Pitching the media can be overwhelming. It’s a long, hard process to come up with an idea, find relevant journalists, pitch them, and then follow up. However, the results can be well worth it. My own company has generated millions of dollars of business from well-placed articles, and I’m not the only one finding success with PR. Here is how four entrepreneurs used innovative techniques to get media coverage.
Case 1: Exhaust your story.
The software company Airtame was, back in 2014, the most crowdfunded project on Indigogo. “One gets a lot of press being the most crowdfunded project,” said Steffen Hedebrandt, the head of marketing. “But most people forget how this can be utilized years into the future.”
A year after their successful crowdfunding campaign, they got coverage in TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and other publications when they raised $1.3M. “Normally, TechCrunch would not cover a startup raising only $1.3M, but we had our edge as being the most crowdfunded project on Indigogo, and that was still interesting news,” Hedebrandt says.
One shouldn’t be shy of re-using the same story over and over again, as long as it builds credibility.
Case 2: If your product isn’t interesting, don’t mention it.
Early on, Jens Jakob Andersen had problems getting media coverage for his running shoe and sneaker website RunRepeat.com. RunRepeat.com is like IMDb or TripAdvisor, but for running shoes and sneakers, and nobody wanted to write about a review aggregator for shoes.
Instead of focussing on his own website when pitching journalists, he used his statistical background to build studies for the media to use.
“By crunching data, I found that cheap running shoes are better than expensive ones,” Andersen recalls. “The media loved it.” Within a day, Andersen’s study was mentioned in 30-plus publications including the Washington Post and other top tier newspapers.
“Most people focus on pitching their product to the media, but journalists get so many product pitches. By creating a study that’s related to what you’re an expert in, you give the journalists a lot of value, for free, and without any obvious promotional intentions,” Andersen says.
Since his first study, Andersen has managed to be mentioned in more than 100 publications around the world, and journalists often reach out to him as a trusted source on all things to do with the running industry.
Case 3: News hacking.
The third case requires one to be timely. Mads Hallas from the auction aggregator Mearto.com explains, “News hacking is about finding interesting stories done by other companies and then taking over as the owner of the story.”
Recently, a famous European restaurant, Noma, decided it was time to upgrade its furniture. They quietly put their furniture on auction in another country. Hallas discovered this, quickly made a landing page about how one could now buy furniture from the restaurant Noma, and the story got covered by the local media. Mearto got attention, even though his company didn’t have anything to do with the auction itself.
Case 4: The Slideshare hack.
Slideshare is like YouTube, but for presentation slide decks. To those who hate presentations this may sound like a new level of Dante’s inferno, but it turns out to be a very popular site with tens of millions of visits each month. Tobias Schelle from 24Slides.com recently uploaded a presentation to Slideshare, but says “I then thought these slides could be useful at other platforms too,” so he pitched a few highly targeted journalists with the link to his deck.
The result? Shelle’s company received multiple mentions in top tier publications including HuffPost.
Lesson: Pitch people, not publications.
“I know that being featured in Entrepreneur Magazine or The New York Times is probably most [small business owners’] dream,” says Andersen. “But you’re better off reversing your thinking. Do not find relevant publications to pitch — find relevant journalists.”
He suggests using one of the search operators from Google to quickly help you find the most relevant journalists writing on a particular topic at a given publication. For example, to find authors who write for trail runners in the New York Times, you might search “site:nytimes.com trail running.”