How to get free (and effective) press for your startup
It feels good to own a startup. But building it, getting customers, making profit, making it a recognised brand, etc. is not always easy.
At our last edition of Techpoint Startup School, I taught a class on getting free press for your startup. I thought I should share some the lessons I gave with the Techpoint Africa audience.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list. Feel free to ask questions/seek clarification.
Lesson 1: Do you even need press?
Early startup founders always seem to forget to ask this question and that is mostly because there is a common misconception about marketing and press. Press is different from marketing. Marketing is advertising your brand to get customers, it helps you build traction. Press, on the other hand, may not necessarily get you customers but it highlights your previous successes and achievements, number of customers, level of revenue achieved, that is, traction, to build your reputation. You need marketing in the early stage because you need traction which you can use to get press.
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, you need press:
- Do you have some traction?
- Have been running for at least 6 months?
- Do you already have some reputation?
- Have you previously run a successful or prominent startup?
- Do you have something truly interesting, like an innovative model?
Lesson 2: Do the work
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the previous questions, you need to do the work. Especially if you run an early stage startup, getting someone to handle press relations for you will cost you a lot, so you just have to do the work yourself. You need to make things easy for the journalist. You have to learn the art of storytelling and, when you can, you should make the journalist’s work easier by providing good pictures. This will make your pitch stand out.
Lesson 3: Where is your audience?
Depending on the stage you are, and your immediate objectives, you need to know who your audience is and where they hang out.
If you are a Nigerian agro-crowdfunding startup, for example, and your objective is to increase your number of crowdfunders, you have no business looking for press on Techcrunch. Focus on trying to get press on a Nigerian publication. And no, not just tech publications. Most of your potential crowdfunders are probably hanging out in places like Nairaland.
Before Tage Kene-Okafor took over from him, Techcrunch’s Africa correspondent, Jake Bright would not even pay attention to your startup unless you had at least gotten to the Series A stage. Even now, most African startups that end up on Techcrunch do so after they raise a Series A round. In their case, their objective is to signal their viability to potential investors in their next round.
As an early stage startup, your primary focus should be getting customers. The questions you should be asking are: What do my customers read? Where do they hang out? Linda Ikeji”s Blog? Nairaland? Nairametrics? Techpoint Africa? You need to seriously consider this.
Lesson 4: Connect with subject matter journalist
After finding publications and media houses that cater for your target audience, find their journalists on social media. Follow them, engage them, drop valuable insights on their posts. Let them notice you for good.
Do not pitch yet.