This is part of a series designed to help teams who are working towards being operational businesses rather than early stage (unproven) concepts. Once you are starting to gain customers and get feedback your priorities change. These posts help address some of these new action items.
For software startups the well-known Tech blogs are often the most desirable places to get press, even more (at this stage) than the major traditional media. Why? For a number of reasons. First, if you are fortunate enough to get written up somewhere like the Wall Street Journal or the Times, you better be prepared to take advantage of it. 99% of all startups are not and will not be for awhile. You don’t have the ability to scale to a huge amount of attention and if you screw it up it will hurt you.
The tech blogs are preferable because they target desirable audiences for companies in an early stage: Early adopters, geeks, investors, potential partners, experimenters, possible acquirers…an audience tuned into the situation you are in. If their article crashes your servers they are more likely to cut you slack and even consider it a good sign (lots of people are checking these guys out!). And it can really give you a burst of users. When I was at Techrigy, a social media monitoring software startup, we had a freemium model. We had been steadily adding users but one Techcrunch piece resulted in 4500 sign-ups in a few days. Several converted to paid and the attention also helped our sales guy add more paid users. It is powerful.
So how do you get their attention? And who are they? New ones emerge all the time and there are many niche subject sites. If you don’t know the niche sites in your sector, get to work- its critical to get to know them. The general techy sites include Techcrunch, VentureBeat, GIGAOM, AllThingsD, PandoDaily, Business Insider and a few more. Generally, if you handle it right, you can get coverage on several as they scramble to cover the hottest new thing at the same time.
On Startup-marketing.com, Conrad Egusa, a former writer for VentureBeat (and startup PR guy) outlines what these sites are looking for. I’m going to quote the article briefly but I highly recommend reading it in its entirety.
These are the steps he covers in detail:
#1: Deciding on your story
#2: Enter the press release
#3: Creating the email
#4: Deconstructing the media industry
#5: The Exclusive
#6: Furthering coverage
#7: Repeating the process
The story topics they look for fit into these general categories (if yours doesn’t you may need to rethink it):
– Company Launches
– Product Launches
– Fundraising Events
He goes into the basics of press releases which I won’t go into here. But the best advice he gives is to avoid press release distributions like PRWeb and to mail them directly to editors:
You should also know that editors at the largest publications do read the emails sent, particularly to their “tips” email. I remember at VentureBeat roughly 50% of the story ideas being generated from emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is, in my experience, exactly how to get their attention, if you have a good story. If you watch these blogs daily you’ll start to see which writers target businesses like yours. Send them a note describing what you’re doing along with the release. And make yourself available 24/7 for interviews, questions, etc.
He also gets into the essential subject of embargoes which is how PR pros offer exclusives without killing coverage by other media.
To combat an incident such as this occurring, entrepreneurs implement something called an “embargo”.
In its simplest form, an entrepreneur will reach out to many media channels and will ask, “Are you interested in this announcement? If so, you have to agree that this will not be published before a certain date and time.” If the journalist agrees, the entrepreneur will send all of the information.
This is the embargo, the agreement that no media channel can publish the story before a set time.
It is really important to understand how to handle the subtleties of embargoes. Read the post for this– understanding this alone will mark you as a pro and give you a leg up on the competition for press attention– without paying a PR agency thousands of dollars a month.