Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Developing a media strategy for your startup - Part 3: Getting your story to the media

This post follows on from part 1 and part 2 in this series.

In our experience, gone are the days of sending a press release to media outlets and hoping a journalist will pick it up. There are 3 key things we do to ensure we get coverage when we have a story to pitch to the media.

1. Build personal relationships with the media
Like so many other aspects of business, personal relationships are extremely helpful in having the media cover your business. Strong personal relationships are one reason PR firms can be so helpful, however if you can develop these relationships in house you'll be much better off. Jodie, Mike and I have all developed relationships with journalists before and since starting Shoe of Prey. Like any 'networking' it's important to be authentic about it. The best way to get to know journalists is to be proactive and take the opportunity to meet them at events, and if you help them they're likely to want to help you. Tell the journalist about a great story in the sector even if it doesn't involve your own business. Introduce them to people who might help them find a good story. And when the opportunity arises, be the best, fastest and most professional person who responds to the requests for information. Over time, as you build these relationships you'll have a ready network of journalists who you can share your latest interesting story with who will happily want to write about it. This same advice could apply to any form of 'networking' that you do.

2. Build your own reputation as an industry expert
Going back to the 3 businesses I mentioned in the first post in this series, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos has built his personal brand so that he's rightly viewed as an industry expert on customer service and organisational culture. Journalists want to interview him and people buy his books - including Shoes of Prey - we bought 5 copies of his most recent book 'Delivering Happiness' to share amongst the team! Naomi Simson of RedBalloon is an industry expert on employee engagement. She regularly speaks at industry events and conferences and has politicians visiting her office to launch new business related initiatives - all leading to more press coverage. Ruslan Kogan, and I'll add Paul Greenberg of Deals Direct here, have both built reputations as leaders in the online retail industry in Australia. They're regularly quoted in industry press and when their businesses launch something new it always receives great coverage.

It's still early days for us, but this blog is helping to share Mike, Jodie and my thoughts on the online retail and startup industries. Jodie's writing on the Shoes of Prey blog and her attending fashion industry events is building her name within the fashion industry and the 3 of us are starting to speak at more retail, technology and fashion industry events. All of this means that even when we cold call journalists with a story, they're more likely to take us seriously compared with a year or two ago.

3. Tools like Source Bottle and Help a Reporter.
As with many other industries the web has created efficiencies in the PR world. Source Bottle in Australia and Help a Reporter in the US are fantastic tools that allow journalists to create media requests which are then read by businesses like Shoes of Prey who are looking to share their story. Source Bottle provides us with a steady stream of startup, business and fashion related media sourcing requests. The request might be something like, "Looking for businesses who have experienced high levels of growth through the Global Financial Crisis for a business related story." We usually receive a couple of emails a week with requests for information that relate to our business and that we can respond to. These pitches are quick to write and are highly targeted because we know exactly what information the journalist is looking for. We've had some great coverage responding to Source Bottle requests since our launch. Source Bottle and Help a Reporter are both free for businesses, journalists pay a fee to submit information requests.

This post concludes our thoughts on developing a media strategy for your startup. If you can develop an interesting story, react effectively to media requests and develop ways to pitch your stories then you'll be on your way to successful and high return media coverage for your startup.

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