How to Get Media Coverage for Your Startup Business

Iris Gonzalez interviews a person for quotes to add to a developing story. Courtesy Marcus Macias Photos..jpg

Iris Gonzalez is founder and publisher of Startups San Antonio, a digital media company reporting on San Antonio’s innovative startup community. She shares tips for founders looking for media coverage.

New business owners usually want media coverage, and for good reasons. Articles or television coverage can help attract new customers, alert potential investors, establish you as an industry leader, recruit talent for your startup, even spur follow-on coverage from other news outlets.

As a boot-strapping founder, you don’t have the resources to spend on a public relations firm. So how can you gain the media’s attention? What makes a reporter want to write your story? How should you prepare for your first interview?

You can do this yourself, promise—here’s how:

What Attracts Media Interest?

First things first: Understand what is newsworthy.

Time-sensitive developments are newsworthy for an important company or organization. An announcement of a leadership change or a company acquisition, for example, will attract media attention. If your startup offers something new and different, it could be newsworthy when you launch, but be prepared to show how and why.

An idea is not newsworthy—however, successful execution or adoption of that idea can be a great story.

Claiming your company is the best in your industry does not make it a news story if you have no data to prove it. There should be a significant event as the focus of a story (and hopefully its good news or you’ll need a crisis communications team instead).

Please do not take it personally if news outlets do not show interest in your pitch, as reporters get many requests and breaking news often dictates the news of the day. If a journalist is interested in doing a non-deadline sensitive company profile, that story could run on a slow news day—which is better for your company, so it doesn’t get buried.

How to Attract Media Coverage?

Would you take your odd skin rash to your dentist to diagnose? Of course not. Target your pitch after researching which media outlets cover your industry. Each one has a specific approach or angle so make sure you’re pitching the right publication.

Read widely about industry competitors or peers and note which articles you enjoy the most. Follow those journalists who do a good job of covering your sector, and don’t be afraid to establish relationships with them.

Start by offering to be a helpful resource. Reporters are always looking for supporting quotes. Send a short email offering your thoughts on a breaking news story you understand well and watch for a response. Working against tight deadlines means those helpful experts who respond quickly and provide great quotes in understandable English become valuable resources in media. If you happen to have an idea for a future story about your company you can try pitching it once you have established a relationship. If the idea is not a good fit, the reporter could refer you to a colleague who might be interested.

In other words, be the person that everyone wants to interview—be helpful, knowledgeable, concise, and responsive.

Once you have a reporter’s attention, be prepared to respond quickly to requests for information, quotes, or interviews. Never take a vacation if you know your company has an important announcement, or you will miss the opportunity. You never want to read in a story about your company that “the CEO was unavailable for comment.”

Preparing for a Media Interview

A television crew and reporter is coming to your company’s headquarters. Your shoes and outfit look great, and you got a haircut. What else can you do to prepare?

Read up on the reporter and their media company. Think about what the journalist will need beyond the interview, such as photos, images, background data, supporting graphs or statistics, and names and contact information for people who can provide supporting quotes.

Approach the interview as if you were speaking to a potential investor, a lawyer, and your parents. You pitch investors with an engaging, yet pared down story about your company so “pitch” the journalist and get him or her curious enough to ask follow-up questions. Be the lawyer who uses precise language and avoids jargon when answering questions. If you use unfamiliar terms, define them, so you avoid any misunderstanding. Keep process details to a minimum and use metaphors or examples whenever possible. Finally, pretend you are explaining your company to your parents and ask the reporter if he/she understood your points. If your parents cannot understand what you do, chances are neither will a reporter or the readers of your story.

The bottom line: Always tell a good story and engage your audience. Stick to your main points and keep your answers short. Solid, memorable quotes for an article or newscast are better for delivering a powerful message. Practice delivering yours.

Oh, and remember, the journalist is reporting news, not advertising for your company, so keep your answers about what you know versus what you sell. You are a thought leader—answer accordingly.

Your work is not done once the story is published. Share it widely on your social media accounts and your company website. Ask your family and friends to share it as well. If it’s evergreen content—a story that will age well, such as a profile or company origin story—repost it repeatedly to reach new readers. It could lead to follow-on coverage from other media outlets looking to publish a slightly different version of your story from their perspective.

This interview is also an opportunity for the reporter to get to know you and suggest you as an expert for future stories. Include your offer to be available for future topics in your industry in a short thank you email, and chances are you won’t be forgotten.

Good media coverage of your business or startup has been proven to help spread brand awareness, help establish you as an authority figure in your industry, share valuable information with your audience and potential investors, and assist in your company being found by online search engines. Understand how reporters look for a good story and chances are your company can attract that valuable media coverage.

Listen to Iris Gonzalez interview on THE STARTUP CLUB Podcast Episode 3!

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