While this isn’t any breaking news, we are in the midst of a global pandemic and a worldwide effort to end systemic racism. This means that the media is a bit busy covering those topics and that 2020 will not be an easy year for your startup to get picked up in the media.
Marketing leaders and founders at tech startups can still score some valuable news coverage in the media. But the headwinds are strong and many startups run the risk of seeing their media outreach efforts fall flat.
Here are the top reasons why your company isn’t getting picked up in the media, and ideas on how you can fix that.
You’re not standing out
Earned media is called that for a reason–you have to earn it. You can only do that by standing out from the crowd. Luckily, tech companies like yours are required to be on the cutting edge and are often made to fill holes in the market. Make sure that uniqueness is made clear and that your company’s competitive advantage is obvious.
Now especially, media attention is turned away from company successes and more towards social issues. If done correctly and genuinely, you can cut through the noise by contributing to it. If your company recognizes the work that has to be done internally, the groups your services or products benefit, or the companies you work with then joining the conversation and making your company relevant to the circumstances can set your company apart from its competitors. But tread lightly, do your research, listen and learn. Cutting through the noise demands authenticity, not performance. Make sure your brand statements are consistent with your company’s reality and that your pitches are compatible with the climate.
You don’t have a story
Startups need to prove to investors and customers why we need them. But a story of necessity is also important for the media, and odds are if your startup is missing a compelling story you’ll fall to the wayside and fail to connect with a larger audience. The world has a lot of problems and the media wants to know how you’re solving them, what hole in the market you’re filling, and why you decided to do that. The days of squeaky clean, rehearsed sales pitches are gone. Customize the story to a specific journalist or media outlets to give them a reason to profile your startup in their news outlet.
You’ve spent too much time pitching and too little time building relationships
As Neil Patel puts it, pitching the press is essentially asking for a favor from a complete stranger. The chances of a stranger doing a favor for you are very low, but if you’ve already established a relationship with someone, you’ve increased your odds.
Prior to pitching, build relationships with journalists by connecting and engaging with them over social media. Tweet at them, comment on their posts, ask questions and offer suggestions. Rapport with journalists will increase the likelihood of media coverage and these relationships will make the difference between a one-time feature and continuous coverage.
Once you’ve established relationships, maintain them by keeping up engagement and serving as a resource for reporters. Cision’s HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a great place to start. Register as a HARO expert source for journalists and you’ll not only build relationships with journalists who need experts, but also get your expertise covered in the media.
Your pitching is a #PRfail
For some of you this may come as a bit of a surprise, but journalists dread your pitch emails. There is quite literally a hashtag (#PRfail) dedicated to journalist stories about terrible, inconsiderate, and untimely pitches from PR professionals. All too often companies pitch journalists lengthy, impersonal sales emails or in relation to a topic that the journalist has already written about in the past. Or worse, they get pitched a topic that they don’t even cover!
Do your research and make sure your tech startup is relevant to that journalist and their target audience. Triple check that the story you’re pitching hasn’t already been covered. If it has, then find a way to give it a slightly fresher perspective to see if you can get the journalist to bite. Otherwise, you’re just taking up valuable space in the journalist’s inbox.
You can’t just ask for press attention, you need to justify it. Show them, concisely, why you stand out. And please, avoid terrible tie-ins like these at all costs.
You’re not newsjacking or you’re just not doing it well
Newsjacking allows companies to take advantage of breaking news by tying their ideas to a news event. In this way, your company can piggyback off of the popularity or excitement around an already existing news story. This requires thinking on your feet and being able to successfully relate your company to what is breaking, but the pay off can be major. During breaking news, journalists want to publish fresh takes on what just happened. If your business shares ideas right after major news breaks, you’ll be more likely to receive attention as public excitement grows and be considered a reputable source as interest continues.
You aren’t considering free content
Startups can benefit from playing the long-game in terms of media coverage. This means creating high quality, free content or sharing data analyses to the public. If your content is useful, on-trend, and shareable it will be shared, and the more it’s shared the more likely your company is to gain media attention. Free content also positions your company as a thought leader, strengthens reputability, and increases the likelihood of backlinking and press coverage. Starting off with free articles, infographics, and data tools not only shows the media that you know your stuff but it gives you content to pitch them down the road.
About Mary Jenkins: Mary is a marketing and communications intern for Swyft, which has been listed as one of the best PR firms in Austin and a top digital marketing agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft has satellite offices where it offers PR in San Francisco and Houston.