person, as large publications have different editors for different pages or beats.

While developing a personal relationship with someone at the various publications is never a bad idea, always ensure that you push quality over quantity. In other words, sometimes you need to wait until you have something to talk about before contacting the media.

And before contacting the media try to think like a journalist — what makes a good story, and what is a good story for that publication? What kind of stories are they looking for?

What makes a story a good one?

Often the best time to get in contact with the media is when you have a good story to tell.

For example, Ventureburn looks to cover tech startups in Africa that are on the move.

We often look for some indication that the startup is performing. If others have said the startup is good we’re more inclined to listen. It means that if your startup has been picked for an accelerator, won a prize or netted funding from an investor, there’s likely a story there.

There’s also the question of how newsworthy the story is. For example a startup that has launched a new app to tackle abuse against woman at the time when it is in the headlines and has clinched investment from a well-known angel investor, is a likely good story.

What should one include in ones press release

Now, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t need a PR agent to get media coverage. In the same way, you don’t need to send out a press release, to get media coverage.

It’s just a nice thing to ensure more effective coverage — especially if you plan on sending it out to various publications. Some publications might request an exclusive, but this isn’t so common.

What then should you include in your press release?

The short answer is — all the necessary information. Put as much in there as is necessary. Don’t go for a statement that’s longer than about 500 words — unless the story really is Pulitzer Prize material. Journalists are impatient people.

Always include a contact telephone number (some journalists still use telephones) and an email address.

If there’s an email or call from a journalist and they are unable to get hold of you right away, make sure to get back to them as soon as possible. These people work on deadline, don’t stress them out any more than they already are.

Aim at the right audience

The first important thing to consider is what publications you want to appear in. Rather than going for a shotgun approach, try to narrow it down to a few names. Try to consider who you want reading these articles.

For example If your tech startup is in the agritech sector, you should likely be targeting agriculture publications as well as tech or IT publications.

Consider the geographic focus of the publication. Initially you may like to focus just on Africa or South Africa, before aiming to target international publications with a global audience.

Also think about what your aim is. Do you want to reach customers, or investors, or suppliers? Then, consider which publications such people read.

Your, versus their story

If at first a publication isn’t interested — don’t give in. Just keep sending them relevant updates on your company. Call the editor and ask what they thought of the news you sent them.

At all times remain friendly and polite. And remember — the publication has the right to run whatever angle they choose to, as long as it’s factually correct. If there are any factual inaccuracies get hold of the publication as quick as possible to change this.

Try to separate what you think is the story, from what the journalist or editor who oversaw the piece views as the story.

You might have a different view on what should and shouldn’t go in the story, but always respect that in a country where media freedom is upheld, such differences will always exist.

If you’re doing good work, this should never be a problem. Put your head down and keep at it. The rest will come.

Read more: Media must help unite Africa’s tech startup scene, but also act as watchdog – Buckland
Read more: Why Africa needs more critical media to cover lively tech startup sector [Opinion]

*Stephen Timm is the editor of Ventureburn

Featured image: fancycrave1 via Pixabay



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