On a windy and rainy Wednesday night, 55 Barcelona entrepreneurs gathered at the Dango Lounge to hear Robin Wauters, European Editor of The Next Web, share insider knowledge on how to get the press to cover your startup. However, Robin had another idea in mind. Instead, he chose to attack the topic from another angle: “How to piss off journalists and have them never write about your startup.”
On a daily basis, journalists are bombarded with stories and non-stop information streaming in from all directions. Email, RSS, Press Releases, News Feeds, Twitter, Facebook, Phone calls, snail mail, post cards – this is the world they live in and you need to stand out, get their attention, and be so appealing that they can’t help but to drop everything and cover your startup.
Here are 8 ways guaranteed to piss off the press:
- Not understanding their profession. This is really important on a conceptual level and will help avoid all of the other mistakes listed below. First, remember that this is their job and they have a professional responsibility to their readers to provide great content. Second, these guys spend just as much time selecting which story to write about than they do searching for great stories. They are looking for that needle in a haystack and time is not on their side – so don’t waste it!
- Only reaching out when you need them. This is Business 101 and it is absolutely imperative that you look at the long game here. This is not a one-time transaction, rather a trust-based relationship that is built over time. Build rapport with your favorite journalists in real-life AND virtually by participating in their work, commenting on their articles, and having conversations on Twitter. Remember, they might need you someday to comment on a story and having a credible contact in any given industry is extremely valuable to them.
- Not giving them an angle – your story has to have an angle. Tell them why your startup matters and how it will stand out in the crowd. What’s unique about your product or service that is disrupting the status quo? What are you doing differently than everybody else?
- Not realizing that they are human beings – emotional creatures just like you! They want to hear a great story and then share that story with their readers. They want a story that makes them smile, think deeper, and research the topic further. Don’t treat them as a tool on your journey towards your latest “ground-breaking” beta launch – tell them a great story and you’ll get the results you’re looking for.
- Using buzz-words instead of facts to be convincing and exciting. “Revolutionary”, “the next big thing”, “Facebook killer”, so on and so forth. They don’t even see those words anymore. Literally. They have trained themselves through 1.000’s of hours of scanning for stories to skip right to the meat: Have you been funded? Landed any major customers? Achieved documented and scalable traction? These are all forms of validation for your startup and it’s all that they care about. As Joe Friday would say: “Just the facts, ma’am”. Let them come up with the witty one-liners to describe your startup. They’re much better at it than you.
- Misrepresenting the facts – or straight-up lying. Never lie or leave out facts. They have a 6th sense for bullshit. Even with the swarm of candy content and lazy dribble that’s plastered all over the web, the professionals are still journalists, and journalists check facts! Lying is a surefire way to get a tarnished reputation and blacklisted from future press.
- Not being aware of their rivals. They’re professional journalists and take pride in breaking news to their readers before their competition. Don’t offer exclusives if you’re not willing to follow-through. It’s a small group, so they know when they’re getting “sloppy seconds” on a story.
- Pitching your startup in the bathroom – they hate it when you do that.
So now that you know how NOT to get the press on your start up, how do you create a good story? A good story is like a good joke:
- The topic is fresh, intriguing, and unique
- The way you tell it is just as important as the content
- It must be complete, but sized just right – not too long and not too short
- Mind the details – they make all the difference
- Be compelling enough for people to share it – the joke must be retold
So the next time you’re looking good press to cover your startup, remember to approach them like you would a new friend in a coffee shop: be honest, focus on your product, and let your passion get them hooked into the story. Getting press is easy, but building a long-term relationship with members of the press is a two-way street and much more valuable in the longrun.
Thanks Robin for coming out in the rain and shooting it straight. We’ll see you around town!