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Think like a reporter: Startup stories they want to write (pressfriendly.com)
33 points by joelandren on Dec 19, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

Joel, Thanks for starting this conversation. Your list of story types is close to the mark, but I think anyone who wants press needs to go a lot deeper.

I was a journalist for 10 years. Different kinds of reporters want different things, but they all have one thing in common. They hate being instrumentalized by press-hungry companies, and they do not exist to publicize startups. They exist to inform and entertain their readers. If you try to use them, they will ignore you. You need to figure out how you can help them report better, not just on your company, but on tech in general.

Basically, journalists want scoops and fresh points of view. If they can't surprise their readers with what they write, then they shouldn't be writing at all. Think about the stories you like: they all caught you a little off guard, either by the facts they contained or the quality of their analysis.

You need to reflect on where you fit into the supply chain of information. The next time something makes you say "Really?" or "Holy sh*t!", your next thought should be: Has this been reported yet, and if not, which journalist would want to write this story? Then you should email them.

That's how news should work. It should be something that makes people talk. Frankly, partnerships, metrics and product updates make for boring journalism that leaves readers dissatisfied, but strokes the egos of the companies involved.

You know what makes for exciting news? Finding a homeless dude and teaching him how to code. I don't know if Patrick McConlogue wanted exposure when he did that, but he got it, and if that was deliberate, the man is a genius. Everyone on HN has the capacity to make news like this. Forget about the latest app for an app that you're making, and do something big-hearted and cool. The press will eat it up.


Great comment. I think that technology news is generally too transactional in nature and that both sides (entrepreneurs and reporters) suffer as a result.

I'm going to focus more in depth later on how to create these more "qualitative" stories like trend pieces and founder profiles.

The way things are right now, though. A lot of people rely upon tech publications for new product information, which startups have money (and might be hiring) and what's coming down the pike. These are the most efficient means of getting that information out these publications.

You're right, people do rely on tech publications for news on who's hiring and what they're making. I don't object to journalists reporting on either of those. But the most interesting news goes beyond that.

It's OK if technology news is transactional. It's just that most people who want press have not asked themselves what they're bringing to the table. Too often, it's just a request for coverage, and that will fail.

Founders who want exposure should find out how they can help reporters do their jobs better, by making intros, flagging interesting posts on HN, digging into their own data for insights and generally working hard to make the reporter look good. If a source can complete his side of the transaction, then the journalist will want to help in turn.

The way things work now, tech PR firms serve up tech journalists to CEOs at swanky dinners where no one says anything interesting, and the reporter goes home with a bunch of canned quotes that would be useless in a story.

To sum it up: Anyone who wants press should be giving reporters access, insights and information that will lead to stories that tens or hundreds of thousands of people would want to read. Figure out how to do that, and you have the basis for a relationship.

Couldn't agree more. To get coverage one needs to...

1) Add value 2) Be honest and transparent 3) Build relationships over time

I'd love to discuss this more offline. Email me joel at pressfriendly dot com.

Two more tips i would love to add:

1) If your company is not currently newsworthy enough alone try pitching broader topics. eg the raise of wearable tech. Startup hype in City X. etc

Help the journalist with intro to other (not 100% competitive) founders.

2) Ask the journalist what kind of article he wants to write and what role our startup will play in this article (or where he sees you).

If you understand roughly what kind of article a journalist is going for you can deliver by far better usable quotes.

+1 Andreas.

There's lots of great things that you can do to be of help to a journalist even when you're not pitching them. For example, follow reporters you want to cover you on Twitter. They frequently have "hair on fire" requests that maybe you can help them with. I saw a reporter ask the other day, "Have any of my followers managed a Hadoop cluster?"

Good info. As a tech founder, this marketing/PR stuff is what I need the most schooling in.

I'm in the same boat as you. Need to learn these kind of things to complement my skills as a tech founder.

Thanks for the article.

If you have a great product it should speak for itself.

That's great in theory. Unfortunately, many great products aren't by nature viral and need to find other ways to gain awareness.

Getting press is just one component of getting awareness, along with content marketing, SEO and other tools. None of this takes away from building a great product.

Sorry but this sounds to me like "if you build it they will come"

I don't understsnd why this person is being downvoted. Even Jeff Bezos said words to the same effect when on Charlie Rose.

To paraphrase he said 70% of your marketing effort should go into building a better product.

It's not some sort of naive idealism. It's reality.

And to quote Edwin Land: Marketing is what you do when you have an inferior product.

And to quote Edwin Land: Marketing is what you do when you have an inferior product.

LOL. It doesn't matter if you have the most awesome product ever invented, if nobody knows you have it, and your homepage is buried on page 17 of the Google results, beneath 42 competitors with similar products.

Marketing is business. And that's tough for me to say, being an engineer by trade. But since launching a startup, I've come to realize the simple, plain, truth... marketing matters. A lot.

Sounds like horrible advice.

I guess you didn't see the Amazon drone on 60 Minutes? Marketing, showmanship, etc are very important for companies and products. Here, I think you should take a business course:

" Marketing is possibly the most important activity a business can partake in. It is the one activity that most directly affects the amount of recognition and sales that a company gets and this determines the level of profitability"


Airbnb and Pinterest are major successes both of which weren't like this. It was a long, hard slog to get traction and that wasn't them sitting back. Sure, the product needs to be great, but don't underestimate what you will need to do to get users to adopt.

Any reads relating to this?

The product may speak for itself, but what if there is no one to listen? :-)

I wish this were so.

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