How to Get Traction for Your Start-Up Business

Most business owners (who aren’t in stealth mode) want to get the word out about their new ventures in order to help build credibility, and trust. Those are critical barriers to overcome when you are a new start-up without a track record. I am no different. The past few months have been busy on this end: we published a new book, launched a new training company, and launched a new start-up. And like many start-up founders, I have to think about how to get the right media coverage.

Luckily, my friend Murray Newlands’ new book landed on my desk as I was planning the launches. If you’ve just begun your business, you’re really new to what you do, and you need to make media industry contacts, you must proactively reach out to the media in order to spread the word about your company.

The standard protocol includes writing a press release and sending it to media outlets. This process will apply to TV segments, newspapers, radio shows, and magazines. Here are my takeaways from his book:

How Are You Changing the World for Someone?

How are you saving lives, solving problems that cause people to cry, making people smile? Journalists are going to ask why should my readers should care about your company? There are literally thousands of pitched stories for each one they may publish. If you can tell them immediately how it changes people’s lives and those people in question are their readers, then you will have their attention.

In the case of our start-up, that audience is business owners and entrepreneurs who want to open brick-and-mortar locations. It’s hard to be certain the location you’re committing substantial lease expenses to is the ideal spot for your business customer base. Considering that more than 90 percent of new businesses close before their first year ends, this is a huge problem we decided to solve.

Choose Media Outlets Matching Your Message

Each media outlet has its targeted audience. Find media outlets and journalists who write about the problems that your company solves or is read by those people. Business magazines such as Forbes, for instance, likely target business owners and career-driven professionals reading it, other targets would be Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, as well as trade publications like Franchise Times. In order to maximize your odds of coverage, choose media outlets matching the message of your company.

Writing a Press Release?

Press releases are considered old-school. Write a pitch that is tailored for the journalist you are targeting, not a press release. The pitch should include everything they might want: your business logo, business address, email address, and contact number. You could also include some story ideas about the story of your company, new service launch, new product launch, and a potential write-up of the story itself. Ideally write about the problem you are trying to help people with and include your company within that rather than just writing about your company. Try not to focus exclusively on your company. If you can share case studies or industry trends, that can help the journalist.

Contacting the Press

As with everything in life, who you know is often the most important factor. Ideally, you want to have great relationships in place before you need them. People are much more likely to help you if you have helped them first. If you can meet the journalist in person and ask how you can help them and then become a valuable resource to them then it is much easier than cold pitching them. You can try to send cold email pitches to journalists, but the likelihood of success is not great. Beyond meeting them in person, referrals are the best way to go. Birds of a feather flock together and journalists who cover one topic are likely to know many other writers in the same field. In my case, looking through LinkedIn, I found many people who wrote about the topic area and was able to get referrals.

What You Can Do If the Story Receives Attention (or Not)

If the story gets picked up…

If a producer/editor/journalist is interested in featuring your story, they’ll normally get back within a couple of days, typically within the day itself. Occasionally they call; however, most times they’ll just email.

  • If you are lucky they may just run with it.
  • If the pitch contains all of the needed information, they may simply ping you to ask for other information.
  • If they have a desire to make the story a feature, they’ll book an in-person interview. It might/might not involve a photographer. This is very unusual.
  • If it includes a photo shoot, you’ll be invited to the studio.
  • If it is a show, such as a TV show or radio show, they’ll schedule a suitable time/date with you and the subject they’d like you to talk about.

The feature might go up as soon as the following day, later on in the week, or a couple of weeks later, depending upon how newsworthy the story is and if they have pressing news that needs publishing in the interim.

If the story doesn’t get picked up after one week…

  • Do not chase too hard or they will never write about you.
  • Send a follow-up email again but take your time. Specify within the email that you sent the release one week ago and you’re sending it again in the instance she/he didn’t get it.
  • Attempt a different contact. There will include many producers, editors, and journalists for every media outlet. Just because a contact does not pick up the story does not mean the whole media outlet isn’t curious about it.

Sustain Good Media Relations

Following your feature, sustain contact with the producer/editor/reporter/journalist. It’s a good idea to constructively comment about articles you enjoyed. Allow her/him to know your areas of experience and interest to be interviewed/contribute to future stories.

Send a thank you note.

I have my PR plan in place for IdealSpot.com ready to go for the new year – do you have yours ready?

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