As much as startups and entrepreneurs rely on social media to spread the world about their businesses and products, it is still surprising how much they covet coverage from traditional media and blogs.
In some ways, they see attracting coverage as validation or confirmation of what they are doing. It doesn't seem to be enough to simply attract customers and generate revenue. Instead, media and blog coverage is necessary to show the world you've made it.
So how does a startup or small business attract coverage when there are so many other companies – big and small – battling for the spotlight as well?
The answer is that there is no magic formula. It is not a scientific exercise that happens if the right steps are followed. Attracting coverage is as much art as science, along with a healthy dose of luck and being in the right place at the right time.
That said, there are ways to encourage the spotlight to shine on your business.
Be successful or be a failure.
The media loves to celebrate and cover stories about companies and entrepreneurs that have defied the odds to become major successes. At the same time, the media also falls all over itself to cover failures.
How come? It's the drama of both scenarios that is so compelling and irresistible. At the same time, it means stories that fall in the mushy middle have a difficult time getting noticed.
Spin a story other than that your company is interesting or cool.
Truth be told, lots of companies are interesting or cool, which means reporters or bloggers don't find them particularly interesting or newsworthy. That means a small business needs to create a hook that is different or unique from everyone else seeking the spotlight.
It could be the founder's background, how the product changed due to a strange customer request, or a high-profile customer that was captured against larger rivals.
Position your company as part of a larger story.
For whatever reason, this is a concept that many companies have a difficult time grasping. To them, it seems strange to talk about a major trend or development in which their company plays a minor role. The reality is that reporters and bloggers love bigger issues so play to their interests while inserting yourself into the story.
Create a well-rounded story, and then "gift" it to a reporter or blogger.
These days, reporters and bloggers are time-strapped and writing lots of stories, so a nicely packaged story that makes their lives easier is always a good thing.
Complete a financing deal.
Big or small, deals are always interesting because money, after all, makes the world go round.
Leverage your data or a survey to create a report featuring interesting and newsworthy results.
One of my clients, Sysomos, attracted tremendous attention by creating a series of reports about social media activity that bloggers and the media found irresistible.
Establish relationships with reporters and bloggers.
It may take some time but your chances of getting coverage are significantly greater if you know a reporter or blogger, either digitally or in the real world. Reporters and bloggers tend to cover people they know and like, which makes it easier to get them to bite on a pitch.
This plays into the success angle. Being purchased symbolizes that a startup or small business has done so well that another company felt the need to snap it up. It's even more compelling if the purchase price is disclosed.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.
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