Get Your Lean Startup PR Right!

One of the beautiful things about the startup era is that the amount of overhead once required to start a company is no longer as prohibitive.
Where once you might have needed an office space, human resources professionals, and a budget to outfit your employees with tech equipment, today you can simply hire your team via the “gig economy”, launch a website and some social media accounts, and be building a customer base overnight.
This approach to company-building is more or less called building a “lean startup”, defined by Harvard Business Review as “a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” It’s temporary in the sense that, as much as it can pivot or adapt at any time to a better model, as it hasn’t sunk so many resources into its existing one.
Starting up lean is a great way to build a company, but it doesn’t change the fact that positive press coverage in a major outlet can still be a significant stepping stone for any small startup trying to gain traction and grow its usership. However, by definition lean startups often don’t have enough money to hire professional PRs and thus end up trying to hack it themselves. The problem is, without a knowledge of how journalism—particularly how the finicky tech press works—this approach can be problematic and counterproductive.
If you are running a lean startup and more or less trying to DIY your own press coverage, do not fear.

Follow these steps for best practice so you can maximize the likelihood of getting positive press coverage to take you to the next level.

Don’t rely on the press release: A lot of people equate PR with simply sending out press releases filled with information about your company to journalists. The truth is, though, that in the era of information overload, many journalists simply don’t have the time or will to read long press releases attached to unsolicited emails. Be less disruptive in your approach by pasting your pitch directly into an email and get your message across in fewer words than the standard 500 word press release. Even better, if the journalist is an active social media user (which is likely) try pitching them on Twitter, as they are used to using that network as a means of communication.
Understand what makes a good pitch: Even if your company is novel, chances are a journalist needs more of an angle than simply: “X launched a company that does Y.” Be more inventive in the kinds of approach you come up with about your company. Does your USP relate to a piece of legislation? A new cultural trend? Or a changing status quo? If so, make that very clear in your pitch as it will increase your chances of getting picked up.
Don’t mass email: Many people see no harm in sending the same email to a bunch of journalists at once. In reality, this can do serious damage and be perceived as laziness. The best practice is to try and tailor your emails to the journalist and the publication they write for. If you can’t do that, then at the very least copy and paste your message into individual emails addressed to the journalist’s name. If you skip this step, there’s a very high likelihood your email will simply be deleted.
Follow up—but not too much: Journalists receive a lot of unsolicited email, so it is possible their lack of response to your pitch is simply because they missed your email, not because they aren’t interested. So by all means, follow up once seven days after your original email, but don’t go further than that. Continuing to harass a journalist can turn them off from opening your emails in the future.