As a startup, it’s difficult to get picked up by the media in a meaningful way. Why is that? Well, even you’re a tech genius or business prodigy who loves pitching to investors, pitching to the media is a whole different ballgame. All too often, startups fall prey to misunderstandings about how the media landscape functions, how to approach the people behind it, and why you should approach them at all.
For Olivia Czetwertynski, the International Communications Consultant behind tech PR & communications consulting firm BecomeWide, this is an issue that needs to be solved, for the sake of both journalists and startup founders. She walked us through the 3 key problems startups run into with their PR, the alternatives routes they can take, and what they need if they’re game enough to take on PR for real.
The INDUSTRY is tough.
It’s not often that you meet a founder who appreciates just how warped the media industry is today. PR agencies significantly outnumber journalists. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, there are over four public relations professionals for every one journalist in the U.S. As an entrepreneur, you’re faced with the challenge of getting your story told by a decreasing supply of writers.
The ATTITUDE is wrong.
Sure, founders have a lot on their plate. It makes sense that PR isn’t really their top priority, so the less time it takes, the better. After all, if your product is the game-changer you say it is, it’s the journalists duty to let the public know about it. But remember, journalists are outnumbered, which means they’re pretty overworked themselves. Many receive over 300 emails each day and are subject to incredible time pressure. If you send them a templated email without taking the time to get to know their writing, engaging with them on social media, or even addressing them personally, why should they take the time to write about your product?
The STRATEGY is lacking.
Entrepreneurs often lack clear goals for their PR efforts, and struggle to explain where, or why they want to be featured in the media. However, PR needs a strategy that’s SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related, just like any other aspect of your business. And, PR needs to work with your other business processes. You could just leave it all up to a PR pro to get your founder a front-page feature. But if your landing page is confusing, or if your target market doesn’t read the publication you’re featured in, your PR efforts could have no impact on your sales whatsoever.
The ALTERNATIVE? Don’t do PR (yet).
Startups with their first successes under their belt usually start to think about starting a PR initiative. But how do you know when you’re really ready? To answer this question, we need to consider where a startup lies on the Technology Adoption Curve.
Graphic courtesy of BecomeWide
A lot of startups that consider themselves to have arrived at the early majority phase, feel like they’re ready for PR. True, this is a good time to start! The problem is that most startups who think they’re at the early majority stage, are actually still in the innovators or early adopters stage. At this point, startups shouldn’t do PR just yet. Instead, young startups should focus on creating the foundations of a bright future in PR, by getting their brand out there via other channels. An informative blog written with your ideal user in mind, an engaging and entertaining social media presence, killer launch events and a website filled with great testimonials will all help establish your brand and story. After this, you’re ready to take the first small steps in PR, by reaching out to get featured in blogs specifically relevant to your product and market. Once your startup has truly hit the early majority stage, you’re ready for bigger media attention and fully-fledged PR campaigns.
The SOLUTION: Get the experience you need to do PR right.
At BecomeWide, we stand behind the idea that founders need experience interacting with journalists. Pitching to the media is a unique skill requiring targeting training, and that’s why we developed MEETaMEDIA, a space where we can discover together what startup stories make great material for journalists. An interactive workshop in speed dating format, MEETaMEDIA allows startups to speak to several journalists and improve their pitch during a single 30 minute session.
This allows founders to get to know journalists, what their work is like, how their interests differ, and their role in the media industry. Founders are also able to learn from their mistakes, rather than making the same ones over and over, as journalists give constructive feedback immediately after their pitch. With a better understanding of the digital media landscape, founders are better able to see how a targeted PR strategy could weave into their overall business goals.
For journalists, the benefits are clear too – finally, an opportunity to tell startups what you really think of their pitches, explain how they can make your job easier and learn how you can produce better stories together.
Olivia is hosting a MEETaMEDIA workshop and coaching session at our upcoming BETAPITCH Global & Investors Day, and Berlin’s leading journalists in tech media will be joining her to put participants to the test!
Founders ready to take on her crash course in startup PR should sign up for Investors Day here. Journalists are of course welcome to join too! Interested writers should contact Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org to participate.
This is the fifth iteration of this format – MEETaMEDIA went to Brussels for Startups.be & betacowork, Madrid for Business France and for Google Campus at TechHub, and during the Berlin local round of Betapitch in April this year. You can read more about previous Meet-a-Media sessions here.