How your startup can attract more media attention

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Attracting the attention of the media is a seductive proposition for many startups.

From the outside looking in, media coverage is a way to stand out from the crowd, attract customers and revel in the glow of the spotlight. In some respects, media coverage is viewed as a cure for all ills. While this is a dramatic over-statement, there are many positives about media coverage.

The problem, however, is many other startups are scrambling for media attention as well. And they all believe their stories and products are exciting, interesting and newsworthy.

It means that getting media coverage is, frankly, an uphill battle. No matter how badly a startup wants it to happen, it can be frustratingly elusive.

So how does a startup get media coverage?

That is a complex question but there are ways to increase your chances using creativity, smarts and good, old-fashioned grunt work.

One of the most important considerations is being different or unique. If you want to capture the attention of a reporter or blogger, your story needs to somehow rise above the competition.

How to make your startup newsworthy

Leverage the power of data to create news: A classic example is Sysomos, a social media monitoring service. With a huge database about social media activity on major platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, Sysomos created a series of user-friendly “reports” that highlighted interesting trends.

One report, for example, discovered that 24 percent of tweets were created by bots. Since the report involved unique information, it was enthusiastically received by the media, particularly blogs, which love anything with headline-catching statistics.

While Sysomos had the benefits huge amounts of data, it was creative and successful in extracting it in news-friendly ways.

Another good technique is leveraging breaking news or interesting trends. It’s a way for startups to make themselves part of a bigger story, rather than trying to be the story.

A good example is Wealthsimple, a Toronto-based startup that has received a lot of media coverage for taking a new, low-cost approach to investment management. A key part of the Wealthsimple’s media strategy has been positioning itself an interesting and disruptive player within the conversation about changes in the wealth management business.

Even stories that have traction need fresh angles, so Wealthsimple has capitalized on being one of the new players in the game.

A far less sexy approach to getting media coverage is establishing relationships with reporters and bloggers. Yes, we’re talking about having a personal (aka real-world) connection with someone who writes for a newspaper, magazine or blog.

Like any business, relationships are valuable and powerful. Getting to know someone, particularly if you can meet in person, changes the dynamic of a relationship.

For startups, it means figuring out ways to get into a reporter’s universe. It could be asking them for coffee, introducing yourself at a conference, sending them insight about a breaking story, commenting on an article or blog post, or following them on social media.

This approach can be a long-term exercise that requires patience, but it gives startups the ability to “cash in their chips” if and when the opportunity presents itself.

An important part of building a strong network with reporters and bloggers is gathering intelligence about their interests and the stories they have written. Know their beats almost as well as they do. The more you can glean about a reporter or blogger, the more effective that a pitch can be delivered. Again, it’s about putting in the time and effort.

Finally, it is important to recognize that media coverage is a combination of science, art and luck. In many cases, media coverage happens because a startup has worked hard to make it happen.

Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons

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Mark Evans

Mark Evans

Mark Evans help startups and fast-growing companies tell better stories (aka marketing). His strength is delivering “foundational” strategic and tactical services, specifically core messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies and content creation. Find him via his blog
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