5 Reasons Why Your Startup Isn’t Getting Any Press Attention

By: Jordan Whelan

To secure a media hit for any startup is an incredible accomplishment, especially when you are up against the nearly insurmountable task of being a relative nobody.

Media hits drive sales, raise your profile for investors and can improve your ranking on search engines.

Fresh from the team at Grey Smoke Media, here are 5 reasons why you aren’t getting any traction in the media.

1. Your message is overly complicated – Reporters, Editors and Producers a.k.a. those who have mere seconds to take in your release don’t have time for the who, what, where and when. Your most important selling point is why? The golden rule of creating a press release should be to focus 90% of your time on crafting the headline, 5% on crafting the sub headline and the other 5% on the body. They likely won’t read past the sub headline unless you have piqued their interest. When I was a producer I would get on average, over 20 pitches a day. Dumb it down and sell it fast.

2. Your idea isn’t topical – When a major story breaks in the media staff are under strict orders to continue to find new angles while the interest is high. How many times would a Rob Ford story break after which 30-40 stories, in the same vein, were generated? If your business can complement a major news story well, try and newsjack it. This is a process by which you make a story your own. At the height of Rob Ford mania, I brainstormed an angle of Rob Ford furniture for my cardboard company. We had a request from CTV less than 5 minutes after the release went out. Study the tides and follow the appetite of the audience. Act quick as it often shifts within 24 hours.

3. You’re pitching it wrong – Many are under the false impression that they should obtain a media list in the hundreds of names and blast out releases aimlessly hoping one will stick. I can tell you first hand that this a great way to end up in a spam box FOREVER. Find 5-10 media contacts that you feel would be perfectly suited for your story. Next, find a story they wrote in the past 3 months that is similar to yours. Explain you’ve a fan of their work and that you feel your story would fit well with their portfolio.

4. You don’t follow up – Media contacts who have been with the same email address for years are on more lists than you can imagine. PR firms have ballooned as media has shrunk in the face of digital demand. Some contacts are receiving upwards of 200 pitches per week. Don’t be afraid to follow up (by email) with a quick sentence. More than once is enough.

5. Your idea isn’t sexy – Fun and frivolity sells. There is always something interesting around what you’re doing. Study the target audience of their media outlet. You may think it’s just great enough that you’re a small, growing business. Think about if you would click the headline. Next, think about if you would share the headline. Every business has a nugget of gold in them. It may be the backstory of the entrepreneur, a public initiative or even the innovative ways in which they market.

Securing media hits can very much be a process of A/B testing that takes years to master. The aim is to work with the tide. Always remember, media outlets need content just as much as you want it to be yours.


Bio: Jordan Whelan is an entrepreneur who heads up Grey Smoke Media, a Toronto media planning and strategy firm. His other ventures include cardboard design firm, Our Paper Life as well as social commerce platform Framestr.

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