Thursday, March 10, 2011

Public Relations For Startups

I've learned that getting new customers is hard work! In an effort to learn how to better promote Captain Recuiter, last night I attended an event hosted by Girls in Tech about public relations for startups. The information shared by the panel was so damn good, I felt compelled to write it all down.

Here's my best effort to share what I picked up:
  • If you want press coverage, approach reporters directly, don't waste your time with editors. Reporters are always on the hunt for a good story and are quite approachable.

  • Cold calling and directly pitching your story to a reporter who doesn't know you is hard. You goal should be to earn a reporter's trust over time.

  • Establish credibility at the beginning of a pitch.

    "I've been a rocket scientist for 10 years and my rockets have launched 87 people into space. I'd like to tell you about my new solar powered rocket..."

  • All reporters have an agenda. Ask each reporter what his or her agenda is. If your story doesn't fit into a reporter's agenda, you won't get covered. You can also ask if they know which reporter might be appropriate for your story.

  • Feeding relevant content to a reporter is an excellent way to cultivate relationships. To find out what a reporter is looking for, stalk them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and anywhere they have a presence. Actively monitor a reporter's communication, and help out when you can. Sooner or later, you'll be able to sneak in your own content.

  • Megan Pittsley, a career coach and friend of mine, has gotten press coverage using PitchRate and Help A Reporter Out. She was able to get a segment about resume writing on NBC!

  • Local coverage needs a local angle. If you're in San Francisco, pitch something about your product in San Francisco.

  • If telling your story involves being on camera, help the reporter understand that your story has visuals. For example, a television news segment on Captain Recruiter helping the unemployed might want to have "action" shots of recruiters in the office and show a B-roll of people standing in an unemployment line.

  • A story needs to be relevant to you. Don't be afraid to walk away from an opportunity to get press coverage if the story doesn't promote your agenda.

  • Reporters hate crazy pitches. Come up with a story that pitches itself.

  • A story with a genuine personal origin is always good material. Talk about how you struggled with something, saw that others had the same problem, and describe the path you took to bring your product or service to market.

  • Gavin Newsom, former Mayor of San Francisco and the current Lt. Governor of California, was in attendance. He said every pitch needs audacity and veracity (i.e. be bold and tell the truth). He also recommended you shouldn't aim to be the best of the best, but rather be the only one who does what you do.

  • The purpose of public relations is to acquire more customers, drive more revenue, or promote your brand.

  • A good pitch can be explained to a 5 year old.

  • Be authentic. Telling candid stories about the core of who you are is the strongest way to connect with your target audience.

  • Always work on being succinct. Say more with less.

  • You should be able to pitch your product in 30 seconds. Don't get discouraged if you can't explain what you do in 30 seconds. Just work to refine the product pitch to 30 seconds.

  • Actively comment on blogs with content relevant to your product.

  • Scott McGrew, a reporter for NBC, recommends the book Rules For Radicals.

  • Reporters work on deadlines. If a reporter gives you an opportunity to tell a story, be prepared to spring into action. If you hesitate for a moment, they'll find another source. This is one reason a 30 second pitch is ideal :)

  • Talk to your customers and find their most powerful stories. Andrew Sinkov, the Vice President of Marketing for the Evernote, had a great story. Evernote, which helps you remember things, had a customer who had little-to-no short term memory. They captured the story about how the customer used Evernote to log and recall recent events, built a case study around it, and then got Psychology Today to publish the story.

  • Leverage unexpected opportunities to get media attention, like when you get a cease and desist letter from the National Pork Board for selling canned unicorn meat as the new white meat.

  • Tim Ferris, author of the Four Hour Body, was in attendance. He suggested people read The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing.

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