This is a cross post from valleyanon
I get asked a lot about the best way to get press, and so I thought I'd write this to help others. Press offers an important channel for distribution to an audience that might otherwise never notice your product. Let's jump right in.
Who to target
A lot of people try to spray a single cookie-cutter email to press and pray that someone picks up their story. Nobody likes being approached like this. The email feels exactly like what it is: impersonal spam. You’ll get ignored.
What you want to do is build relationships. This is a dance, not an input output system. Press are just like you and me and deserve to be treated individually, with respect. Thus, reconnaissance is super important. It will take time to find the right blog, publication, or outlet that targets your audience, and then the right writer at that blog. Some journalists have very specific assigned beats (mobile commerce, iOS apps), others have general coverage areas (mobile apps, Apple), while others have no specific beat at all and just cover what interests them.
So how do you find who’d be good to pitch? Most blogs have search functionality. Search for keywords about your industry and take note. Once you've found out who most likely might cover your product, read what they've written about. Take note not just on what they cover, but how -- do they tend to write short breaking news blurbs, or long interviews with new startup founders? Do they like to be the first person to break a story? You can also learn about their opinions on products in your industry -- take note of their pain points with other products so you don’t make the same mistakes.
Next, you'll want to follow them on Twitter and scroll back through their post history to read more about their interests and personality.
How to pitch
Now that you know who you're targeting, it’s time to formulate a great pitch. These people get pitched constantly; it's not uncommon for them to have hundreds of emails when they wake up. It's your job to stand out. Work on your email subject line and make sure it is succinct and to the point:
Re: CrowdFunding -- Launching an app that helps people crowdfund pet rehabilitation
Start your email with a brief summary of what your product is and what it accomplishes, ideally in one to three sentences. You’re not writing a novel here. After that, you can highlight a few other interesting tidbits: user statistics, unique use cases, anything that shows why you’re product is worth writing about. You can do this in paragraph form, or as bullet points. Finish your email with why you selected this particular writer to pitch, perhaps making a connection with some of their previous work. If you have a press release, put that at the very bottom of the email, or as an attachment, but check the publication -- some explicitly ask that you do not send attachments, and doing so will get you immediately deleted from the inbox.
So your pitch is two to three paragraphs, around nine sentences max. The point of your pitch is to hook the journalist in. If they’re interested, they’ll call or email you back for more information.
How to follow up
When they respond, that’s your chance to gush about all the juicy details of your product. You might want to get a press kit ready. They will sometimes follow up with very specific questions or ask for a time and place to meet if you're local. Be prepared to really sell your product but cut out the marketing/sales speak-bullshit. Journalists have developed a nose for this and have learned to avoid it.
Every journalist has a different style. Some may end up rewriting exactly what you included in your press kit. Others may want to interview you with a hundred questions and include quotes, or do a profile of you and your company. Make sure you stick to the point.
Press kits, photos
A press kit typically includes the basic information anyone would want regarding your company and its products. You can send one at the writer’s request, or following a phone or in-person meeting. Here is a link for more information about what to include: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_kit
How to build relationships
Whether or not they've covered you doesn't matter in this section. What you want to do is begin building a working relationship. Press are way more likely to respond when you're present in their lives. Follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and continue conversations about things you are both interested in.
If you're local, you can usually see who they hang out with and what events they go to. Try to meet them and hang out over beer or coffee. Keep the conversation light and see where they take it. You can talk industry, but this isn’t the time to pitch them. You want them to be comfortable and have a good time, so the next time you reach out, they’ll remember your face -- and may be more likely to respond.
Hacks There are several hacks that I've seen work first hand.
The snow ball
Smaller blogs are easier to get to write about the underdogs. If a bunch of small blogs pick up a piece, most of the big blogs will pick it up too because of FOMO. Fear of missing out consumes the press and while they might not admit it, journalists have their eye on the rest of their industry from big to small. If you get your story featured in several smaller blogs, you might have a better chance of getting picked up by the big guys with the illusion of momentum.
The pest is a tricky tactic. You just bug them relentlessly. Follow up for hours and days until you get a response. It may not win over any friends, but you might gets a response back, for better or worse. I've seen this work for a young entrepreneur who emailed a journalist I know over 59 times in a day -- impossible to ignore, but this coupled with the fact he was persistent (as he included some snow ball effect) made him appear to have momentum. In the end he had a story written about him in a major publication.
This is the dirtiest trick because it just works. I've seen journalists accept presents (items ranging from $100-700+), super expensive dinners at the fanciest restaurants in town ($300+ a plate), and they also sometimes get to keep review units that the companies simply "forget" to request back. It's probably the best part of their job. No matter how dirty a journalist feels in accepting a bribe, I've never heard of one turning a good bribe down. Some incubators do this with media outlets by providing them with exclusives of company launches. Some media outlets is so insistent that they be first to cover a launch, I've seen them make founders pull launch coverage from other journalists. The bribe here is the exclusive content that keeps these news sources popular with early adopters.
These methods aren’t sure fire, but if you take the time to identify target publications and writers, personalize your emails, and establish a relationship with journalists, you’ll at least gain respect and get seen. While they may not cover your news, you could end up being a source or the topic of future stories. Don’t give up. Keep on pitching.