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Vivian Li/李雯雯

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6 ways to get press coverage for your startup

As a founder, I’ve managed to get my projects featured in national and international papers, radio and TV.

However, dealing with online press specializing in startups is a different ball game.

Follow these six tips for dealing with tech and startup publications, and see why a selfie might be more effective than a press release:

1. Ask, “what’s in it for their readers?”

Ask this fundamental question before making any pitches. A product launch is rarely a good story—it needs to be interesting to the journalist’s readers.

It could be an amazing new piece of technology that makes you think, “Wow, humans are pretty cool,” an inspiring story about a “mum entrepreneur” or an idea so ridiculous it worked.

The story angle will depend on the publication and specific journalist. VentureBeat writes mostly about funding rounds, so it might not be worthwhile to pitch them your product’s beta launch.

[RELATED: Learn how to tell compelling stories with this brand journalism guide.]

It’s not worth going for news coverage at all if you can’t think why someone would want to read it. If there’s no story, Product Hunt, Hacker News or Reddit may be more fruitful.

2. Hit the target

I know first hand that a relevant pitch to a handful of journalists is far more effective than blasting a mail merge to hundreds of writers.

If you’re pitching someone, make sure you know what he or she writes. Don’t pitch your Snapchat-esque app launch to someone who writes about acquisitions or SaaS startups.

Try to find journalists you have a connection to—if you are based in London, get to know those who write about London startups—and see which journalists write about your vertical.

Use Hey Press to help speed up your research and find relevant journalists. Try searching for companies that are similar to you, the city you live in or your industry niche.

Once you’ve done that, get to know journalists by reading what they’ve written.

3. Offer the exclusive

Journalists love exclusives. Including this word in the subject of your email will improve open rates. Find the one publication in which you really want coverage, and then contact them before anybody else to offer an exclusive story or angle. If they accept, you can still contact the other publications on your list—but only after the first publication breaks your story.

4. Avoid press releases

Unlike print journalists, startup reporters prefer conversations rather than press releases. Your aim should be to start a dialogue. If they have questions, or need quotes, they’ll ask you.

However, it’s generally good to provide bullet-pointed information as an email footer (include whitespace below your email sign-off so it doesn’t appear overwhelmingly lengthy). Include competitors, notes on the founding team and a Dropbox link to any images.

Make sure those images are web resolution; now is not the time for monster-sized full-res images.

5. Email a week prior to launch

If you contact sooner than one week before your product’s launch, you’re low priority, but if you leave it for later, they won’t be able to fit you in (journalists are busy).

The best time to contact is one week before launch. Follow up if you don’t hear back. Another benefit of the exclusive is that it’s a great excuse to send a short reminder:

Hi [reporter], I haven’t heard back yet but would really like to offer you guys the exclusive. If you don’t want it, would you please let me know today so I can offer it to someone else?

If you were thinking about pitching on Twitter, forget it. Email is king—but Twitter is good for building relationships over a period of time.

6. Get creative

TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Tsotsis wrote a post about a successful pitch she got from a startup. The email was well-written, interesting and clearly targeted to TechCrunch. The pitch even included a selfie of the team working in a garage.

The email landed the startup coverage, and Tsotsis covered the pitch itself.

Be creative—but be wary that creativity can work against you, if you make the journalist’s job more difficult.


Vivian Li

PR Manager

Tel: +86 010 8390 7451

Mobile: +86 13041030670