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Will journalists care about your start-up?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011 | By Felicity Grey

If you have one worth telling, there’s no reason why a journalist won’t write a story about you.

 

Getting your story published by a journalist is one thing. First thing’s first, work out whether you have a story worth telling and what your reason is for telling it.

 

As a start-up or small business, relinquishing your story into the public domain is an important way of creating awareness about your product or service. Not to mention a more cost-effective means of achieving recognition.

 

You need to make sure you know why you’re telling your story and make sure you have the resources to back up increased enquiries and deliver on any promises.

 

If you manage to print your story and can’t keep up with increased demand, it could damage your reputation.

 

Remember, like you, journalists have a job to do. And, like you, if it’s not in their best interest to tell your story, they simply won’t.

 

Making sure your story is newsworthy, timely and interesting is your first step to helping them get their job done.

 

It’s no good phoning a journalist and chewing his or her ear off about how good you and your product are.

 

They’ve heard it all before and they’re probably on a deadline. Remember, most journalists and media outlets receive hundreds of media releases a day.

 

Work out what’s different about what you’re offering. Is it new or filling a gap in the market? Who is it benefiting? Find a “hook” for the journalist and this will help you engage with them.

 

It’s no good sending them a barrage of information to wade through. They won’t.

 

A journalist wants to know who, what, when, where and why, and if you can give them this information succinctly and on one page, you’re half way there.

 

Avoid using words to promote your product or service like “fantastic”. They don’t fly with journalists. Be honest and tell the truth. If you’re not a writer or you’re not confident, talk to a PR specialist.

 

Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes and think about what else is current in the news. Does your product or service relate to anything that’s currently newsworthy? You may be able to tie your story in with a current issue in your industry that is making headlines.

 

An example of this might be: the government has just announced water restrictions and your new product is about to be launched to help residents save water.

 

Do you wait to launch your product or do you get moving and alert some journalists to the benefits of your product?

 

Timing is everything. Don’t ring a journalist at 4pm on a Friday. You will not make new friends.

 

Work out when the particular publication is printed to give them time to research and write a story. Give them what they need and write it in such a way that appeals to their hunger for a good story.

 

Read different magazines, newspapers and websites to understand the kind of content they publish, the stories they cover and the tone and style they use.

 

Be realistic about whether your business would be a good fit for a publication – you may think your start-up is the most innovative thing since Mark Zuckerberg left Harvard, but will a journalist see any merit in it? If he or she does profile you or speak to you on a related issue, what kind of angle are they likely to take?

 

Find people to back you. Have you any happy customers or research that supports your claim? If so, use it. This saves journalists the time trying to find alternative quotes for the story.

 

Just as your customers are front of mind, a journalist caters for a certain type of readership.

 

Target your pitch to their readership not just your own customer. There should be an overlap and, if there’s not, you’re probably talking to the wrong journalist.

 

Think about what their readers want to hear about. It’s no good selling your story to the wrong group.

 

If you have a really great story you know will hit the headlines, avoid sharing with just one journalist. Doing this is a great way to put other journalists offside and ruin your chances of a broader audience.

 

Felicity Grey is Account Director for Deasil PR, which specialises in PR campaigns for start-ups and SMEs.