A little while back, investor Chris Dixon (Foursquare, Kickstarter and Skype, to name a few) wrote a blog post about the best ways for entrepreneurs to interact with the press. Dixon also talks about hiring a PR firm, and in short, his advice for entrepreneurs is simply: don’t.
PR can be one of the best (and most cost efficient) ways for a startup to gain traction—you just need to do it yourself. Sound difficult? It’s not. Especially because you know your business better than any PR person (agency or in-house) ever will. Here are five simple things you can do to help get media coverage and build some buzz:
1). Follow all of the publications and reporters that are important to you on Twitter. As an entrepreneur, you are probably always reading about trends/news in your space. Go follow those outlets and the reporters writing the stories you are reading.
First, you’ll see what is important to that outlet and can start thinking of ways your company might fit into a story (i.e. “Hey they just wrote about company XYZ. We do that thing they talked about much better. I should totally send a note to that reporter to pitch him on our business and get on his radar”).
Second, by following individual reporters, you’ll get to know their interests on a personal level. Imagine how much easier it might be to pitch a reporter if you found out you both were equally as frustrated with the Red Sox? Pitching is kind of like sales. It’s much easier to cold call someone if you know you have some shared interests before you reach out. Also, many reporters now look for sources and story ideas by asking their Twitter followers. Even if you don’t have a story to offer or your company isn’t a fit, someone in your network might be. Helping a reporter find a source for a story goes a long way—even if that source isn’t you.
2). Comment on blogs. So remember all of those outlets you are following and articles you are now reading? Go comment on them. It doesn’t take much additional time—you are probably already sending these articles with commentary around the office or to your peers in the industry. Take two minutes and share you thoughts with the author in the comment section. No links, no specific product mentions. Just your thoughts follow by your name and Twitter handle. This is one of the best ways to build visibility and awareness as a thought leader with reporters (the goal here is for them to see you as a great, smart source on a topic and reach out to you in the future).
3). Sign up for HARO. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a service created by Peter Shankman that helps connect journalists with sources. HARO sends out daily digests of queries right to your inbox and allows you to share your expertise and respond directly to the reporter or blogger. You can sign up for free here: http://www.helpareporter.com/. You’ll be surprised at how many queries that you could respond to and pitch your business.
4). Set aside one hour each month to write. You can easily crank out two articles a month that can be pitched as bylines to the media. You know the industry. You know about the trends people are interested in. You have these conversations on a daily basis. Write about them! Media outlets are always looking for thought leadership articles from CEOs and founders. Pitching a byline can be one of the easiest ways to get coverage. It just comes down to whether you have some time to get a good article written (and it’s not a whitepaper! This should be a high-level tips, tricks or trends themed piece in the 300-500 word range).
5). Be human. Whether your are interacting with a reporter on Twitter, replying to a HARO query or working on a byline, the best thing you can do is be human. More on that here.
What’s the one tip you would give to a startup looking to get some PR?