8 Ways to Get Free Press for Your StartUp

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One of the best ways to gain traction for your startup is press. Despite what you may think, getting press doesn’t have to be a time consuming or an expensive process. You don’t need a PR person when you’re only a 2 person team. You need 8 tips and to just keep swimming.

1. The Basics

“Be prepared” — Scar, The Lion King

Before you start your hunt for press, you should cover the basics. You don’t need a PR agency in order to write a basic press release or media EPK for your business but you should have them. There are plenty of online resources and templates (here, here, and here) that help you do so.

Press Release

When you release new features or something big happens with your business, you want to share it with the world. One of the best ways to do so is with press releases. Press releases are used by reporters, bloggers, etc. to help them write about a particular matter. If your company raised a new $20 million seed round or if you’ve launched a new analytics feature, you would would want people to know, right?

Your press release’s should include:

  • Engaging header.
  • Explain why it’s important and why they should care.
  • Offer quotes from founders/big players.
  • Provide company background info.
  • Provide contact information
  • Be helpful and concise.

Press/Media Kit

You want journalists to easily identify who you are as a company and what you do. Companies build press/media kits in order to provide journalists all the information they need to write about the company. You want journalists to learn about your company from you, not a third party that may provide wrong information.

Press kits often live on the companies website and should be easily accessible. They should include (but are not limited to):

  • Info about the company. Year founded? Founders? Where it was founded? How many employees?
  • What You Do and How You Do It. What sector does your company serve? Audience? Growth statistics? Products/services? What platforms?
  • Media. Company logo(make sure to include variations such as a print quality). Headshots of founders/team. Picture of office. Pictures of product/service.
  • Press Releases. Access to all your press releases.
  • Free trials. Make it easy for journalists/bloggers to try out your product. Make sure you have a way to track who signed up and is using it so you can contact them for assistance.
  • Contact info. Enough said.

2. Be Helpful

Help-a-Reporter-Out (HARO) is one of the best ways to get free media coverage. HARO provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage. Or in other words, journalists ask for sources and you provide them with knowledge on the topic.

You receive 3 newsletters a day with requests for sources. Subscribe to receive queries that are relevant to your industry. Being a founder, it is safe to assume that you have some knowledge in the field and reporters want to hear from you. Make sure to include your company info on the bottom along with your role and contact information.

Query example from HARO

3. Tell Them a Story

Creating your own content for blogs and publications to use can score you some huge press points. A lot of publications like Business Insider source content from multiple blogs and contributors. They can’t possibly staff all those writers themselves. Therefore, they’re looking like experts like you to write pieces they can promote. You can even write your content on Medium and share the link with publishers.

If you’re a true founder, you know the trends and troubles in your industry. Write content about how to solve those problems or write about what your team has learned along the way. Publications love new statistics so run some of your numbers and write about the findings, you may be surprised by the results. Tell a funny story about your founding or something in your industry.

If you don’t know about trends in your industry, try using resources likeBuzzsumo or Google Trends to find a topic to write about.

Many companies have trouble getting started with content. A good place to start for your first blog post would be: “Problem X is a huge issue, here’s how we’re solving it.”

4. Twitter

Twitter’s growth may be lagging behind, but it’s still the best platform to follow journalists and spark their interest.

Make a list of your favorite journalists in your industry. Interact with them, make yourself noticed. Send them your latest press release or strike up a conversation about their latest piece. Use the hashtag #journorequest to seek reporters looking for stories as well.

5. Say Hi

Twitter doesn’t have to be the only place you interact with journalists. Right here on Medium is a great place as well. A lot of journalists & bloggers publish in-depth pieces on here and often reply in the comments.

Always be read about your industry and taking notes of who writes about what. You may release a feature down the road that a journalist would love to write about. Engage with them in the comments of their blogs and/or publications to let them know you exist and can be helpful.

6. University Resources

If you’re a college entrepreneur, your university wants to hear about what you’re creating!

Universities want their students to build the next great thing. They also have some of the best press relations you can imagine. Presumably your school has it’s own news hub and publishes what goes on at your school. For example, Hofstra recently sent three students to the NYS Business Plan Competition Finals. If you search any three of the students, Todd Goldstein, Ron Kort or Brittany Schreiber, it will return this article within the top 5 results. The write-up from Hofstra highlights their achievements at the competition and makes them a much more credible candidate for more press, funding, etc.

7. Press Contact Sheet

Now that you’ve identified some journalists in your sector, it’s time to organize them.

Building your press contact sheet is one of the most important things you can do in managing PR. If you don’t build relationships and/or save contact info, you’ll be doing the same cycle over and over again.

The sheet doesn’t have to be complex, make a spreadsheet with fields such as:

  • Name of writer.
  • Site(s) they write for.
  • E-mail.
  • Twitter/Medium.
  • Article link (favorites & related to you).
  • Articles they have written about you specifically.
  • Referral (if you have one).
  • Sector.
  • Notes.

8. PR Stunts

This one is by far my favorite but most difficult to pull off.

Be creative and do something cool that will make reporters come to you.Some of the best PR stunts I’ve seen have are:

  • Reddit writing hand written notes to some of its first users. Users then shared their notes and brought attention to reddit’s strong community.
  • In October of 2013, Uber added a “kitten” option on the app. At the click of a button, a driver would bring an adoptable kitten to your location for 20 minutes to play with.
  • Tinder cofounder Whitney Wolfe set up meeting with sororities and fraternities at universities. She would give a presentation to the girls, get them to sign up, and then have the boys sign up. They went from 5,000 users to 15,000 in a few trips.

No matter what sector you’re in or company you create, these methods will help you gain critical press early on. Just make sure to organize the journalists you encounter and always be reading!

There are tons of benefits you can take advantage of while starting up a business in college. For more student entrepreneur tips and tricks, follow iDEAHUb on Medium & Twitter.

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