Things An Entrepreneur Should Keep In Mind While Approaching a Journalist
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It’s been a little over three months since I have been covering startups and entrepreneurs. Being in Bangalore, the experience has been overwhelming! But I couldn’t help agree with some of the points mentioned by Malavika Velayanikal, Co-Managing Editor of Tech In Asia, about the daily challenges a journalist has to face while covering this domain. The following are some excerpts from Malavika’s talk and some personal observations from my end.
Know the difference between PR and media coverage
You need to be very careful with your choice of words when you are talking to a journalist. Never approach a journalist saying you want some PR, most of us take offence to this tag and also take it as an insult. On the personal front, I was once asked by a PR agency if she could frame the questions for me ? My response to that was, if you can frame the questions, then what is my job in here? As Malvika rightly puts it, a PR is an in-house marketing team who are paid to do their work. A journalist loses his interest
Speak in English and not techlish
Avoid the jargons that you would probably be using at your product meetings. Though I come from an engineering background, most journalists hail from non-engineering and technical backgrounds. We are decent writers, readers and communicators and don’t master tech jargons. Entrepreneurs out there might be working with cutting edge technology but they should also learn to explain the same in simple, lame man’s language.
At the same time a journalists shouldn’t be shy to confess that they aren’t aware of the jargons that are thrown at them.
Have a media kit ready
Journalists are generally in a hurry. When you approach a journalist for an interview, make sure you keep certain small things ready with you. Known as the media kit, this could include pictures ( good quality and professional pictures), have bio of the founders, investors and some basic product descriptors and numbers. Keep them ready on your website.
What is the hook?
When we sit down to write a story, we always think of the best angle to that would help us garner more readership. For startups, we often think of what does this company have that others don’t? Having said that, an entrepreneur should also think of ideas that could help grab some eyeballs. Think of the small experiences that you’ve had during your entrepreneurial journey, talk about an advice given by your mentors which can help narrate a beautiful story. Come up with at least three cool things you want to talk about that. Unless you hook the journalist, he will not be interested in telling your story.
Don’t bullshit the journalist
Very often the entrepreneurs and his PR comes up with unrealistic growth numbers. When you say you had 600 percent increase in users, make sure you mention the starting point of this figure. We aren’t going to buy your story if you give us unreal numbers. Never tell the journalist that you have no competitors! It takes a journalist 10 minutes to google your competitors and once they’ve figured out that you were lying; it automatically brings down the trust factor.
Keep press releaseses interesting
Most journalists receive at least 20 to 30 press releases every day. Make sure the release has quotes that add value to the story.
Track journalists and don’t write cold emails
Journalists are the most social media friendly. You will always find a journalist sharing his email ID on Twitter and Linkedin. Make a list of publications you want to featured in and track the journalist who covers your beat. It’s not rocket science to write a decent and error free email. When you write to a journalist, make sure you get his and the name of his organization right. Don’t just say you want to be featured by the publication, give a small introduction about yourself and your company. A well-written email goes a long way to build healthy relationships with a journalist.
Learn the art of embargo
If you want a certain announcement to be covered by media houses learn to send it on embargo. Also, if avoid sending it to one media house prior to another. We journalists take note of things, thanks to social media. If we see that one media house has an announcement 6-7 hours prior to ours, we will not take the trouble to write it up as there is no dearth of stories today. It’s important to collaborate and respect each other’s professions to have a long and a healthy relationship.
Five minutes isn’t enough to understand you company
This is something I have personally noticed that very often PR agencies tend to explain about a startup’s profile, product and numbers over the phone. A company or a product cannot be understood over the phone in 5 minutes! This is where a media kit comes handy.
Lastly, stop media bashing! Post or prior to coverage, mocking the media doesn’t look cool. The media world is a small place and we get to know things rather quickly from our peers. We journalists welcome constructive feedback on our stories.