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How to generate media attention for your startup


When aiming to generate media coverage for our start-up or business, we often get one thing wrong. It relates to our training as marketers. We are too targeted.

In fact, we need to do the reverse and cast the media net wide – as wide as possible. What needs to be targeted is ‘the message’, not the media organisations we aim at. The message needs to be written for the forum. But, in truth, most of us have way more messages in our business than we have bothered to think about, or even invent. Yes, we can invent messages.

The message or pitch needs to be all about them, their readers and their viewers. Never us or our start-up. So before you pitch, work out how many angles you’ve got and you’ll be surprised what you can dig up. In fact, you’ve got to give a bit before you get anything – especially for start-ups, who can exchange a few learnings from the battlefield.

Here’s an idea-jam for potential examples of media angles for Start-up X.

  • Altruistic – helping people
  • Business methods you’ve used
  • Helping people make money
  • Saving money by using your products
  • Productivity improvements of staff
  • Web news – first of its type
  • Start-up stories
  • Technology used
  • Ecologically sound (no, we don’t mean carbon offset)
  • Green message
  • Making the web-physical connect – going beyond virtual
  • Helping the financially challenged
  • Help people connect with customers
  • It’s ├╝ber new
  • It’s the old world reinvented
  • Vicarious living….

There’s more, but you’re bored already. I’m just showing what’s possible. Stuff like this equals free media. Pages/slots have to be filled.

Frequency vs Depth

While we know we need advertising or media exposure, the thing we need most is frequency. Advertisers talk about depth and frequency. (Depth being how many people we reach on each occasion. Frequency being how often we reach them.) It’s great to let zillions of people know about our start-up as quickly as we can. We may even be lucky enough to get some kind of viral campaign working for our start-up – we may be featured in the newspaper, on TechCrunch or we might even be lucky enough get a TV spot.

After the event, here’s what happens: people cook dinner, pick up the kids from school, pay the bills, kick the dog and get on with life. Our start up doesn’t really matter to them… straight away.

Consumer awareness goes something like this:

Exposure 1: “That’s a cool idea/product/concept.”

Exposure 2: “Oh, yeah, I must remember to check that out.”

Exposure 3: “There it is again. Might be worth having a look.”

Exposure 4: “Hmm, Ok – I’ll check it out when I’m shopping/online next.”

Exposure 5: They finally act and go look at / investigate / touch / feel / try….

After many exposures we have “a chance” of selling to them. Sure some people check it out first time, some buy straight away, but the large majority need to be reminded, over and over again. This doesn’t mean you need to spam them or do terrible interruption marketing. It means you need to send frequent and relevant marketing communications to the people who might care.

It’s a lot like us never noticing an advertisement for a car until you are in the market to buy one. They’re always there, we just have selective perception.

This is why advertising frequency is king. No point having a big launch campaign if your prospective new customers aren’t looking on that occasion. For entrepreneurs, the big launch concept is a hoax. It’s unsustainable. We’re far better off being there all the time, in some way – then we don’t have to predict when people will buy.

And before you waste a shipload of money on a PR agency, the truth is the media aren’t listening anymore. Well, listening to PR firms…. Once upon a time, a PR agency had the secret access keys to journalists. That made them powerful. But things have changed. Now we can access anyone with a few Twitter messages and some Google magic. And the PR agency messages are very 1993. In an age of authenticity, we are far better off going direct. Developing a relationship with media contacts is far more valuable than wasting money on outsourcing PR. People want to talk to the person, and that person is you.

Stephen Sammartino escaped his cubicle after 10 years marketing global brands. He has now founded two start-ups, recently launching Rentoid.com – the place to rent anything.