Executive Director, People, Culture & Communications | Legal Aid Alberta.
Marketing and communicating a new startup isn’t easy. Startups often represent not only new businesses but also new ideas. When Amazon launched 27 years ago, the idea of a website taking your credit card information and delivering a book to your home was virtually unheard of. Today, it’s uncommon to physically go into a bookstore to buy a book and was so even before Covid-19.
When there are over 804,000 companies under a year old in the U.S. (as of March 2020), getting attention for your new startup in the mainstream media is important early on. Each publication, whether it’s Forbes, CNN or a major podcast, typically has millions of committed viewers and listeners — people who you want to try out your new product, company or idea.
The value of media coverage in a startup’s growth cannot be overstated, no matter the size of the company. For example, one successful media announcement I worked on for Luuze, a weight loss coaching and tracking company for which I did pro bono work, led to significant business growth. Website visits, app impressions and downloads all increased significantly. How do I know this was based on a media strategy with a strong network of connections? Because the company reduced its ad spend, but its revenue and sales went up.
As a cheerleader in the startup community and someone who does pro bono communications work for startups, people often ask me, “How do I get my new startup into the mainstream news?” My answer is “connect.”
Connect The Founder
This won’t be the first time you’ll hear me say it: Tell a story. Connect the announcement with the founder’s story. For example, Spanx started because Sara Blakely cut the feet off her control-top pantyhose, and she was looking for an alternative to the existing shapewear at the time. Luuze started because Andrew Luu saw a picture of himself with his newborn son and realized he needed to do something about his weight for his son. Nobody is going to care about a new startup launching if they don’t connect with its story. Cut the business-launch-announcement speak and get to the heart of the story — how it all started.
Connect The User
We aren’t selling products or services. We are selling experiences. As Carl Buehner said, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” The media release should connect the user with the product. This means understanding the heart of the audience at that time and place. For example, if it’s December and people are thinking about the holidays, connect the user with what your startup means for the holidays, whether it’s a gift for a loved one or a ride to get you to your family.
Connect The Reporter
I always say, “Imagine the media release being printed word for word in a newspaper.” Every media announcement needs to connect with the person you are pitching to, whether it’s a producer, editor or reporter. News outlets often receive hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches a day. Don’t make it hard for the media to decipher the story. Connect the reporter to the topic and help them imagine the story in its published form at the news outlet.
And of course, connect with the reporter. Your relationship with them is just as important as any other colleague. It’s not easy being a member of the media these days. Support them and work together. In the midst of the busyness and all the information we get bombarded with, let’s remember to build connections and relationships. That’s what makes life rich, no matter who you are — and what unicorn business you may become.