7 Tips FOR STARTUPS: how to deal With Journalists

Journalists can have an immense impact on the success of your startup – both negative and positive. As a former journalist and now company founder, Fabian reveals seven valuable insights on the do’s and don’ts of dealing with journalists.

Photo: Dominik Tryba

1.   BE AN EARLYBIRD AND REACH OUT

Sure, you can write press releases every week and send them out to a big number of journalists. Maybe it works out and some media pick it up but experience says this generally hardly ever is the case. But to make sure your message finds its way, you need to take care of it in person, so get in touch with reporters that are relevant to your topic. When? Now! Your product isn’t ready yet? No problem, because what’s most important: contact journalists before you need them! How? You could respond to a story in your industry you really liked or disliked and give feedback. Journalists rarely receive feedback on their articles and will appreciate it. Always keep in mind: even though reporters are human and like to be flattered, they are skilled at telling the difference between an honest commendation and a fake one.

2.   Think big but start small

It‘s ok to dream of being the headline in a nationwide magazine, but be aware: dreams don’t always come true nor do they always have the desired effect. So, don’t limit yourself to general interest media or tech reporters. There is a lot of special interest or industry media out there, that let you spread the word to YOUR audience. In the end your audience might drive more editors to report about your startup and create positive PR.

3.   MAKE IT SIMPLE

Simplicity is important whether you’re delivering an elevator pitch or making small talk at a party. It is even more important when you’re pitching to a journalist trying to do PR. You should have two to three sentences that describe and explain your product to other people. Journalists’ time is rare – don’t bore them with lengthy presentations. Catch them in two sentences and they might ask for more. If you want to learn more about the perfect pitch, read this blog article by our pitch trainer Ole Tillmann.

4.   BE AN EXPERT, NOT A TEACHER

Try to establish yourself as an expert in your field without lecturing journalists. As mentioned before, if you have some good information or insights relating to a story they did, share it. If you have an opposing view, politely tell them without instructing them. Send interesting studies or articles from industry media or international publications, but give journalists the room to make up their own mind about it. If you are a reliable and valuable source to them, they will contact you next time as an expert. Payday! Now it’s time to show off and explain why you and your company are better. But never lecture anyone without adding value, otherwise you’re just another startup desperately trying to get attention. Also, never talk bad about your competitors because in the end it will fall back on you.

5.   TELL A STORY (THAT’S INTERESTING, NEW AND IMPORTANT)

Add value! A round of funding is not a story if you just started your company. Yes it is an important step for your startup, but the rest of the world isn’t that thrilled about it. Try to think from the point of view of other people and design your company’s core messages as a story that is easy to tell. What is it that makes your product, your company or your founders compelling to talk about? How does it affect people’s lives and the world (just to paint the small picture ;))? Find evidence of how it does that. Find the people that can tell the story and make it more appealing. This is what journalists want to hear.

6.   BE HONEST

Never be loose with the truth! Some startups fake numbers that show success, use fake profiles, fake reviews, fake partners. The problem about it? After some digging into your company, the story will not be about your product or your concept but about your lies and your lack of credibility. And there is another important thing about lies: you need a very good memory. Journalists take notes and record things; you probably don’t. So to cover up your lies from the first meeting, you’re going to need to lie even more.

7.   BE PATIENT

Good things are worth waiting for. This means you might not get attention instantly. That’s why most online businesses use performance marketing for too long to drive attention or traffic instead of investing time and money in public awareness. It might be a hassle and it might be painful at first if you keep being ignored or rejected. But when you do public relations right, find the right story to tell and constantly work on it, it gives your brand reach – without paying for it – that no other channel is capable of!

About the Author:

Fabian Gartmann is the founder & CPO of get a camp, an online booking platform for camping. Before building up his own business, he worked as an award-winning investigative journalist revealing economic crimes.

Photo: Dominik Tryba