The goal of this series is to teach you how to do the same, and in order to do so we are going to reverse-engineer what I did. This comes from my experience as a writer for VentureBeat.com, as a founder of multiple startups, and as a founder of the startup PR firm Brownstein & Egusa. Part one of the series is here.
In part one, we discussed why PR is important. In part two, we discuss the PR process and how to increase your chances of press by 500%.
Deconstructing The PR Process
To start, it is important for entrepreneurs to understand that particularly with new media, the news cycle is all about speed. Publications large and small compete with one another for the opportunity to break new and meaningful stories. No publication wants to come in second place.
As an example of this, last year when one of my companies was featured on TechCrunch, I emailed TheNextWeb an hour later to see if they would like to cover the story. The journalist emailed saying that she would have written about our launch, however TechCrunch had already covered the story and thus, she was no longer interested.
To combat an incident such as this occurring, entrepreneurs use something called an embargo.
In basic terms, an entrepreneur will reach out to a certain number of publications and will say, “Are you interested in this story? If so, you have to agree that this cannot be published before, as an example, Wednesday at 12PM.”
This is the embargo, the statement that no publication can publish the story before a set date. In this example, ideally at 12PM on Wednesday, a certain number of publications will all publish the article at the same time, and no individual publication will break the story. The entrepreneur in this case would benefit, as multiple publications will cover the story.
Remember This Approach
The problem with the above embargo method, is that if you are a TechCrunch journalist receiving hundreds of emails a day and selecting 1% of these to cover, there is very little, if any, incentive to agree to an embargo from an early-stage entrepreneur.
Please keep in mind that if your name is Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, a journalist will be more than happy to agree to an embargo. However, for the earlier-stage entrepreneurs who do not yet have this industry reputation, there is a better approach.
The strategy I recommend is that an entrepreneur offer an exclusive to a top publication. For the technology industry, these top tech publications include TechCrunch, Mashable, VentureBeat, and a handful of others.
An exclusive means that the journalist will have first right to publish the article. After the article is published, the entrepreneur can wait a short period of time before contacting other publications.
The Benefits Of This Approach
The benefits of the approach are the following:
- First, for the largest publications, with this method you greatly improve your chances for press coverage if you offer an exclusive. As you go through the PR process, you should remember that if your startup is featured on one of the largest tech publications, your company will have much to gain (new traffic, benefits from SEO, social proof, etc.)
- Second, even if you are featured on one publication, this by no ways means you cannot also be featured on another publication. It is common practice for publications to take stories from one another.
- Third, being covered on a top tech publication opens many doors into the mainstream news. I am often asked by entrepreneurs how they can be featured on The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other large media platforms. In general, these traditional media channels rarely accept new story leads from startups (there are exceptions to this, for example The Guardian in the UK). Instead, journalists from traditional media look to early-adopter publications such as TechCrunch for story ideas. If a journalist finds one of these stories interesting, they will then reach out to the founding team.
The above approach of offering an exclusive is so effective because if you approach PR in this manner, looking to be featured on a top publication every 8-12 weeks depending on when your company has an announcement, and then furthering coverage through smaller blogs, you will not be in the top 10% of startups receiving press coverage, you will be in the top 1%.
To recap from this second article, a key to optimizing your chances of PR for top publications is to offer exclusive announcements to journalists.
For Part #3 in our series, we will be outlining how to write your company’s press release. I hope you stay tuned for the following articles. Please feel free to comment if there are any questions I can answer.
Conrad Egusa is a partner at the startup PR firm Brownstein & Egusa and is the Co-Founder of Espacio, which is a co-working space and entrepreneurial center located in the heart of Medellín, Colombia. He is currently a mentor at The Founder Institute and he was formerly a writer at VentureBeat. Conrad offers free PR consultations here, and he can be reached at conrad(at)brownsteinegusa.com.