The Art of the WordPress Startup: Part 10

How to Get Press

This post is part 10 of a series on how to launch your startup on WordPress. Last time I talked about how to handle all the advice you’ll get as a first time founder. Today’s post is about something many founders struggle with in the beginning, and even years down the road. How to get press for your startup and do it the right way, without wasting your time or the reporter’s.

PR Newbie

When you create your first company, you’ll be excited and expect the world to cover your newfound creation. However, rarely does a founder/company approach getting press the right way from the beginning. When I first started out I had no idea what I was doing and wondered why my pitches weren’t turning into coverage in Forbes. Surely writers need stuff to write about right? But then I started to figure out that getting press is both an art and science, and a lot more difficult than you might think. Even venture funded companies have hired PR firms and paid decent size monthly retainers (thousands) only to see very little coverage in return.

PR Firms

PR firms work just like any other type of agency. That means there are smaller cheap firms and larger more expensive firms. The larger firms tend to have the most connections to writers and will have clients paying them a range of monthly retainers. These will range from a thousand up to tens of thousands per month.

Just like most agencies, the clients that pay the most get the most attention, and in return the most press. In addition those larger clients are much easier to get coverage for, because they carry a household name that writers believe the audience will definitely be interested in. Therefore the firm’s best paying clients are the easiest ones to do work for, and hence they receive (rightfully so from a margin standpoint but maybe not an ethical one) the most coverage per dollar spent. That means if you’re one of the smaller clients at a large PR firm, you may have high expectations and end up disappointed.

Writers Are Like Venture Capitalists

So let’s say you don’t have the money to hire a PR firm and have decided to go it alone. There is one way in which writers are just like venture capitalists. They both get pitched a lot. They might receive hundreds of pitches per day, with VCs getting asked for sit downs or to review a founder’s slide deck, and writers getting asked to review long-winded press releases or emails from founders or their staff. It’s important to understand that cutting through the noise is the key. Your pitch must stand out and you must convince them in small number of characters that what you’re doing is interesting. Otherwise you’ll be lost in the shuffle.

It’s Not About You

You have to start thinking from the writer’s perspective in order to do well at pitching your story. Stop thinking in terms of how great your company is and start thinking in terms of how you can help the particular writer. Do they have a weekly column that you happen to fit well into? Can you tie what your company does to a current trend or news story? Have you read their previous work and are you even pitching the right writer at this publication? Do they write about similar companies or are you just pitching them because you found their email address on some website and it was the path of least resistance?

Press Releases Are Dead

Since most publications are going online you typically will end up pitching someone who is a new school writer rather than an old school journalism buff who is in to formalities. That means the long winded press releases aren’t going to get read if you blast them out via email. You want your pitch to be short, sweet, and to the point. Don’t make the rookie mistake of firing off that 1-2 page formal press release in PDF format expecting your inbox to be pounded with positive responses. It’s more likely you may not get any. Don’t believe me? This article from Forbes explains it pretty well.

HARO

One of the best ways to get press is to signup for their free daily emails which contain lists of topics reporters are trying to cover along with contact information, so you can flip the model and instead of trying to create a story you can start getting mentioned in some that are already being written. Writers need quotes and sources for their articles, and if you respond promptly with what they’re looking for, chances are you’ll get coverage. I’ve personally gotten coverage many times by using HARO and it’s the low hanging fruit of the PR world.

Get the full 20 part series: “Art of the WordPress Startup” as an E-book.

Get it!

PR Toolkit

There are services cropping up which help you do your job in terms of reaching out and tracking what comes to fruition. One of those is PressKing, which allows you to get lists of press contacts, send your pitch, and track who opens it and where it gets covered. Your mileage may vary with this tool depending on your industry, the quality of your pitches, and which type of plan you have with them.

Another great new service on the market is PressFriendly, which is a SaaS version of having a PR pro on your staff. Basically their software (and a human element as well depending on your plan) helps you craft your pitch, reach the proper writers, and track what happens. If you’re clueless in terms of how to craft the right pitch and have a few bucks to spend (and still a fraction of what a PR firm costs), then you should definitely check out their service.

Full Series — Click here to see all articles in this series.