This blog and many specialists in the PR field have debated when startup companies should hire outside firms for some time.
As we all know, several companies provide products and services designed to make the pitching process easier for both startups themselves and the PR firms that want to (eventually) sign them as clients.
Yet we receive enough mass email pitches to know that precision and targeting often get lost in the process — and the value of such services varies greatly depending on how one uses them. We would argue, in fact, that one well-targeted pitch is more valuable than 100 “send all” campaigns.
Earlier this week, we spoke to Ed Moyse, who recently launched startup Hey.Press in order to…win more press coverage for other startups.
1. What’s your background and why were you searching for journalists? What sort of problems did you run into?
My cofounder Harry and I met at the University of Cambridge, and have been building software together since. We’ve always done our own PR, but finding relevant journalists has been both difficult and time-consuming… finally the problem annoyed us enough to build Hey.Press!
In short, we want to fix our own problem — so that it’s easy to find highly targeted journalists. Hey.Press is a search engine specifically for that, and it’s completely free (we later plan to monetise with additional features). With our backgrounds in software engineering and big data, we think we can solve lots of the problems facing competitor media databases, and still keep the core database free to search.
2. What is the key factor for startups seeking press coverage?
Growth! Aside from building a great product, the hardest challenge facing any startup is getting users, so press coverage can be a great way to get eyeballs on your startup.
3. Have you worked with PR teams and/or related software in the past and, if so, how was your experience?
I’ve always done my own PR and had a lot of success doing it. In fact, I’ve landed coverage with most major publications, including Apple, TechCrunch, the BBC, Sunday Times, and the Daily Mail. However, I’ve never had access to any media databases, because they’re just too expensive if PR is not your core business (ie you’re not an agency).
It’s only more recently that I tried out media databases — and while the comprehensiveness of databases like Cision and Gorkana is great, I was disappointed with relevancy of results.
Although we are not yet as comprehensive as some of our competitors, we have tech on our side. We can also afford to do this for free, because our software means human research teams are much smaller and more effective.
4. How did you create the database, and how are you working to expand it and/or make it more specific?
We’ve got a number of web crawlers set up, and machine learning to extract the data we want – this includes articles that the journalists have actually written. That means when you search our database for ‘bitcoin’ or ‘Skype’, we actually find people who’ve written most about that topic (compared to just finding ‘Head of Consumer Tech’).
Most of our work has been ensuring data is up-to-date. However, we’re now shifting our focus towards expansion.
5. Who is your audience, and what would you recommend for other beta-phase startups seeking coverage?
Right now, I think we’re most useful to startups and small agencies (our beta testers love us!). I definitely recommend small startups do their own PR; I’ve had a lot of success with it, and journalists often like hearing from founders. Come to think of it, Mike Butcher (Editor In Chief of TechCrunch) recommends startups do their own PR right up until they’re so big that journalists come to them.
The best advice I can give to other beta-phase startups is: what’s the story? People don’t want to read about your launch; they want to read about a 19-year-old founder, or an outrageous app that’s used for sexting, or in our case David vs Goliath.
We can’t speak to the accuracy of Moyse’s product, but we’d love to get readers’ thoughts on the state of startups, PR services, and the tools they use…