The upside of the tech-driven disruption of the news media is that is easier than ever for tech startups to get exposure on various outlets. But with the myriad of outlets, it can be difficult to know, when planning a well-executed PR campaign, how to approach different outlets.
So let’s take a look at three very different kinds of media outlets and how best to approach each to get the best public relations results.
Old school media
A feature with a traditional media outlet such as The Wall Street Journal can reach over 2 million readers. The possibility of such a feature is small, but if done right, can result in huge returns.
However, is the Wall Street Journal what you want for your company? Like most traditional media outlets, it isn’t a tech or startup publication. Large media outlets only consider covering big trends and companies that are “disruptive” and revolutionary.
If your company is one of those three adjectives, would you rather want a brief mention regarding your company on The Wall Street Journal or the possibilities of a more in-depth piece with a smaller niche publication? Do you see your product going mainstream or is it software for specific industries and sectors? A Wall Street Journal article is a seal of approval, but would be less likely to actually help sell your product to investors of customers compared to niche tech publications.
Keep in mind that even though mainstream media outlets will most likely write a short blurb on your company, that could open the door for many partner publication and even more results.
Here are a few pointers on how to approach a mainstream media outlet such as the WSJ for maximum exposure:
- Give a Narrative: The WSJ gets read by more than 2 million average people. Many of the readers don’t have a technology degree, so the publication as a whole won’t be as interested in just explaining the nuts and bolts of your product.
What large publications are looking for is the “story.” Make it personal by perhaps briefly detailing the hard road you’ve taken to get where you are. Don’t be shy to say if you had to sell your soul to the devil to have the initial capital to move your company forward.
- Direct Impact: How is your company or product changing lives? How has your company revolutionizing the industry? Direct impact stories make your company and product more relatable to the average consumer that doesn’t have a tech background.
Essentially, with large traditional media, unless your company is revolutionizing the industry, be able to make the story personal and relate with the average reader.
Niche tech publications like TechCrunch represents a new generation of media outlets that have taken advantage of the digital media revolution. Publications like TechCrunch reach over 400,000 unique readers a day and a feature by them can be seen by thousands of tech-savy clients.
A decade ago, the notion of a full time publication of any broader importance devoted entirely to the goings on of Silicon Valley and its biggest players might have seemed far-fetched. And yet, as we look at the broader media landscape now, it’s clear publications like TechCrunch, launched in 2005, have already carved out a niche role not unlike that of the traditional “old media” outlets they were only recently making such a show of disrupting.
TechCrunch, in other words, is the old media of new media.
As they’ve acquired new prominence in the tech scene and new legitimacy in the mainstream media culture, TechCrunch and the like will now increasingly find themselves in the position of having to fend off runs themselves from smaller, more dynamic batch of upstart ventures even less devoted to the traditional rules of the game than TechCrunch was when it first hit the scene.
So what does this mean for you?
The readers of niche tech publications would be much more receptive to hear the details of your company, without depending so much on a narrative, like larger publications. Despite a smaller audience compared to mainstream media, TechCrunch has the ability to provide greater coverage for your startup due to their focus on technology entrepreneurs and companies.
Taking those details into regard, publications like TechCrunch of VentureBeat would still be looking for a story line and news of companies that are making breakthroughs in the industry and disrupting the status quo.
Here are some example storyline pitches:
- Startup Marketing Godfather “Sean Ellis” Launches GrowthHackers, Aims To Re-Imagine The Way We Learn Marketing
- Online ad network Rocket Fuel announced today that it has raised $6.6 million in funding
- After 2 Years Of Development, Stanford PhD & Partner Raise $500K For Lingua.ly, Aim To Change Way Languages Are Learnt Online
This is not to say a silly or quirky app can’t get large exposure as well, you just have to know how to pitch it, even if it means being silly in the pitch itself.
We managed to get a feature on a major publication for an application called Doublie, knowing that a late in the day pitch with some social proof may entice them to right a quick funny article for content.
The pitch for Doublie started with, “I apologize for the late in the day pitch, but I’ve got an exclusive for you on the serious Stamford team behind a silly celeb selfie app.”
In PR you should always be looking for possibilities to increase coverage and alternative publications. If your company is not picked up by a major publication like the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, or Business Insider, don’t panic.
Is this your first round of PR outreach? Is this your first product launch as a company? Are you attempting to make inroads with investors? Answering “yes” to these questions implies that you need publications that can help you in the early stages of your company.
There are many smaller digital platforms that can give you exposure without inhibiting your ability to win placements in larger publications.
Principal among these is Product Hunt, a Reddit-style listserve with curated product review blurbs “hunted” out by the site’s purported “experts.” After picking up $1 million in seed funding from the Y Combinator startup incubator, Product Hunt just received an additional $6 million in VC funding from Andreessen Horowitz, and is quickly developing a reputation as “the social news site of tech products read by influential people,” as a TechCrunch headline, no less, recently put it.
According to The Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Cromwell Schubarth, TechCrunch isn’t “worried” about Product Hunt taking over its turf. In the estimation of TechCrunch’s own Alexia Tsotsis, “We are huge fans of Product Hunt at TC, and view it more as a supplementary product to what we publish, a startup platform versus a journalistic enterprise. Like Reddit versus the WSJ.”
TechCrunch, she wrote, even uses Product Hunt itself to “find cool products to cover,” relying on its own stable of experienced journalists to provide “context” many readers will need to appreciate the latest developments, as well as to cover a broader range of tech-related topics — including, for example, Product Hunt’s success at fundraising.
Customizing a pitch to a specific publication, knowing what they need and are looking for, will substantially increase your chances of getting featured. All you need to do is to put some thought into your PR process and know the industry you are reaching out to.