How to turn your PR around: a to-do list

How to turn your PR around: a to-do list

As a startup founder who was about to launch her product, I know that having press could really help my business. I knew that we would attract more users, boost our page ranking for SEO and increase our credibility when talking to potential business partners and investors. However, getting press wasn't easy. After spending countless number of hours emailing the media, I got nothing!

Just when I was about to give up, I met Greg Galant (the founder of Muck Rack) and Greg was a savior. After a meeting with him, I went home and implemented everything he told me. The result was incredible!

Within a couple months, we were featured on WWD, The Business Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, etc...I didn't want to keep these tips to myself, so with Greg's permission, I share with you here the secrets to turn your PR around. A to-do list for better PR, if you will.

Step 0: Have the right mindset

As a small startup, it's easy to think that press is something that is unreachable. Why would a big publication want to write about my small company? The first thing I did is was change that mindset. Journalists are always on the lookout for great content, and they want to write about something interesting and innovative. Every single big company out there used to be a small company, so the size of your company is not as important as whether you're offering something interesting to the journalists-- something their readers want to read.

Step 1: Know your goals

Before starting my PR efforts, I wrote down my goals. Those goals impacted which publications and what story I needed to pitch. For example, if your goal is to get more users, you will need to pitch to publications whose audience consists of your target users; in our case, these are online press with female audience like Bustle, Brit+Co, etc... However, if your goal is business development or recruiting, you may want to pitch to different media outlets.

Step 2: Research the journalists

Researching the journalists you want to pitch is important because someone who writes about sports will not write about fashion. How did I find someone who would want to write about my startup? I listed all the keywords that are relevant to us like: digital closet, closet organizer, female entrepreneurs, fashion app, Rent The Runway (a company I used to work for), and found all of the journalists that wrote about these topics.

Once I had the list of journalists, I went on Muck Rack to find their contact information and learn more about them. This is crucial for the next step: construct the pitch.

Step 3: Construct the pitch

If you know someone that knows the journalist, asking for a referral would be the easiest way to pitch. However, cold email pitching is possible and I had great success with cold emailing. Here is the anatomy of my pitch:

The Subject- the subject line is hands down the most important part of the pitch. A journalist receives hundreds of emails a day, so you need to make sure that your subject line stand out. I received a tip from a journalist saying that the best subject lines are ones that sound like the headlines of the articles. It needs to be short, conveys curiosity and social proof if possible. For example, the subject line I used was: Ex Rent The Runway engineer launches a fashion app.

The Opening- you want to open your email with a personal message to the journalist, perhaps referring to something he or she wrote that is interesting to you or relevant to the topic you are pitching. You want to make a good first impression by making the journalist feel special here; an example would be highlighting her knowledge in the space and why you decide to pitch her. That said, the pitch cannot be too long so the opening should be limited to one sentence, maybe two maximum.

The Pitch- here is the meat of the email. You need to describe in one-three sentences what you are pitching. The content has to be able to describe what you do and why it is so unique, without going into too much detail.  For example, this is how we describe our app:  I recently quit my job as a software developer at Rent-The-Runway to launch a fashion startup Stuff N Style - an app that allows women to catalog their closet and get outfit recommendations. Our app is unique because it takes away the time consuming process of cataloging closet by letting users email their online receipts.

The Conclusion- create the urgency to respond and sum up your pitch with a call to action: We are launching next week and would love to have you cover this launch. Can we get on a call sometimes this week?

Step 4: Following up

Following up is as important is constructing your pitch. Journalists are busy and it's easy to miss emails. Also, you can really show that you care by following up. The follow up email can be as as simple as: I just want to check if you received my email.

I usually send two to three follow-up emails, one a couple days after the first email, and the others a week apart. We have about 20% response rate for the first email, but 80% response rate for the follow-ups!

Step 5: Nurture the relationship

Once you get covered by press, it is essential to thank the journalists for covering your story. I also send them leads for other potential stories they would be interested in. Not only are the journalists more willing to write about me, but people who I made the introduction to are also more willing to refer me their contacts.

I hope this is useful for all the startup founders out there!

Hanh Nguyen is the Co-founder/CEO of Stuff N Style - an app that allows women to catalog their closet and get outfit recommendations. Her startup has been covered in The Business Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Women's Wear Daily, Bustle, Brit+Co.

Photo: To-do list via Shutterstock

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