How to Get Major Media Coverage for Your Startup

If I had a dime for every startup who told me they wanted to “get major media coverage for their launch”, I wouldn’t be working for a living.  In general, major media coverage comes from a sizable investment in marketing, public relations, and product development.  You get major media coverage when you deserve it.  However, here are just a few tricks and tips to try.

  • The mainstream media that covers startups and entrepreneurs.  Many of the top business publications have reporters who focus on the startup space.  Often driven more by a cult of personality than the promise of innovative products, they can sometimes be enticed with a sexy demo, a good “aha” story (the story about the moment the entrepreneur is struck with the idea) or a flamboyant founder. Consider the press coverage generated by 19 year old Seth Priebatsch, of SCVNGR who left Princeton to start a company, gathered millions in venture capital and now employs dozens, if not hundreds in Cambridge. Now there’s some human interest.  But make sure you have the real product to back up the promise.  Remember how the launch of the Segway “got away” from the team there?  Code-named Ginger, the conjecture was so over the top that the actual product was doomed to disappoint.
  • The back door – sometimes the best routes to major media coverage are the back doors. Of course we’ll talk about our hiring practices or our new furniture or whatever you are writing about.  These media opportunities may not focus on your product but it gets mentioned and you have started down the path of an enduring relationship with a reporter.
  • A timely angle responding to “in the news” topics – the ability to tie your product to the top stories of the day.  The elections, Romney’s choice of a running mate, the drought in the MidWest – how can you also make it to the front page story?
  • A seasonal angle – think major holidays, seasonal stories or any other story that reporters need to cover annually.  Back to school, gift giving, autumn, foliage season, etc.
  • Major vertical coverage – if all the media in your industry is talking about a specific product, it can rise to the surface and be interesting to the major media, especially the reporters who cover that beat.
  • Unique user stories – who is using your product? What kind of results are they getting? Is it a celebrity or celebrity darling? Are “unusual” people using it? Or an unusual group? Think counter-intuitive.
  • Success metrics – thousands of users, big profits, successfully competing with big players.
  • Kids, puppies, and other unique or interesting visuals.
  • Awards – drive credibility by winning awards and contests – product of the year, local innovation awards, major media often has its own award programs.  These are good ways to get noticed by influencers, and then by major media.
  •  The Right Place – for more than 2 decades, DEMO has been one place where major media has found interesting, exciting stories about new products getting ready to launch.  This year, StartUp America (full disclosure, I am on the Startup Massachusetts Advisory Board) is sending several companies to DEMO for free. Gathering together exciting startups, new products and major media gives you a chance to connect one-on-one with major media over a short period of time.  Note: While there is an application process, you do have to pay to attend the event, unless you are one of StartUp America’s chosen few.  If you are interested in applying to the Startup America contest, you can learn more here. Deadline August 17.
  • Make the right friends — attach yourself to the right projects.  Big projects, like MassChallenge and Startup America, generate interest from the major media.  They need examples when writing about the good things going on there.

Work with your PR and marketing team to figure out the appropriate angle for your product and have patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day.