Rule One: Know what you want and why you want it
The first two questions to answer are: who do you want to hear about you and what action do you want them to take? If you want to reach senior business leaders, and have them learn about your new venture fund, international publications like Forbes, Financial Times and Wall Street Journal are ideal targets. But if you want millennial women to download your fashion app, then target Grazia and Refinery 29.
Like with anything in life, if you do not know where you want to go, you are not going to get there.
Rule Two: Start small
It is very unlikely that your first press appearance will be in a top global publication, but this is a good thing. It is better to make mistakes in front of a small audience. Start by giving interviews to small blogs and company newsletters to hone your message. By building up a bank of content about you, larger publications will see that someone already finds you interesting and will be more likely to write about your news and views.
Rule one still applies: think about where your target audience is. For example, in the early days of starting Enty, a retail tech platform, I wanted to reach millennial women, but the big publications did not care about my young startup. I began by giving interviews to and writing content for blogs and newsletters that my target users were reading. I even gave an interview to a website selling vegan condoms, because most of its customers were my target users.
Rule Three: Be interesting
This is the most important. If you meet a journalist from your dream publication, but have nothing to spark their interest, you will lose a great opportunity. Think about it like going to a party and meeting someone you want to impress. They are more likely to remember you if you tell them an interesting or a funny story, not if you just roll out your credentials.
You do not have to launch a fashion brand with Rihanna to be memorable. Even if you are making engines for tractors you can show how these engines help grow the food we eat, impact the environment or employ practices from other industries to farming.
Remember that a journalist’s job is to tell stories, so make yours interesting.
Rule Four: Create content
Creating content shows your expertise and can impress editors and customers. However, it must be useful.
Worry less about writing excellent prose, and more about giving practical suggestions that your readers can implement. It is no good to talk about general industry trends, unless you suggest what people can do about them.
The best example of useful content by a company is the First Round Review, by venture fund First Round Capital. The review focuses on various aspects of entrepreneurship and has established First Round Capital as an investor which understands and helps entrepreneurs.
If you are aiming to reach a business audience, publishing content on LinkedIn and Medium is more useful than publishing a blog on your site. Since both platforms already have large audiences, your content is more discoverable on them than on a standalone website.
Rule Five: Build relationships by being useful
Journalists will often have a lot of broad knowledge, but will not have the sector depth of someone running a business. This is your opportunity to be useful. Explain sector developments and make introductions, even if they are to your competitors.
I know a fund manager who regularly meets with capital markets journalists to explain market developments. Most of these meetings do not turn into coverage for his fund, but they do make sure he is the person whose opinions get published ahead of his peers.
Rule Six: Be proactive after publication
The work does not stop once you get press coverage. Even if you are featured in your dream publication, clients with big contracts will not necessarily beat down your door. I have been featured in the Financial Times, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal, and write regularly for Forbes, yet Richard Branson has still not called to invite me to Necker Island.
While some inbound interest is going to happen, you can make the most of your press coverage by being proactive about who sees it. This is not only limited to putting it on your social channels once.
To make press coverage evergreen, add the article to your email signature and to your company credentials. Even if a prospective client did not read the article at the time of publication, they are likely to be impressed if they see it as part of your sales presentation.
In a crowded marketplace, having a profile for your business and for yourself as a leader will lead to more money, more opportunity and more fun. Investing time to grow your brand by using these simple and effective rules will help your business, whether it is an early stage startup or an established investment fund.