No PR team, no experience? There’s still a way to get publicity
Have you raised a round, done an M&A deal, entered a new market or hired a business celebrity? Congratulations! Now you can write a press release and tell the world about it.
Even if you haven’t got a PR team to plan your communication with the media months in advance, there’s still a way for you to build strong relations with journalists and get some publicity.
Here’s a simple guide that will help you get started and make fewer mistakes on your way.
Start with basics—update your social media and blogs
Before you even start writing a press release and talking to journalists, strengthen your online presence.
1. Update the website of your company. Journalists will check it before working on your press release.
2. Update Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Your corporate and personal accounts must be active and informative. It’s OK to share your personal stories on Facebook, but no bikini photos!
3. Check the info about your startup in Google search. It may be a good idea to update your Wikipedia, Medium and HackerNoon pages and create or update an account on CrunchBase, Dealroom or PitchBook.
Write a press release
A press release is a one-page Google Doc that is written like a news story. It consists of a headline, lede (the first paragraph) and other details about the news peg and quotes.
Make your headline as newsy as possible. It's better when it uses a strong verb (e.g. not "startup XX is cool and fancy", but "startup XX raised $3M from YY").
When you write your first paragraph, imagine answering 3 questions: Who, What and Why. If date and location are important, then also—When and Where. It’s also important to briefly describe the company in your intro.
An example of a good lede
Who? Startup RedTrack—which develops a tool for tracking ads and their conversion rate— What? has raised €425,000 in seed funding Why? to build new machine learning features and improve onboarding for new hires.
The rest of the story must be written in inverted pyramid. This means the headline and most crucial information should be put at the start of the story, not at the end. Imagine you are limited to three paragraphs. What would you include?
Include quotes that will add color, detail or describe the motivation for running your business. Quotes are often short and written the same way we speak. Avoid repetition and platitudes like “pleased to announce”, “proud”, and “excited”. They don’t add any value.
Press release example: Canva raises $40M round to earn Unicorn title
Prepare pictures in advance
A cool press release will be even cooler with pictures. Create a file on Google Drive with a collection of horizontal photos in high resolution. It’s called a media kit.
What must be included in a media kit:
team photos (1-2);
portrait of CEO;
informal photos from events, office life; it can also be something related to your industry (4-5).
If your startup delivers goods, sending a photo with the founder next to a truck will be a good idea. If you work at a petcare startup, add a photo of your CEO with 40 cats. It’ll be a hit!
Make a list of journalists, media outlets
Do some googling. Google your rivals, similar news to yours, google your industry and write down the media that write about these topics. Read the stories and check the bylines of their authors.
In big newsrooms, each journalist is assigned to cover a particular news beat. It may be e-commerce, fintech, sustainability issues, blockchain, and so on. You will need to find someone who will cover your industry. Find their emails in the byline info.
There’s a cool Chrome extension FindThatLead that automatically collects all the emails from a website. It and works best when paired with an email verifier like Hunter. But be careful with personal emails—double-check if the person you've found still works there.
It’s also essential to check journalists’ Twitter accounts, where they share more about what they write about and look for stories. The more you know, the easier it is to pitch your press release.
If you can’t find a particular journalist, send your pitch to a general email. For example, TechCrunch has an email specifically for story ideas and press releases: email@example.com.
Store the emails you found in Notion or Excel. Leave some notes there about the journalist’s time zone, previous communication, and her news beat. You will need this database in the future
Pitch your press release
A pitch is usually a short email that explains who you are, why you are reaching out and describes your news peg. A pitch must be personalized, so don’t send the same email to several journalists.
Some journalists publish guides about how to pitch them. Example: How to pitch Walter Thompson; How to pitch Christine Hall.
On Twitter, there are hashtags with posts that showcase typical mistakes like #prfail.
No reply? Follow up
Journalists from major publications rarely reply fast. It can take a week or more. But you can remind about your press release and send a follow-up in 3-4 days. Write a short email in the same thread, offering more info, an interview with the CEO or… a funny meme. Don’t ask “How is it going?” and don’t send more than 2 follow-ups.
If there’s still no answer—move on. It will take you more than one pitch to have you story published, it’s OK. The Flyer One Ventures PR team budgets 1-3 months to prepare and publish a press release.
Dos and don’ts after the story is published.
When the story is published—no matter the size—try to leave a good impression.
❌ Don’t ask to correct the style of the author. It's OK to ask to change the startup’s founding year if it's wrong, but it's not OK to ask to change the startup’s description from “marketing automation tool” to “the best existing automated solution for marketers”.
❌ Don’t ask to remove the story if you don’t like it. It’s impossible anyway.
❌ Do not criticize the journalist publicly, for example, if it took her 3 months to reply.
✅ Thank the journalist personally.
✅ Share the story on your social media and tag the journalist.
Cover photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash