Creating good relationships with journalists and the media is part of building a world-class startup. This post helps you to dodge some of the very basic mistakes. An executive summary for all what follows is: 1. Do NOT waste journalists’ time.
WHAT IS A PRESS RELEASE?
What does this definition mean? ‘An official statement’ – whatever you have to say to the media needs to be official. So no jokes that waste the journalists’ time. ‘..giving information on a particular matter’ – be concise, to the point and make it clear what the release is all about.
WHEN TO WRITE A PRESS RELEASE?
The first thing you need to check is ‘should I even write a press release’. Meaning, is what you want to tell the journalist (and the world) actually interesting to anybody but you. If yes, then move on to writing a great press release.
Tip 1: Your newest product launch or the fact that you exist is NOT interesting for the rest of us. But why your company will kill the current biggest player on the market, or why you were able to lure a famous investor to back you up is.
Tip 2: Read articles from magazines and media you’d like to be featured in an analyse the content. What are the news about? Why are they interesting? What could have been the pitch?
HOW TO WRITE A GREAT PRESS RELEASE?
What usually causes the struggle is figuring out how to write a great press release – one that a journalist will surely read, be interested in, and publish. Instead of guessing around, it’s better to check what journalists themselves have to say to this.
A great source for this was a recent blog post on the Hustle titled ‘Dear Public Relations Professionals…Here’s how to write a pitch that I’ll actually read.’ by Kendall Baker and a presentation about what a TechCrunch story is like and how you should pitch it by Mike Butcher, European Editor of TechCrunch.
Based on these sources and my personal experiences, check the steps below before writing or sending your press release.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
This is the first phase you need to complete before you start typing your press release.
- Get to know the journalist→ Check what the journalist has written before. You don’t want to bombard someone who frequently writes about the newest health startups with news about your fintech startup, they’re most likely not the right person.→ Follow her / him on Twitter and Instagram, read their blog(s) and previous articles. Comment, discuss and engage. Know who you’re talking to.
- Think about why your story would benefit the journalist→ For anyone to write an article, it needs to give them something. Nobody, and I mean nobody, cares about your startup so much that they want to write about it just for the sake of writing about something.→ Example: you find a journalist who has been writing a lot about the wellbeing of employees, how knowledge workers are suffering more and more from burnouts and exhaustion. For her / him your story about a new application with facts showing how it minimises the long term effects of burnouts is probably actually interesting.
When you start writing your press release, keep it simple and straightforward.
- Be simple→ Do NOT give the journalist homework. Tell the facts right there, don’t ask them to click around the internet for this and that related.→ Be human. Do NOT send out automated, copy pasted mass emails to a gazillion journalists. You don’t like mass email without personality, why would they?
- Be straightforward→ If you wish a journalist to write an article about the news you are pitching, don’t beat around the bush but tell your goal honestly.→ Also in terms of writing, cut to the chase. Show that you appreciate the journalist’s time and spill out the pitch without a page long intro. Have a clear title followed by a short summary of the key facts (bullet points are cool!). If you can, connect the news to a bigger story relevant for the journalist and the readers you’re trying to reach. (Additional info or pictures can be attached or linked but the beef needs to be there in the text.)
BE A NICE PERSON
Put yourself in the shoes of the journalist. Imagine getting hundreds of emails, text messages and Twitter notifications a day – if someone is acting arrogant in their communication would you even consider to write a (nice) story about them? And they wouldn’t either.
- Honour exclusivity→ Do not send the same pitch to 100 journalists (let alone to a journalist and all his / her colleagues). Send it to the one you have a good relationship with / to the one that could really benefit from it and give her / him time to react. Make the journalist a good deal and negotiate (see examples here).
- Say thank you→ So, a journalist wrote a super nice article about your pitch? Say thank you. And do it genuinely, don’t seek for publicity to yourself by posting the Thank You’s on social media. Be a nice person, send a card or a personal message.
The point of the press kit is to make the life of the journalist easier, to help them save time.
You should have a press kit prepared when you send out a press release and it should include the following materials:
- Official pictures that can be used in the article
- Additional material related to the story (statistics, short biographies about the people in the story, such as your CEO and founders)
- Official company materials such as logo files
- Contact information (who should the journalist ask for more info)
READY, SET, SEND.
Before clicking the scary ‘send’ button, go through the list below.
- Send the press release as an email and as plain text in it.→You can find the emails of journalists’ usually from the newspaper’s / media’s website to which they write for, for freelance journalists writing for several media, check out their personal website and/or Twitter.
- Make sure the title of your email and press release is clear and describes the content well. A few examples below:→ Investor X surprisingly backs up a fintech startup from Finland.For this title, the investor needs to naturally be a big(ish) name and somehow unexpected (no prior investments in Finland, for example), which makes the whole story newsworthy and interesting.→ Genetics startup X aims to change the health industry more than Uber changed the personal transportation industry – this is how.For this title, your story needs to have strong facts backing up the argument.→ Startup Y to offer UK investors a new way to hedge against negative investment outlook sparked by Brexit.
This title might be used if you’re entering a new market and you need to clearly explain how the product works and why it is a great tool for investing in that particular market. Notice how the title already refers to a bigger phenomenon interesting to readers.
- Include a link to your press kit with additional information and materials about the story.
- Remember to include your contact information in the email.→ If the journalist needs additional info or decides to contact you, make it easy for them.
To make finding the right journalist and sending out the press releases easier, you can also use press release distribution services like STT (in Finnish) and Finnfacts.
For startups, there are media tools for sending out press releases like Meltwater. A tool for media intelligence, that is approachable and effective tool for any press releases.