4 Ways to Get Press for your Startup When You Have No News

June 23, 2015

Getting any sort of media coverage for your young company is exhilarating. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve done more than a few “happy dances” when a great story rolls in. But, for every piece of coverage you get, there are far more times when you’ll have no news to pitch at all. So, if you’re trying to maintain that ever-crucial steady drumbeat of press coverage, how can you ensure your company is getting the attention it deserves even when there’s no news to speak of?

1. Guest Columns

Guest columns are a great way to get your name, and by association, your company’s name, out there even if you don’t have a specific product launch or major announcement to pitch. In fact, guest columns are the most effective when they’re completely agnostic and, for the most part, steer clear of mentioning your company (but don’t worry, you can get a link back to your website in the author bio). As an entrepreneur, you likely have tons of experience to draw ideas from. These can either center around a specific news event or trending story or can be more evergreen – ie. content that will be relevant weeks, months and even years from now.

While it’s more competitive than ever to get a guest column placed, there are a few simple tactics to help bolster your chances. To get started, build out your own editorial calendar based around those of relevant publications – Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc., TechCrunch and many others put out editorial calendars outlining the types of topics they plan to cover and when related stories will run – many editorial calendars will even include submission deadlines. Keep in mind editorial calendars are primarily for advertisers, so you may have to infer a few details around the stated topics.

As for getting in touch with the right people, some publications will have the editor’s contact information in their editorial guidelines, but for others you may have to go digging. If you’re not sure you have the right email address try using a service like HubSpot Sales or Yesware’s email plugin. Or, if you’re willing to invest more heavily in outreach, you might want to try something like Cision, which provides users with a rich database of media contact information. Keep in mind that if you don’t already have an established relationship with a guest column editor, you’ll often have the most luck submitting the column through the recommended channels – this will oftentimes include an onsite submission form.

2. Guest Blogging

In addition to submitting guest columns to media outlets, it’s also worthwhile to build guest blogging and content partnerships with relevant companies in your industry. And, unlike a guest column, a guest blog post submitted to a partner’s site can usually be more self-promotional, for instance you’ll likely want to talk up your product or service and how it’s relevant to the partner’s readership. While guest blogging allows you to more openly promote your company and will give you links back to your site, keep in mind that another company’s blog is likely to garner far less traffic than that of a more established tech or business publication.

To really get the most out of your guest blogging relationships, you should establish a schedule with your content partners – in other words, commit to a certain number of guest blog posts per month or quarter. And, be sure to leverage social media to share out your post once it’s live on your partner’s site. The better your guest post does for your partner’s traffic, the more willing that partner will be to run content from you in the future. And keep in mind that when sharing out your guest post, you can also generate traffic back to your own site using a service like Start a Fire.

3. Awards & Speaking Opportunities

Awards and speaking opportunities are two more great ways to get coverage for your company and its key stakeholders. To get started, get to work compiling detailed lists with information like submission deadlines, any fees, contact information and relevant URLs. Since there are more conferences and awards out there than ever, staying organized is key to building out an effective strategy. You might be overwhelmed by opportunity at first, so it’s important to narrow down your lists to only the most relevant.

You should also keep in mind that most award submissions require a fee, which can range from less than $100 to more than $500 – yet another reason why it’s important to pick and choose the awards you apply to carefully. Applying to awards where you feel you have a good shot at winning can also help return the most bang for your buck. But, keep in mind that less competitive awards will likely garner less visibility. Not to worry though, as your company and presence grows, you can and should go after more competitive opportunities.

As for speaking opportunities, its increasingly difficult to nail down a slot. Opportunities at the biggest conferences are extremely competitive, so if you’re just starting out, you might want to stick to opportunities very specific to your precise industry – you can skip Code Conference, Collision and Le Web for now. For less competitive conferences, sponsorship packages sometimes include pay for play speaking opportunities. If you’re already planning to sponsor a certain event, you might as well get a speaking slot out of it, but if you’re not interested in sponsoring, it’s rarely worthwhile to pay to receive a speaking slot.

4. Nurture Established Relationships & Build New Ones

It’s important to keep in touch with any journalists with whom you’ve already established relationships. Even if you don’t have anything particularly newsworthy, you should plan to give friendlies (journalists with whom you have a good relationship) heads up around second tier news like hiring announcements, new product functionality or even an office move. Sharing information along the way will keep you top of mind with your target reporters, just remember to space out your emails and not bombard your targets – doing so will undoubtedly backfire. It’s also a good idea to follow friendlies on social media so that when you do send a pitch, it’s tailored to that specific reporter.

While it’s important to nurture established relationships, it’s also critical to build new ones. This can be challenging without any attention-grabbing news. So, to build these relationships, you might want to use a service like HARO (Help a Reporter Out), which sends subscribers three daily emails outlining media opportunities. A typical HARO newsletter will include anywhere from 30 to 50 inquires. And remember, newsletters are sent three times a day so it’s extremely important to know exactly what you’re looking for. For most tech startups, only the High Tech and Business sections will be relevant. For opportunities in tier 1 publications, it’s important to note that opportunities come and go extremely quickly. There are hundreds or even thousands of replies for top tier inquiries, so it’s important to follow the instructions exactly and respond quickly as inquiries will close before their deadline if the reporter feels he or she has gotten what’s needed for the story.

Getting press coverage can be hard enough even when you have something newsworthy to pitch, so it can be extremely frustrating to try and garner press when there’s little news to speak of. But, before you give up, get creative with your press strategy and try a few less obvious tactics. Coverage will be rolling in in no time.

Photo by: Leeroy