Ever wonder why it's so hard to get press for your tech startup? Jason Kincaid, author of The Burned -Out Blogger's Guide to PR, can tell you. He's been on both sides of the keyboard. He was part of the press as a blogger at TechCrunch where he lasted 4 years (until he couldn't stand it any more), and a PR rep trying to get posts for his clients. I think I took most satisfaction in his experiences trying to get press because that's the side I'm more often on.
If you're a founder of a tech startup you should read this book, even if you have a PR firm. It's just good to know how PR works so you can be a good judge of PR firms you may want to hire. You'll also understand what's reasonable to expect, and might even decide to pitch your own ideas.
This book has insider tips that I haven't read anywhere else and most apply regardless of the industry you're in.
The Burned -Out Blogger's Guide to PR is available on Kindle for $7.99, and paperback for $9.99. It was written in 2014. Buy it here. This book is a quick and informative 158 page read. If you read it you'll know more than most college grads in PR. In fact, I think it should be required reading for college level PR classes (mine was – and I feel like this is even more valuable).
Here are some topics you will learn about in The Burned-Out Blogger's Guide to PR:
- Embargoes, what they are, when to use them and what not to do.
- How to write a pitch email. What I like most about the pitches is how conversational they are. They get to the point but give the necessary info. He shows you the exact pitch and the resulting post.
- Planning a product launch with examples of how to plan and what to write to reporters, starting months before the launch.
What is Press Worthy and What should Be a Blog Post?
I get this question too. He said to blog about the press coverage you get and add details or additional background. Be sure to link to the article.
Blog about how customers are using your product, tell stories. I'd add to educate people on the product itself, introduce the team and generally give your startup an authentic voice.
You should use your blog to give updates or details about your company or product that reporters won't care about but your impassioned followers will.
If you have several smaller updates you can combine them to create enough value to pitch to the media or bloggers. Whatever you pitch to a reporter that doesn't get reported can be purposed and submitted to a site like Hacker News, Medium, or another site that takes submissions.
TIP: Put a link to press on your site and put screenshots, hi-res images of your logo, and contact info. I'd also link to stories you've placed and link to your press releases.
As far as press releases, Jason doesn't like them and I agree for the world he's in. There are times to use a press release though (more in a future post). Also when should you put your company name in the headline? When you have some recent press that uses your name. Besides that, and If the reporter has probably never heard of you, leave it out. I think that applies to blog post titles and press releases.
What to do When your Competitor Gets Media Coverage You Want
What is your competitor gets a big mention in the press? DO NOT email the reporter asking them to cover your company next, it's been done before. Instead, give it some time and then email the reporter with “how you are better or different” type pitch. Don't name the competitor specifically though (except to give context). Instead, talk about how you're different than everyone else in your niche, not how you're different from that particular competitor.
How to Newsjack Effectively
What about newsjacking, essentially taking a larger news story or one about a larger company (even if it's not in your niche), and tying it into your company or product? You should center your pitch around a common theme.
For example, my client has a book about how to talk to your kids about sex. Josh Duggar of the reality show 19 and Counting, admitted to sexually abusing girls, including his own sisters. This is being talked about in the news. She could pitch stories to the press about how the scandal is a reminder about how parents of teens need to know the legal consequences of to perpetrators or victims of sex crime. Then she could talk about how you should already how to talk to your kids about sex and her book can help you do that.[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”069230228X”]
Why you Must Build Relationships with Reporters
After a lot of practical advice there's a few points that I believe are vital to understand. Relationships are important – it' s tough to get a story when you don't know anyone or have relationships with the media. If you don't have them it's going to be harder to get press.
Being likeable is important. While it won't guarantee a story, it can help grease the wheels. “But reporters are human. The more we like you, the more likely we are to read you emails, to give you the benefit of the doubt when you need it. And,…we may like your product a bit better than we would have otherwise.” The opposite is true too.
If you don't have relationships with reporters in your niche, I suggest subscribing to HARO because reporters will tell you what they are writing about. Read the tech section. Respond to pitches that are a good fit within the first 10 minutes of getting the email. If possible, the first three. Look at the type of stories people in your industry regularly cover and create a list of people you want to build relationships with.
PR's Secret Weapon
You can't learn everything about PR by reading a book, because after you know the practical side, a lot of your success depends on using your own creativity. I can give you examples but ultimately you have to think of your own campaigns and get the timing right. “If I'm a PR person, one of my knocks against this guide is that real PR can't be captured in a book because it stems from opportunistic creativity.” This is the biggest secret of all. I can give someone tips, share my experiences, but whether created or a strong story, it's all in the angle and using your creativity.
Jason points out mistakes PR people or founders make that can get them in trouble. Here are a few mistakes to avoid:
- Letting the news get out before you pitch the story a reporter. “First, do not break your own news before a reporter does.” That includes on social media, on your blog or any other way.
- Blogging about an article too soon after it's been written. Give the media outlet the story first, then blog about it a few weeks later.
- Lying to a reporter. Don't do it. There are better options. Instead, “be vague, don't respond, or decline to comment if you don't have any other options.”
This reminds me of my own rookie mistakes.
Crisis on your hands?
Remember that creativity? While there are principles, there are times you just need a professional. If you want to read up on that I recommend reading Brad Phillips' excellent book, The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need To Know Before Your Next Interview .
Interestingly Jason points out that there's most likely going to be some sort of security breach, so you may as well be ready for it. Craft the response in advance. Know what to say about a layoff, consult the laws and prepare something for the press.
Be Honest about your Threats
Every product has issues and a good reporter are going to want to know about them. Don't ignore them, bring them up before the reporter asks, then put a good light. In other words, “point out the obvious obstacles you'll need to overcome and how you're going to do it.”
There's a lot of practical advice packed into this short book. I'm looking forward to a part 2 with more from the PR pro's perspective since that's the side Jason is on now.