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The Secret to getting really good press (danielodio.com)
96 points by drodio on Aug 17, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments

Writer for TechCrunch here. There's some good advice in the linked article, and ilamont's comment is great.

That said, I disagree with the linked article's advice on how to personalize a story for the writer you're targeting. Their example is to use a subject line like:

“Cindy – Loved your article on Buena’s robot makers + story idea”

This would be a great idea if it wasn't already abused to death. Unfortunately we constantly get pitches that begin in this format, and I now find it more annoying than anything — the compliments just seem really artificial. The worst offenders are the ones that craft subject lines to be misleading (i.e. making it sound like they have additional news to add to a story I recently wrote when their pitch is entirely unrelated).

All of that said, it's still great if you identify that a writer has expertise in a certain area and say that's why you directed your pitch to them (just hold off on complimenting them on some random article).

Even if all is done right there are slim chances for reporters at well known newspapers/blogs to write about you...unless, you actually know that reporter from real life (conferences, etc)...

If right now I would send a story to the TC reporter (Jason K) which has all the right characteristics (and be interesting) I bet 90% he won't write about my story. And that because not that he doesn't care or something but because he already has tons of good stories to write about AND knows personally a lot of people who wants to tell their stories. Who is getting the first chance? me or those people?

This, for once, was a great article on self promotion. Not something like "make something awesome and then everybody will want to write about it".

Editor of Xconomy San Francisco here. For all you startup types, Daniel makes one point that I would absolutely agree with and underscore. Don't send us press releases. It's true, we get hundreds a day. They have a magical way of making a great company sound boring. Have them ready as background material, but don't lead with them.

Great point about aiming for coverage in local newspapers first.

Now I just have to explain to reporters in my hick town what a "startup" is.

small company? that should suffice for most people.

Not with zero employees.

I know for a fact that you have at least one employee, yourself. I'm in a rural area and the local paper loves to do stories on any small business happenings. A single-person startup is still economic news in a small town.

Founder of SutherlandGold Group here. I would just add that every start up really needs to pitch a story that is relevant to things that are already in the news. As reporters and editors here already pointed out, the media is just too busy covering trends of the day to drop everything for every start up pitch that comes in the door.

The secret to great coverage in the media, is really building a great story about your company, yourself and your product before you ever pitch anything to the media. Founders really need to focus on how what they are doing or building is disruptive and powerful and delivers a really worth value proposition to the intended audience -- consumers, advertisers, publishers or whoever will buy your product.

Almost 10 years ago, I led the team that launched Honest Tea. Our story then was about a founder who was mentored by an MBA professor and the two joined together to build a great company that was recently acquired. Ten years later that story is still being written about the company.

So think about all the elements of "your" story before you pitch anything.

Former technology editor (IDG) here. The problem most reporters and bloggers face is a lack of time to research and write. There are too many potential stories, and not enough bandwidth to cover it all. This problem has been exacerbated by industry layoffs and Internet-related factors that make it much easier for startups to contact news organizations directly, as opposed to going through PR people. The result: A flood of emailed pitches and inquiries (many of them off-topic) that can't be properly followed-up.

There is also tremendous pressure to write articles that will get lots of page views. This makes it more difficult to justify writing straight-up product stories or reviews, unless it's something that's truly innovative or game-changing for the public. It's much easier to simply write about some minor Apple rumor, Microsoft's latest screw-up, or Facebook's umpteenth design tweak, add an irresistible headline, and perform a little "SMO" (social media optimization -- submitting to Digg, Twitter, etc.). Look at Techmeme on any given day to see how prevalent this type of writing is.

Nevetheless, I think if you personalize the pitch and identify likely writers (like TFA says) it will help differentiate it from the pack of press releases that form the bulk of many writers' email inboxes. Also, follow up nicely a few days later, asking if the writer has had time to review the earlier email or clarifying whether or not they are the right person to cover this type of product. Some will still ignore you, but others will respond, even if it's only to say, "sorry, not interested. Try _____."

One other piece of advice if you're looking for publicity: If you get an offer to speak at a conference or participate at a panel, do it. These days, there's a good chance that some blogger will be in the audience and writing about the interesting things he/she heard, even if it's local event or meetup. If it's a big technology conference, and assuming news organizations have a travel budget to send people there, there will probably be journalists or pro bloggers (paid) writing about the sessions. Conferences are great for them, because they (usually) get to hear interesting tidbits about interesting products or trends that are not moderated by a press release or PR drone, and they can crank out many stories/posts in a single day without having to deal with scheduling/interview overhead. I have really positive memories of conferences such as Webby Connect and MIT's EmTech, as well as a YCombinator open house when they were still in Cambridge. At all of these events, there was lots of great stuff to write about, including from companies/people that I didn't know much about before I went in.

EDIT: Added background and "off-topic" to first graf. It's one of the biggest irritants to technology reporters to get a pitch that has absolutely nothing to do with what they or their publication covers.

EDIT 2: Added last graf about events

ilamont, great feedback; can I repost your comment in the blog? would love it to be there for others to read. - DROdio

> And then I would write her a one or two sentence email with my pitch

I am curious what kind of short email you write. The subject hints at a short pitch, but do you have a specific example?

This was the subject of the email listed in the article: “Cindy – Loved your article on Buena’s robot makers + story idea”

I did a related post w/ a video answering exactly your question: http://go.Danielodio.com/wsj

Here's a sample email - note that he'd written an article about iPhone tethering, which I referenced in the subj. line:

Subject: Re: Chris - re: iPhone Tethering + AppMakr

Chris , just saw your write-up about iPhone tethering. I've always wanted to be able to do this!

Thought you might be interested in a related topic: A self-service tool we just launched in Jan called AppMakr that lets anyone build an app for as little as $199. We've been covered by WSJ, TechCrunch & many others, press at http://go.AppMakr.com/press and you can see a video and details of the service at www.AppMakr.com/learn_more

Let me know if you'd like to tell your readers about it!




Daniel Ruben Odio-Paez Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, PointAbout.com Creators of www.AppMakr.com

so in summary.. seek out reporters who have previously written on related topics, send a personalised email to them and try to build up a good relationship..... focus on the smaller fish to then get picked up by larger ones.

simple and practical advice. i like it, and i will put it into practise.

You could do all this work to get your product into the press. Or you can just make something that people actually care about, and the press will come to you.

Within three months of launch, SproutRobot has been on TechCrunch, LifeHacker, and on CyberGuy on 40 TV stations across the U.S., and we didn't lift a finger for any of it. We just built something people were excited about and the press found us.

It took me about a decade to learn the lesson of eighth grade dances: you can be a wonderfully witty, intelligent, charming gentleman, and if you stand there in the corner waiting for a young lady to recognize this, in all probability you're going to be a very lonely witty, intelligent, charming gentleman.

Aah the great "good engineers don't need marketers" debate. I guess the only point I can really make is, what if you had someone proactively reaching out to others that didn't write about you, but would have if they'd heard about it, since SproutRobot is so awesome? By your train of logic, then, you could've gotten 100x the return on a marketer's efforts, and their job would've been an easy one because they wouldn't have to do any convincing.

I think that's more the exception than the rule. You won't even have good SERP rankings early on if you don't do any marketing. The awesomeness of a product generally cannot flow through the tubes and into a writer's brain — he needs to know about it.

This was an insightful article posted on HN a few weeks back:

"If you build it, they won't come"


i've found it's helpful to start building relationships with people BEFORE you need the coverage. for example, i'm always on the lookout for stories i can send over as a tip to TechCrunch. sometimes they cover them, sometimes they don't. the important thing is now they know my name and will read my emails.

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