The Classy Way To Get Media Coverage For Your Startup

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The Classy Way To Get Media Coverage For Your Startup


The following is a guest blog post by Nicholas Holmes. Nicholas is the co-founder of MediaGraph, a public relations platform that enables small businesses to manage their own media outreach. He was formerly a journalist and an Accenture management consultant.

In my previous career as a journalist, I received hundreds of story pitches with press releases attached every day. Like so many other well-meaning journos, I'd make a valiant attempt to at least skim the first two lines of every one in a vain attempt to maintain some sort of equilibrium between the read and the hat

In those two lines, I (and almost all the journalists I know) made a rapid judgement on the newsworthiness of content, never spending enough time thinking about what a story could become, rather than what it was. In short, if your piece of news wasn’t 100 percent right, it would rarely get the time of day.

Savvy PR practitioners know this. The best will be in contact all the time (or at least well before they have a news story to pitch) in an attempt to figure out how to maximize the chances of something being picked up. It’s a wonder there aren’t more of them. Sadly there aren’t and 80 - 90 percent of pitches I received followed the tired format of "Hi X, Company Y is launching a product next week and we thought it would be of interest to publication Z."

So here's an idea to try when getting media coverage for your startup - don't start by pitching the product. Start by pitching nothing.

Clearly showing that you understand that a journalist doesn't just exist to publicize you is one of the fastest routes to his or her heart. It’s literally the difference between drunkenly hitting on someone in a club and taking him/her on multiple dates to the restaurant you can’t afford. Hell, you'd be unlikely to start a sales pitch without knowing your customer, or begin discussions with an investor without finding out exactly what they were interested in -- so why treat the media differently?

The closest relationships journalists build are with people who can provide long-term value to them by offering something that isn't just self-promotion. Conversely, these tend to be the names you see cropping up again and again in the media.

So instead of a product pitch, why not offer something else if you’re trying to use the media to get the word out about your startup? The following list should get you started:


Having a network of people to offer opinion and analysis is critical for most journalists and it's a great way of getting your name out there, even when you don't have any news. So make sure your media contacts know who you are and what you're qualified to talk about by introducing yourself with a short biography and an offer to help.


Most journalism is about distilling complex topics into chunks that people understand, which means journalists need to be knowledgable about a lot, and always stay up-to-date. If you're an expert, or have access to experts, you can offer to spend some time highlighting trends or recent developments in your area to help journalists do their job better.


Perhaps it's a cliche, but one of the best ways to curry favor is to open doors. Does your business have an investor, a board member or a founder who's in demand? Offering an introduction to the right person can help ensure that you're remembered for the right reasons, and it doesn’t have to be just a cynical gesture. Connect two people who will benefit from knowing each other and you’ve done them both a good turn.


Many companies I've come across sit on piles of newsworthy data they've never considered using. It could be information interesting to everybody or just to a niche audience, but take a look at some other examples of companies doing this and see if you might do something similar. Are you collecting data you can aggregate about your users that will be of interest to a consumer publication, such as their top tracks, movies or TV shows? Do you have access to collated information on Twitter that a journalist could use to prove a point? Or does your business measure something nobody else does?

Insights into the business

TechCrunch ran a surprisingly popular series ( some years back which took a look around startup offices in the style of MTV Cribs -- a perhaps extreme example of how day-to-day business operations can be interesting. Think about whether your organization does anything particularly noteworthy operationally which could give a journalist some inspiration. Are there unique management styles or internal practices?


Too simple? Never! If you can meet conveniently, meeting a journalist face to face is the best way to make sure that you'll be remembered as more than just an email address. It also signals that you’re willing to invest serious time on getting to know this person, which will be appreciated - and who knows where you’ll both end up in the future?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Tue, Oct 30, 2012


Interesting... some time ago I got an interview with a prominent biz publication. Never having done PR work before, I eagerly went into the discussion assuming the journalist would want to establish a relationship, and that it was entirely my responsibility to craft something interesting to say, hopefully with an unfolding "story line" that could be updated across multiple articles over time. 
The journalist told me he just wanted to do the interview and that would be it. Since he said this before our interview, I assume he wasn't just saying that to tell me "you're boring; please don't call me again", since he didn't yet know anything about me or my company. 
I was actually disappointed. I thought it would be cool to help a journalist write something meaningful and interesting to the reading public. Instead it was transactional and left no opportunity to develop a relationship. 
(OK - if you must, feel free to tell me I just wasn't interesting enough to him and I was lucky to get an interview at all!)  
I wonder what I did wrong...

posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 9:46 AM by Peter Alberti

I am concentrating on trying to develop this business, and on Start Ups is providing great insights.

posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 9:46 AM by Richard Viers

Great article and is, perhaps not surprisingly, the same approach advocated to prospecting and successful sales. Don't pitch to start. Rather, see what's important to your prospect and build a relationship.

posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 9:56 AM by arjun moorthy

In answer to "What did I do wrong?" 
The answer is "nothing." 
People have a variety of work styles and personalities, and the 
secret to productivity is to not take it personally. Mirror your new contacts needs to make sure you understand where they are coming from, and then integrate your own working style into the equation.

posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:22 AM by Melody Penney

It's amazing how often the 80-20 rule applies. 80-90% lose the reader in the first few words. Thank you.

posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:28 AM by Rick Roberge

Just what I needed. 
Thank you so much :)

posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 1:34 PM by Dhaval Desai

Interesting post. Its really essential to catch the attention before asking for a favor. 

posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 4:53 AM by Pradeep

I assume its adequate to use some of your ideas!!

posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 6:10 AM by OrSeep

Good points there Nicholas. Reminds me of Peter Shankman's book "Can we do that?" which is some of the best advice I have had on getting coverage, even though it's better suited to consumer companies. 
An interesting angle to bring out would be how to get coverage in US and Europe sitting in a faraway land like India. I understand connecting journalists to sources and chipping it with your expertise over email helps, but nothing can beat the impact you can have with even a 5-min face-to-face conversation. Any others pointers you can add there? There are a lot of tech startups in India that are doing some kickass stuff and serving the US and European markets primarily, and they could benefit a lot from the right exposure.

posted on Friday, November 02, 2012 at 3:15 AM by Sanket Nadhani

Great article Nicholas. I do a lot of PR type stuff with my blog and agree that it is so important to make a lasting impression on another person by standing out a bit. Meeting in person (for coffee or lunch) -- even drinks -- has been a huge key to helping network, meet the right people, and build the relationship so I can get the press I'm looking for. Awesome tips! - Pete

posted on Saturday, November 03, 2012 at 1:52 AM by Pete Sveen

Very Interesting Thoughts

posted on Friday, November 16, 2012 at 5:38 PM by Online Training

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