Mark Cuban listed Never Hire A PR Company as one of his commandments for startups, yet one of the most common entrepreneur complaints to VCs is; “I need money to hire a PR agency in order to get eyes on my product and boost sales.” It's a vicious circle.
What's an entrepreneur to do? Create your own press.
The reality is that editorial pieces written and pitched to the press by you will be far more effective for garnering attention than journalistic coverage alone. Other entrepreneurs want to know what you know and you’ll gain credibility in the eyes of your customers. Getting media coverage will mean more eyes on your content and by default, your startup. You and your experience are the real goldmine that will translate from the press into increased sales. Oh, and the best part? It’s free.
So how do you know what story to write and how to pitch it so you’ll get your piece picked up by the media? Here is a simple five-step process for crafting the perfect query to effectively create your own press.
Related: How to Be Your Own PR Machine
1. What’s the big idea?
To craft a great story that will be enticing to editors, producers and your intended audience, you need to start with a great idea. This is both obvious and daunting. Here’s how I usually recommend entrepreneurs get the momentum to start the process of ideating. Begin by ensuring you aren’t going to be interrupted. Ideas need some space to germinate. Distractions will quickly take you out of your creative flow and derail your momentum.
Once the stage is set, get out a sheet of paper and start writing a list of ideas for story topics. I recommend you begin by bullet pointing some big, general topic ideas, then try to come up with specific story idea angles under each. These don’t have to be fully formed stories at this point, just a sentence or two per topic. Some great thought-starter topics to start brainstorming about include:
- Trending stories in the press right now.
- Advice you wish someone had given you earlier.
- Key breakthroughs you’ve experienced in your busines.
- Topics you’re currently discussing with your mentor or advisors.
- The top three concerns that are currently keeping you up at night.
2. What’s your experience?
Now that you have a robust list of ideas and topics, it’s time to list your experience out on paper. What are you good at? What’s your experience, both past and present? Remember, you can lean on past corporate success if you’re new to entrepreneurship, in fact that can help give you clout in many cases. What successes have you had? Failures? Have you won any awards, had any prestigious milestones or big sales? Do you have any patents, innovations, or any accolades of your life? List them all out.
3. What’s the connection?
This is where it gets really fun. Start circling the experience on your list and try to pair that with your topics. Map the connections between your story ideas and your expertise to see where there is the most overlap. The ideas that most closely match and connect to your direct experience are your story ideas for your query. These are the places you can make the most impact by sharing advice and knowledge with an audience where you have real value to contribute. You now have something you can turn into a pitch, and then later on, an article.
4. What’s the data?
It’s always a good idea to back up your story idea with data. When you map the connections between your ideas and your experience, there should be an overlapping theme that ties these threads together. Use the overarching theme as your pitch idea or title, then use the individual points as bullets to support your story and back it up with some data points.
Good data points will substantiate your story’s premise and give support to your credentials. Use any personal accolades or awards as data points for your expertise and qualifications. The press will want to know why you’re qualified to talk or write on this subject. Make sure you use industry reports and reputable press stories or research as data support. Basically, you want to ensure that data makes your story even stronger for the editors you’re pitching and the audience who will read it.
5. What’s the outlet?
The final step for crafting a killer query that will get your story picked up is to perfectly pair your angle with your outlet. What are your dream outlets to be published in, both nationally and in the trades related to your business? Spend the time to do the research to see what types of stories are trending and doing well on those outlets already. Those are the stories you too will want to write about or emulate.
What is resonating with their audience? What are you writing about that could tie in nicely without overlapping or being redundant to existing content? How can you position your story to make sure it’s divergent enough to be valuable, while staying relevant and topical? Tailor your unique story to the outlet you’re pitching as a display of both professionalism and respect for the editor or producer’s time.
If you properly map out your ideas and experience and match them with the data and outlet needs of your intended press outlet, you’ll be able to create the query and stories that will get you press, all without an agency.