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You’ve Created Your Startup: Now, Generate Some Press

By Chris Birk



You’ve created your new business. You know it’s great. You know it can succeed. Now, you just want others to know. How can you get the word out about your new venture? With so much clogging the media pipeline, how can you find your piece of the market through the press? It can seem daunting and overwhelming, but here are a few tips to help you along the way.


How useful are press releases in this day and age?

Press releases and product/service mentions in publications can still prove beneficial, but they’re not as effective as they once were. These can, however, be great avenues for bolstering a company’s online reputation. Flooding search engines with positive information can help push down bad reviews or press coverage, but in terms of getting significant media coverage, merely generating and sending out a press release is increasingly becoming a Hail Mary technique.



 The best way to take advantage of news releases is to foster relationships with journalists and online influencers. Sign up for Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a great service that connects journalists seeking sources with entrepreneurs seeking coverage.

What’s the best way to network for press contacts?

Social media is a great tool when it comes to cultivating media relationships. Following and interacting with reporters and influencers on Twitter and Facebook is crucial. Do the same when it comes to their content – leave engaging comments and provide insight on their blog posts or articles. Suggest sources for future stories. Conferences can also help you connect with industry influencers, bloggers and others in your space. Remember, though, that there’s no replacement for face-to-face contact!


How can you make your startup appear more promising than others?

One of many old journalism clichés is “News is new.” Any novel or otherwise extraordinary element of your business, its founders, its employees, its product or its perceived customer base represent a potential opening for you. Entrepreneurs who have overcome significant obstacles (not that most haven’t), or who have interesting personal backgrounds, can also engage content creators and media influences with their newness. Embrace storytelling and showcase how your product or service impacts real people. You can also launch a tech startup – that’s pretty much a guarantee for coverage.



Are out-of-the-ordinary techniques worth it?

There are some old-school techniques that may still find some traction, like playing around with your pricing structure. But think about Panera Bread’s nonprofit bakery-cafés and their pay-what-you-want approach: It’s increasingly less out-of-the-box in the current media environment. Try carving out a role for yourself and your company as a true expert. This will pay long-term dividends.


Another good technique is to send handwritten thank-you notes or small gifts to journalists who write about your company or simply cover your industry. One thing to avoid, at all costs, is taking a blanket approach. Don’t shotgun the same press release to all 500 contacts in your email list; if you’re not investing effort in achieving media coverage, why should the media invest in you? Take time to develop individual relationships.


This advice can ease your stress and your path to building a relationship with the press. The keys to any relationship are communication, honesty and personal attention. Let the person who can cover your startup know that you appreciate him, not just his work. If you want a journalist to take the time to help you, take the time to show your appreciation!



Chris Birk is a former journalist and director of content and communications for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated VA lender. Follow him on Google+.


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