Is your startup ready for journalists?

*Originally published in Betahaus page here

As a startup, it’s difficult to get picked up by the media in a meaningful way. Why is that? Well, even you’re a tech genius or business prodigy who loves pitching to investors, pitching to the media is a whole different ballgame. All too often, startups fall prey to misunderstandings about how the media landscape functions, how to approach the people behind it, and why you should approach them at all.

For Olivia Czetwertynski, the International Communications Consultant behind tech PR & communications consulting firm BecomeWide, this is an issue that needs to be solved, for the sake of both journalists and startup founders. She walked us through the 3 key problems startups run into with their PR, the alternatives routes they can take, and what they need if they’re game enough to take on PR for real.

The INDUSTRY is tough.

It’s not often that you meet a founder who appreciates just how warped the media industry is today. PR agencies significantly outnumber journalists. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, there are over four public relations professionals for every one journalist in the U.S. As an entrepreneur, you’re faced with the challenge of getting your story told by a decreasing supply of writers.

The ATTITUDE is wrong.

Sure, founders have a lot on their plate. It makes sense that PR isn’t really their top priority, so the less time it takes, the better. After all, if your product is the game-changer you say it is, it’s the journalists duty to let the public know about it. But remember, journalists are outnumbered, which means they’re pretty overworked themselves. Many receive over 300 emails each day and are subject to incredible time pressure. If you send them a templated email without taking the time to get to know their writing, engaging with them on social media, or even addressing them personally, why should they take the time to write about your product?

The STRATEGY is lacking.

Entrepreneurs often lack clear goals for their PR efforts, and struggle to explain where, or why they want to be featured in the media. However, PR needs a strategy that’s SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related, just like any other aspect of your business. And, PR needs to work with your other business processes. You could just leave it all up to a PR pro to get your founder a front-page feature. But if your landing page is confusing, or if your target market doesn’t read the publication you’re featured in, your PR efforts could have no impact on your sales whatsoever.

The ALTERNATIVE? Don’t do PR (yet).

Startups with their first successes under their belt usually start to think about starting a PR initiative. But how do you know when you’re really ready? To answer this question, we need to consider where a startup lies on the Technology Adoption Curve.

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

A lot of startups that consider themselves to have arrived at the early majority phase, feel like they’re ready for PR. True, this is a good time to start! The problem is that most startups who think they’re at the early majority stage, are actually still in the innovators or early adopters stage. At this point, startups shouldn’t do PR just yet. Instead, young startups should focus on creating the foundations of a bright future in PR, by getting their brand out there via other channels. An informative blog written with your ideal user in mind, an engaging and entertaining social media presence, killer launch events and a website filled with great testimonials will all help establish your brand and story. After this, you’re ready to take the first small steps in PR, by reaching out to get featured in blogs specifically relevant to your product and market. Once your startup has truly hit the early majority stage, you’re ready for bigger media attention and fully-fledged PR campaigns.

The SOLUTION: Get the experience you need to do PR right.

At BecomeWide, we stand behind the idea that founders need experience interacting with journalists. Pitching to the media is a unique skill requiring targeting training, and that’s why we developed MEETaMEDIA, a space where we can discover together what startup stories make great material for journalists. An interactive workshop in speed dating format, MEETaMEDIA allows startups to speak to several journalists and improve their pitch during a single 30 minute session.

This allows founders to get to know journalists, what their work is like, how their interests differ, and their role in the media industry. Founders are also able to learn from their mistakes, rather than making the same ones over and over, as journalists give constructive feedback immediately after their pitch. With a better understanding of the digital media landscape, founders are better able to see how a targeted PR strategy could weave into their overall business goals.

For journalists, the benefits are clear too – finally, an opportunity to tell startups what you really think of their pitches, explain how they can make your job easier and learn how you can produce better stories together.

Meet-a-Media at betapitch Global & Investors Day

After Madrid and Brussels, Meet-a-Media came back to Berlin at betahaus during the betapitch Global & Investors Day, a one day event gathering the best finalists startups from 14 global tech capitals.

Selected 7 startups met 7 journalists during the speeddating sessions and afterwards had the great chance to receive the feedback from each journalist about their pitch and way to connect with media.

Some picture of the journalists and startups who participated in this 5th iteration of Meet-a-Media

Brussels startups Meet-a-Media

To continue our Europe tour, we stopped at Betacowork for the new iteration of Meet-a-Media in collaboration with startups.be

More than 50 startups registered for the session, we had to select 10 of them, not an easy task!

In Brussels we had to cope with the reality of the european capital: 3 official languages! That means startups had to be ready to pitch their story to journalists in French, Dutch and English!

The most frequent comments of journalist to startups that came out of this session are:

  • Common mistake: too technical
    Improvement: numbers are good but help journalists see the story behind it
  • Common mistake: too focused on the product
    Improvement: talk about the big picture and where you fit in
  • Common Mistake: lack of authenticity
    Improvement: Be you. Don’t pretend.

Here you can check the pictures and participants of Brussels Meet-a-Media session

Meet-a-Media at Google Campus Madrid with TechHub

After Berlin, we export the Meet-a-Media session to Spain with the collaboration of TechHub and Google Campus Madrid.

TechHub Madrid helped us to select the active startups in the tech scene.
We invited journalists from diverse type of media, covering different topics as startups scene, marketing, economic matters, design.

This mix made it really interesting to understand which kind of storytelling a startup would need to prepare for a journalist depending on his media affiliation.

The two main points that came out of this session were:

  • Common Mistake: Startup name is not understandable.
    Improvement: Make it clearer. Repeat it if necesary and make sure we understood it.
  • Common Mistake: Too technical and lack of a “human touch”.
    Improvement: Leave technical details when we will ask you for it, unless it’s really necessary.

Check out the pictures of the session and who participated in our Facebook album.