How to Secure Coverage for Your Startup Client

"I can't believe no one wrote about this. *refreshes Google News*" (Thinkstock Photos)
“I can’t believe no one wrote about this. *refreshes Google News*” (Thinkstock Photos)

These days, the world of business-to-business (B2B) tech is saturated with new companies on a daily basis – meaning that media coverage is no longer guaranteed for every funding round, partnership announcement or executive Q&A. But if you follow these guidelines, your chances are bound to improve:

  • Pin down positioning. In B2B tech PR, it can be difficult to secure your startup client coverage when there’s no hard news or innovative, disruptive, world-changing product announcement, so that’s where positioning comes in. A relatively new startup has to have some sort of quantitative or qualitative edge. When positioning them in the media, it proves more fruitful to discuss the hard facts about what the company is doing rather than trying to convince reporters your client is an innovative disruptor. Empty buzzwords will make their eyes will glaze over (and shift their attention to a startup another PR agency is pitching).
  • Manage client expectations. This is an important one. Managing your client’s expectations is key when trying to secure them coverage. Building a relationship with media takes time, but unsurprisingly your client will want tier-one business press coverage now…and again next month. Assure them that when getting their feet wet in the fickle world of tech reporting, going for trade publications first can be an effective way to reach a target audience. That way, when working your way up to higher tier, more coveted coverage there will be examples to share with reporters and show that your client has established itself in the media.
  • Jump on trends. Asserting your client into the conversation and positioning them as a thought leader on their subject matter is another good way to ensure they get coverage. Stay up to date on what’s happening in key industries by following the right influencers on Twitter and bookmarking the appropriate target publications. Newsletter services like HARO and ProfNet that connect reporters with potential sources are also effective ways to keep up with and comment on trends. Browsing every HARO and ProfNet posting and acting quickly to pitch relevant opportunities have produced effective, quick and easy wins on many occasions.
  • Use your connections. Don’t have any? Make them! One thing that we may all forget sometimes is that it’s not the outlets that write stories – it’s individual writers that do. Get to know the reporters you target for stories on social media, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or personal blogs. By connecting and interacting with them it makes it that much more likely they’ll open your email pitch if they recognize your client’s name or yours. In other words, be a good PR person and do some research (but be cool about it – see next point).
  • Don’t be a pest. As we’ve discussed in a recent blog post on PR myths, there is a right way and a wrong way to pitch and follow up with reporters you are trying to get to cover your client. Although the format of a pitch, length, style, etc. are all subjective and depend on the pitcher and pitched, one thing is for sure and it’s that reporters do NOT enjoy bothersome “call-downs.” Sure, a quick call after an email may be a very efficient way of getting a reporter’s attention, but just use your best judgment and don’t risk having all your future pitches flagged immediately as spam. Similarly, don’t spam or stalk reporters too rigorously on social media – striking a balance is key.

So, what do you think? If you have comments, concerns or questions about PR for your own startup, feel free to drop me a line.

Pitching Shades of Grey

The phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey is sweeping the nation – nay, the world. We’ll admit it…we’re not immune to the buzz. We love buzz! Buzz is what we do. So buckle up, strap in and come up with a third innuendo for this sentence, because we’re sharing the five things Christian Grey taught us about media relations.

1. Be clear and keep a cool head.

greyspam.tumblr.com
greyspam.tumblr.com

When pitching, be clear about the story, and provide all the top line information right off the bat. Also, don’t get overly excited when a reporter expresses interest – it could scare off your target, and the opportunity could finish prematurely.

2. Subject headings are vital. 

imyours90.tumblr.com
imyours90.tumblr.com

In the book, Ana and Christian talk a lot via e-mail and their phones (enterprise mobile collaboration, or sexting?). They keep those subject headings interesting. That’s something to keep in mind when pitching a reporter who’s already sifting through hundreds of emails with stale subject headings.

Also, cool it with the ellipses, guys. Don’t start a sentence in the subject field and finish in the body – the body of the e-mail! Get your minds out of the gutter.

3. Mutual satisfaction. (What’s in it for them?)

foreversours.tumblr.com
foreversours.tumblr.com

Sure your client gets coverage, but what’s in it for the writer? Pitch a story that will lend itself to the larger scope of your media target’s work. That way, both parties come away satisfied.

