Friday Q&A: PR for Startups
Every Friday, we’re answering your questions about business, startups, customer success and more.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about earning press mentions lately, so in today’s Friday Q&A, we’re revisiting some PR advice that first appeared on the blog a couple of years ago.
(Note: the pitch list that Rodion is referring to is here, though it needs to be updated.)
While PR isn’t a strategy that we’re pursuing at the moment, it is something that we’ve done before, and it’s something that can be very useful for the right businesses.
The problem is that most people go about it completely wrong.
If your approach is to:
- Write press releases and email them to a massive list of journalists, or
- Spam writers with emails that say nothing other than “write about this”, or
- Try to get a story written about your product “because it’s awesome”,
… then you will most likely fail at getting press coverage.
Here are a few key insights that have helped us—and many businesses—get great results pitching for press coverage:
1) Journalists Are Influencers
They’re usually regular people who get a lot of email and requests for their time and attention.
That means that a relationship-building strategy based on actually building value for them will instantly set you apart from the 99% of emailers who simply ask for free advertising.
Follow this influencer outreach strategy, and create value. Give them tips on stories that have nothing to do with your business. Give them insightful feedback on their work. Make introductions to people who you know that they would value.
When it’s time to ask for a favor, you’ll be in a much better position.
2) Align Your Goals
No journalist’s goal is to write a love letter to your business, or to give you coverage.
That’s your goal.
Most journalists have goals that are very different:
- Create interesting, useful stories for their readers
- Share compelling news before anyone else does
- Drive traffic to their outlet
- Produce great work under the deadlines given to them
Think about how you can align your goals with theirs. Your business itself isn’t interesting to anyone but you.
But maybe there’s a story you can tell that also positions your business in the right light?
With that in mind…
3) Do the Work for Them
Don’t pitch your business. Pitch a story.
The story of Groove isn’t that we’re a tool that helps businesses manage their customer service messages.
The story of Groove is that most customer service software is far too bloated, clunky and expensive, and that creates a big burden on small businesses. That burden leads to long resolution times, low team morale and frustrated customers. Groove is one way to solve that problem.
The second story is a lot more interesting than the first.
Don’t Spin Your Wheels
You’ll likely create lots of different stories before one of them sticks. Don’t pitch an angle 50 times hoping that someone will bite.
Test your approach, test your messaging and keep improving.
Eventually, you’ll win. But the most important thing to know is that getting press coverage is not a transaction where you email a reporter and get a story.
It’s a long-term strategy that, if you want to succeed at, you have to commit to.
One final caveat: press coverage is NOT the sole growth strategy to pursue for most businesses. It can help you grow if the outlet’s readership aligns well with your own market, but getting covered in the press, in many cases, will do a lot more for your ego than for your business… and that’s dangerously addicting.
That’s not to say that there’s not tremendous value potential here. Businesses that have thoughtfully-crafted, effective and consistent PR strategies can achieve great results.
But the goal should always be growth. Not coverage.
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Your Turn: Ask Groove Anything
I’d love for this new weekly segment to be successful, and provide a valuable repository of answers from our entire community for entrepreneurs everywhere.
To do that, I need your help.
Here’s what you can do to get involved:
- Ask questions. Post them in the comments of this post, or Tweet them to us at @Groove.
- Answer questions. Every Friday, we’ll post a new Q&A segment. If you have anything to add or share regarding any of the questions asked, jump in! Many of you are far more qualified than I to speak on some of the topics that people ask me about.