Having a media presence helps your company stand out from competitors, along with attracting potential customers, investors and business partners. But because the startup market can be a crowded one, it can be challengng to generate buzz. However, it can be done.
I get a lot of questions about how I built up BodeTree’s media presence over the past few years. After all, we’re still a relatively small company focused on the relatively unsexy small-business space. No one on my team has a background in media, and we’re located in Denver instead of a media hub like New York. Still, we’ve managed to gain coverage in big-name publications.
People automatically assume that we have an expensive PR firm that supports us in this effort, but the truth is, we haven’t worked with a PR professional in over two years. We’ve managed to build a sustainable media presence on our own, and it has proven to be our single most cost-effective and important marketing channel. It’s something that you can accomplish in your business if you follow these four tips.
1. Make an all-out grab for attention.
There’s no magic formula for becoming an attention magnet. It all comes down to your personal style and relationship with reporters. The trick is to think creatively about what you’re willing to do for attention.
Take Lady Gaga, for example. Up until a few years ago, she was a rather ordinary struggling singer-songwriter. However, she had a huge amount of personal drive and was brave enough to create an outrageous public image that defined her.
Now, if you’re not an inherently theatrical person, that means of getting attention won’t work. That said, if you have the stomach for it, one of the most effective ways to get attention that follows this philosophy is to throw mud on an established icon. Pick a bone with someone famous, do it loudly and colorfully, and if you’ve got a legitimate beef with what they say, stand for or make, you’ll get a lot of attention. The bigger the target, the more attention you will get.
2. Become an incredible source.
I started to build my media relationships by offering support to journalists I respected. I’d read through the target publication or watch the TV show religiously to see whose writing and reporting seemed closest in interest to what mine were. Then, I’d send them ideas, content and support.
The important lesson I've learned is to avoid outright self-promotion. Instead I focused on helping journalists find background information, identify trends or provide a new take on something they’ve already produced. I also reached out to ask for advice and more information about things they have already written.
As long as you’re authentic and genuinely interested, it’s very flattering to a reporter to know they’re making an impression on a reader. Once you establish a relationship, you can come back with a pitch to them along with feedback on the help they provided.
3. Write your own story.
This article is a perfect example of how you can develop content for media partners, as it helps position yourself as an expert in an area. If you’re successful in getting your company’s story out to the media, you’ll eventually run out of things to discuss. (After all, a product launch is only relevant right when it’s happening.) Inevitably, you’ll have to start creating content that doesn't directly focus on your product or company.
Try to come up with a catchy phrase for what you do and then push out story after story with anecdotes of how you’ve accomplished interesting things. Try to become a storyteller for your audience, drawing on analogies that they already know. If you are stuck, look for Bible stories, fairy tales, and famous historical events or figures. Story lines that people can recognize right away have the power of allowing them to follow where you’re leading them and reporters can easily pick up on that.
4. Be relentless.
This is by far the most important tip I have to offer. I can guarantee you that, especially when you’re starting out, you’re going to experience a lot of rejection. Get used to the standard response of “thanks, but I’ll pass.” Don’t give up. Be patient, polite, listen to their responses and criticisms and try to answer those – and always try to help them see that they need what you’ve got. The more you can figure out from their writings and comments of what they "need," the better you can tailor it to solve that need.
Just remember that it’s not one size fits all. Each writer has a distinctive voice and an editor or boss with clearly defined priorities, and those needs and priorities are constantly shifting. Recognize that a news event can change the game in a flash. If you can trim your sails to catch those changes in the news cycle and avoid the slow spots that inevitably develop in that same cycle, you can keep coming back until you hit the mark.
Think of yourself as a missionary, with a message that needs to be heard, that you can change people’s lives. Regardless of how firmly you believe that, you must approach the media with that sense of messianic mission, and the passion will come through.