4. Do your research. 

zoesaldans.tumblr.com
zoesaldans.tumblr.com

As the head of a giant corporation – or whatever the heck his job is – Christian needs to always be in the know. He takes it a bit far when he finds out Ana’s email address, place of work and life history without permission – but hey, the guy’s got balls – and not the kind your thinking of.

This should go without saying, but you must research your targets before pitching. Understand their coverage areas, and read as much of their material as you can. Reporters can smell a cookie cutter pitch from a mile away.

5. Tie up loose ends. 

havecoloursinyourlife.tumblr.com
havecoloursinyourlife.tumblr.com

We know it’s a bit obvious, but humor us – you’re still reading this thing after all. What we’re talking about here is closing the loop. Always follow up to thank the reporter and provide any additional materials – but don’t go overboard. One email is usually plenty.

Whether you choose to see the movie, or lie and say you didn’t, we won’t judge you. You can just tell everyone you were doing research on pitching!

Wait! What? 12/19: PR and pitching worst practices (and the dawn of Connected Christmas)

Nothing says holiday magic like smartphones, emails and hashtags. (Thinkstock)
Nothing says holiday magic like smartphones, emails and hashtags. (Thinkstock)

It’s Friday night? Time for a little bit of tech and PR news:

  • This holiday season, will Internet-connected toys teach kids to accept Big Brother in their lives? Startups can only hope.
  • In other jolly news, the Snapchat CEO thinks Facebook could be the next Yahoo. Which is apparently one of the worst insults in this wicked world of tech.
  • Some brands had to learn the hard way this year through ultimate PR fails. Our favorite is that terrifying thing McDonald’s invented.
  • And in the spirit of avoiding fails, PRNewser wisely advised against “dragnet pitching” for CES 2015. Because that reporter who reviews kitchen appliances really does not need to hear about your client’s brilliant dating app. A tough lesson, but one that will help us all in the long run… #Hope #Change
  • Last but not least: This was the year everyone realized storytelling is important. Now it can become an overhyped buzzword to distance ourselves from in 2015, even though it’s one of our main (and most successful) platforms.

Thus concludes our “Wait! What?” news roundup series for 2014. We’ll be sure to catch you next year with bigger, badder, actually quite similar recaps!

1,000,001 Opportunities: Every Story Is a Tech Story

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

If every company is a technology company and every business will be digital, does that mean that every story could be a “technology” story? Nilay Patel at The Verge certainly thinks so. And as Ricardo Bilton at Digiday explains, there are very interesting shifts taking place in the technology publishing world.

Stepping back, the bold claims about every company and business come from the experts over at Gartner. At their last two symposiums, the Gartner team have painstakingly detailed how technology should now be a key part of every company’s DNA. And it’s hard to argue against that as technology continues to transform the way we live.

If technology is now either part of, or soon to be part of, absolutely everything, then wrapping a neat bow around “technology stories” and placing them in an individual “technology section” could be an increasingly futile exercise for publishers. Sure, there still needs to be coverage of the actual technologies themselves (the speeds, the feeds and all the stuff geeks like us love), but more and more, the bigger and more impactful stories about what technology can actually do live within areas that you might not initially expect. Unless of course you already have Vanity Fair, Backchannel and Refinery29 on your list of targets for enterprise tech stories.

From a technology storytelling standpoint, this is kind of cool. It challenges us to rethink how we tell stories so that they can be understood by people who don’t understand, or don’t really want to understand, how technology actually works – and these simple, digestible stories often resonate the best with readers. With major technology publishers continuing to face tough times, taking a broader approach that focuses on the human and cultural aspects of technology opens up many more opportunities for hacks and flacks.

To mix things up further on the PR side, the way we actually tell said stories also needs new forms of content. A recent study of 500 top publishers by Frac.tl. showed the challenge of being heard, with writers at sites like nytimes.com, TheGuardian.com and CNN.com saying they receive about 26,000 emails a year from people trying to get press coverage. The study was also another PR blow for the press release, with only 7 percent of digital publishers asking for more. By contrast, the most requested items were articles (19 percent), infographics (12 percent) and mix-media pieces (13 percent). And forget stalking people down on the phone (only 5 percent want you to call) and those lengthy pitches – 45 percent of writers want them to be fewer than 100 words. Or to put it another way, you have fewer words than I used in the last four sentences to get your story across.

So opportunities abound, but they are not on a silver plate and they do require a rethink. Which is exactly what we are doing everyday at Blanc & Otus. It’s fun. It keeps things different. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.