The publishing industry is both volatile and in many ways stuck in tradition, so if you’re trying to get a mention or more for your product or your startup, you need to understand the constraints and go through the right doors.
I’ve led Marketing and Content Analytics at The Huffington Post, VentureBeat, and Federated Media, and have seen the underbelly of the editorial business. And as a startup mentor and advisor, I’ve also seen many promising young companies struggle to break into the publishing world and go about it all wrong. If you’re trying to get media attention for your product or startup, read these tips first.
Work with a PR agency who knows the right people. Tread carefully on this path. PR agencies can be expensive and often fruitless.
Reach out to an editor by putting in the time to understand them. Every editor has their own following within the publication’s broader readership, so start learning what they typically cover to get a sense of how to appeal to their audience. Usually this means showing why they should care.
Apply to be a contributing writer to a publication that relates to your company. You’ll need to demonstrate you’re an expert in the space and must be convincing that you won’t abuse the airtime promoting your company.
But before you go after any of the above, there are 4 things you need to know.
Publications have some of the fanciest, most expensive analytics tools available for understanding their audience and tracking their content’s performance. They know how long their readers spend on which specific pages, and they have their before-during-after journey mapped out. When it comes to covering a startup or sharing an announcement, they’ll ONLY produce the piece if they know it will pique their readers’ interest.
Publishers will only produce and publish content that they know their readers will care about.
So you’ve got a publication in mind that fits the bill. Now you need to recognize that nobody cares as much about your company as you do.
If you believe in your company, you need to represent yourself with a story that makes readers believe too.
Look at what you have to offer through your consumers’ eyes, and then make them see it through yours.
Note that product launches and company announcements rarely matter to readers. The exception to this is if you happened to be named Elon Musk, or if your previous startup was AirBnB. Another exception is if you happen to be solving a major problem for that is specific to the publication’s readership. There are a couple of publications that do focus on startup entries and product launches, but they’re the rare exception, rather than the rule.
These fewer pubs will only consider what you have to say if it’s relevant and meaningful to their readership, and rooted in a story.
Your core story should be sociable and airtight before you even start reaching out to publications. If you’re not super set on your company’s core story, learn more about how to create one.
Along with your story, you should have concise phrases prepared so that publications will use language that’s representative of your core story. All of these elements will combine to make your press kit.
Many startups arrive totally unprepared with regards to their core messaging. This lack of prep will drastically reduce your likelihood of getting picked up by a publication. It also means that if you do get press, it will be a much more diluted version than what you want out there.
I’ve seen startups who finally got published after trying for months. They were hell-bent on getting published as their way to crack into the market, but didn’t have a clear story and specific wordage ready to go. The message of their coverage got totally botched and was far from the results they had anticipated.
Make sure you have a concise and reliable story so that any press your company gets blatantly shows who you are and what you’re doing.
In a publisher’s eyes, your brand needs to embody consistency, credibility, and simplicity. These characteristics are in addition to having a memorable, relevant, and storybound description of your company. The best way to do all of that is to prepare.
Do your marketing communications work on your core messaging and research your target publications, editors, past articles, and audience.
The latter of these can be done easily by hopping on their social platforms to see the type of people who are commenting and responding to their posts.
Yet another reason to be organized, clear, and concise: The publishing industry moves extremely fast. You have to keep up and feed them as much of your messaging as you can so it doesn’t get lost in the noise.
The upside is if your message is communicated clearly to the press, it will be that much clearer when they pass it on to their readership.
You should be mindful, however, that they’ll never, ever, ever write something promotional-sounding. That point above about feeding them your messaging? That happens through the factual descriptors about what your company does, and the stories you create around how what you’re doing will make a difference in people’s lives.
Every publication has an identifiable readership, but within that audience, each editor has their own following based on their coverage area knowledge. You need to know who this very specific set of readers is in order to make their go-to editor want to publish you. Research what topics they write about, what their opinions are, what’s important to them, and what their tone of voice is like.
Use this data to make an editor believe in what you’re doing and why they should share it with their readership.
There are three main paths you can take to get media coverage for your company. The first is using a PR agency, but you have to be willing to spend some serious cash. The second is reaching out to an editor, but that requires doing your research.The third is becoming a contributing writer, but you have to be able to appeal to readers in a non-pitchy way. There are also a ton of non-traditional methods to getting published if those aren’t working. No matter which you pursue, you’ll need to understand the dynamics of niche readerships, have your messaging nailed down solidly, and understand the workings of the publishing industry.
Also shared on Medium.