By: Jennifer L. Jacobson, founder of Jacobson Communication
Wondering why your startup is being ignored by the press? It may be a for a good reason.
In an effort to help you get the most out of your communication efforts, I’ve outlined five common PR mistakes that startups often make. Keep this list of don’ts in mind, and make sure your company avoids them as you make your journey into the wilds of PR.
Your press release is boring
It’s bad enough that your press release is boring, but inflating it with “marketing-speak” only makes it worse.
Instead, think about what’s really new and wroth telling people about. Get specific. Focus on exactly how your news will help your target market or what it means for the industry. Present the facts, provide metrics or relevant insight.
Think about what will make your story something that reporters and their audiences will actually want to know about, and throw your marketing-speak out the window. Reserve words like “groundbreaking” or “amazing” for products that are truly doing amazing things like saving lives or solving significant global issues.
You only use press releases
News flash: In all my years, a reporter has never contacted me solely because they saw a startup’s press release on a wire-service. Never.
Now, I’ve had lots of reporters contact me about press releases I have personally sent them, and I’ve pitched stories that have lead to thousands of pickups in the media, but never has the press release done all the work.
Why won’t a reporter read the wire-services, find your story, and call you?
Because you’re not Apple. You're not Facebook (at least not yet), and the world doesn’t yet rely on you. Heck, they probably don’t even know you exist yet.
The main reason you should use a wire-service to syndicate your press release is because it’s a great way to say, “At this time and on this day, our company did something significant.” It holds you accountable. It gives you a history. But whatever you do, don’t expect a press release to do all the work.
You can’t take no for an answer
When you contact a reporter and they decline to write about your story, it’s not the end of the world. Get out of the “Goonies never say die” mentality and get on with the work of promoting your startup. There are other reporters who (if you have a good story) will be interested, so start looking for them.
Repeatedly asking a reporter to write about the same story over and over is a good way to make an enemy, and it practically guarantees they will ignore every pitch you send in the future.
Instead, try to understand why specific reporters say no. Take notes. Keep a spreadsheet if you must (and you should). Know who covers what and when to contact them about something they’ll actually write about.
You don’t do your homework
I’ve heard too many “new” startup entrepreneurs claim that their startup is the “only” one in it’s space, or the “only” one doing X, Y, and Z, but it’s usually not true.
Making such claims to reporters whose job it is to know these things is just plain foolish.
Take a cold shower, do some research, and look for companies or products similar to yours. You should at least be able to say that your company is “like XYZ, but different in that you’re doing X, Y, and Z differently.”
If you still think your company is one-of-a-kind, you’d better get a second or third opinion to validate the claim, and they’d better be from industry analysts.
Your launch date is hard limit
It’s great to have a launch date in mind, but there are some very good reasons that you should add some wiggle room to your all-important launch date.
Remember, the launch date is not as important as your story getting attention from the media. Timing is everything.
Here are some of the reasons you may need to change your launch date:
- Apple makes a surprise announcement. On days when Apple (or any uber-popular company) has news, practically every reporter will have something to say about it, even reporters who don’t typically cover tech will find a way to talk about it. Don’t even try to run your story until at least a day after the swell has subsided.
- There is an unexpected disaster or anything that requires 24/7 news coverage. I’ve had to move launch dates (and hold them for a week or more) for this reason. The last thing you want to do is launch your unrelated story in the wake of a tragic event or historic ruling. Give the world time to adjust before moving ahead with your story.
- Your CEO or key company contact won’t be available. From babies being born to mergers and acquisitions, things happen and you need to be ready. Make sure that someone who can talk about the story with reporters will be available the day (and week) that you launch your story. If you need to, have two people ready, just in case.
Conclusion: the answers are out there
If you’ve read this article, if you’re doing everything right, and you’re still not getting the attention you deserve from the press, it may be time to get professional help. There are a number of PR professionals (in-house and external), firms, boutique agencies, and advisors out there to help and they range greatly in price, specialties, and engagement level.
So start asking questions. Reach out to your network and find out who or what will be a good fit for you. Remember there’s no one right way to do it, but if you learn what to avoid, you’ll save yourself a lot of headache, and possibly your companies’ reputation.
Jennifer L. Jacobson is the founder of Jacobson Communication and a Silicon Valley leader known for helping great companies, organizations, and ideas get the attention they deserve. She is also a social media expert and writer best known for her book, 42 Rules of Social Media for Small Business.
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