Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to get your StartUp Featured in major publications like WSJ, Bloomberg and Barron's

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This makes our moms proud: When the world’s most serious business news and analytics company invests time in us, we know we are onto something big. Eddy was featured last week in Bloomberg. Yippee! The world is ready to grow.

But this post isn’t just about self-promotion. This is your insider’s guide to getting red-hot coverage for your startup or organization. You see startups posting stories about their innovation like it just happens overnight. It does not! Unless you are Elon Musk or just raised $20 million from Bono or Peter Thiel, you will have to work hard at getting the attention of business news publications. Attention is the most valuable currency and competition is intense, even if you are paying a public relations firm a $2000 retainer every month.

Some of you might say, oh well we don’t really care about mainstream news –– that’s our parent’s old bag…All we care about is Techcrunch and ProductHunt.While blogs are super important for branding and reaching new audiences, the old, tried, trusted and true mainstream journalism is the best way to go through the stratosphere for a number of reasons:

Most mainstream investors don’t read Buzzfeed for reliable news. Especially now after the fake news scandals. They are smart people who read business magazines and newspapers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Bloomberg. A story in one of these anchors means you are the real deal as a business opportunity.
These are evergreen stories. A story on Techcrunch can be here today gone tomorrow… and is more likely to age than a story on a mainstream news site. Our CEO felt silly sending our advisory board and investors links to Treehugger. But Bloomberg, WSJ, Forbes? Hell yeah!

Bloomberg, New York Times, Washington Post, WSJ, Forbes! … are GLOBAL NEWS ORGANIZATIONS. Take note: they don’t rely on hearsay. They adhere to the highest standards in journalism (recent political journalism notwithstanding). They check facts and they don’t do favors for cousins or because they are on the board of the company. They don’t copy press releases. In short, journalists work hard for these organizations to report and confirm news. And the good ones get paid well to do it.

The Growth Hacker’s Guide to Getting Into Bloomberg and other major publications

Rule #1 Befriend journalists (as with venture capitalist, long before you need them)

We met Gwen Ackerman, senior tech reporter at Bloomberg, through our friend Matthew Kalman who was a journalist, who we met when one of us was a journalist. After a year or more of prodding (via Matt), Gwen agreed to finally meet us to hear our story. This was after a year or more of media coverage on smaller outlets. We’d had a mention on CNN but never a large feature. Relationship building takes time and patience.

Practically speaking, you can reach out to your favorite Bloomberg or NYTjournalists via Twitter. Meet them at conferences. Don’t ask right away to write about you. Serve them tips and ideas. If they get a note from you, make it helpful. Journalists usually only get negative feedback. We know because our founder was one and worked with many. Send a few journalists you like positive feedback. Or news tips about other companies. See how that works!

Rule #2 Be available

If a journalist asks to meet this means they are serious. Journalists are typically very busy people, flooded with hundreds of emails a day — from press releases, edits and story ideas coming their way. They also read a lot of news to keep up. If they suggest a time and it’s not easy for you, make it easy for you.

Rule #3 Take your time

If you get the meeting, use their cues on how much time they will need for the story. Reserve space and make sure you present your company and technology in the best light — preferably not in a bunker somewhere but in a place that matches what the technology does, or in your office with something neat to see, do or taste. If you need support, bring in the second best person in the company, besides you. Don’t flood the room with people. One or two in the meeting is the best.

Rule #4 Remove all PR People from the room

People who work in public relations are great for crafting pitches and building relationships, but they are not you. You are their boss, don’t forget that. If you feel bullied into bringing them along. Don’t be. Tell them you will give them a recap. If they feel you can’t be trusted, find another PR firm. Most of the time they will meddle or create a feeling that Mom is in the room listening.

Rule #5 Send updates

Just because you were interviewed doesn’t mean the story will happen. Hours, days and months can go by before the story gets published. But time is not in your favor. The sooner the better, before said journalist loses interest or changes positions. If you see your story isn’t moving, send them notes of progress and anything that ties you to current events or something buzzworthy to make it easier for them to cover your story. There is a border between between helpful and annoying. Use your intuition.

Rule #6 Send them what they ask for

If they ask for spelling of founder’s names, send this within seconds. If they want market numbers, dig them up. If they want your competition, be truthful. Journalists are smart people. They often have resources we don’t know about. You can’t fool them.

Rule #7 Engage your team

A good story will require your team effort. It’s not a one-pony show. Get your CEO in there, your tech guys and whoever it takes to tell the story. You may be a founder, but it may be that you are not the right person to be featured. We had our VP of Manufacturing help us build out the garden. He did errands for things which he normally wouldn’t do. Our CEO answered a request within the day for an interview, and within minutes for fact checking. Our Head of Technology polished his mustache and drove 90 minutes to be in the photoshoot. Our founder Karin went out and bought the most shocking color of hot pink and red clothes to be noticed in the photos. She likes attention!

It doesn’t end there…

Our growth hacker, Cody, suggested we prepare this post in advance to the story being published. He had email collection systems set up with the right buckets and autoresponders. Our designer Reuel made websites and landing pages and had every design item ready. Do what it takes. Hustle before. During. After! Have an all-hands-in mindset if you want to win!


Hope for a photo shoot

If Bloomberg (or New York Times, LA Times,Wash Post, Chicago Tribune…we keep repeating so you get the message!) wants to send out a photographer, then count your lucky stars. This means they are investing in your story. We found out that Bloomberg commissions only a handful of shoots a year in our neck of the woods. We were one.

Look great, show your story

If the photoshoot happens, bring out your best. Shower, make-up, wax your beard. Wear natural-looking clothes and shoes, and have your product or service ready to show with some visually-appealing props around. We staged our product Eddy in a glowing greenhouse biodome to demonstrate how our robot (growbot) can help anyone grow food and cannabis at home. You have a story. We know you do. Now make it shine!
What Not To Do

If Bloomberg, CNN, NYT calls do not wait to reply

This is no joke. One of our founders worked in PR and CNN called to do a story on a client. At first client said, no. I don’t have time this week. After being pushed into it, she agreed and because of the story she was invited to Congress on Capitol Hill, a dream for her. The media is powerful, but it is also fickle. Respond quickly or they will move on.

Do NOT get an outsider to tell your story

Even though you may be nervous or hairy, or your English or communication skills might not be that hot, always get the founder or biggest dreamer in the company to tell the main part of the story. Have on call the CEO or business development person if they are a different person, to fill in the business stuff. If you are medical device company, have a serious scientist or physician tag along for facts. What matters most to journalists is a good story. Never bring in someone who is just an advisor or paid storyteller to tell your story.

A good journalist should be interested in building a positive story about you. Don’t worry about being roasted. The world is a good place. Believe us.

Don’t Be Overly Cautious

While a certain amount of paranoia about the competition and your frenemies is healthy, make sure you tell a story that is true and interesting. If you hold back great details or partnerships, you are selling your company short. Don’t ask a journalist to review for edits. They will ask if they need your help. Some do it, most don’t. In our case the journalist did and we were happy to help.

Don’t Reveal Half Truths or Secrets

If a partnership is about to happen but isn’t signed, don’t say it. It’s wise to not say anything to a journalist unless you want it to be in the public sphere. Anything you say and send to them is open for publication. Unless, you say this BEFOREHAND: “This is off the record.”

The long and short of it, getting great media coverage is a ton of work. It takes a team effort, fortitude and a great story with business potential or results. We are now basking in the sun, but we sweat hard before all this glory shone down on us.

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