The last decade has seen a massive revolution in the way stories reach the media and how they are told, advises Anthony Caruana and Kathryn Van Kuyk, co-founders and co-CEOs, Media-Wize.
The reasons for these tectonic shifts are myriad but the conclusion is indisputable. The market’s thirst for content is growing but the number of people telling stories is shrinking. This makes it harder than ever for startups and small businesses to cut through and get attention.
Over the last seven years, according to data from LinkedIn, the number of people identifying as journalists in Australia has fallen by around 20 per week. With fewer journalists able to write stories it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract their interest.
How to catch the attention of the media
But, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a large enterprise or a small business, the principles are the same. To succeed in securing media coverage you need to be able to answer this key question: “What makes you special?” If you can’t tell a journalist why you’re interesting or how your product or service differentiates you from your competitors, then what story do you have to tell?
For startups and small businesses, the question of when to start engaging with the media is often pivotal to achieving success. Many founders fall into the trap of thinking that their big idea is the story but it usually isn’t. How you got the idea or why you’re motivated to solve a problem might be.
What makes a great story?
Reporters are looking for the new – a story they haven’t covered before, a new approach, a new solution, a fresh opinion. You’ll need to invest time in really picking apart your startup or small business and understanding the value proposition for different audiences and in different locations.
Generally, your startup or small business is ready to start engaging with the media when you’ve got paying customers and growing and your customers are willing to be mentioned in stories about how you’re helping their business.
You’re also interesting if you’re solving a problem/providing a solution that is topical and in demand. Or when you have investors or are about to announce a decent sized funding raise or expand into new locations.
Who will talk to media?
It is crucial that your founder or spokesperson has been media trained and coached, and is comfortable articulating how you’re different. With publishing cycles that are now measured in minutes and not days, you may only have five minutes on a phone call to get your point across to a journalist. Or just seconds in a live cross on TV or radio. Training and preparation are crucial for making these opportunities a success.
And remember compelling stories don’t start with fluff like “Startup X, is set to revolutionise the world, through a paradigm-changing game of buzzword bingo”. If you want to get a journalist’s attention don’t bury the hook. Make the email subject clear and put the money shot in the first paragraph. If you’re saving lives, saving money, helping improve the environment – put that in the first line! Concise press releases, free of effusive adverbs and adjectives and get the facts across quickly have a far greater chance of being covered.
Not all stories are for all people
Having a well-thought-out communications strategy that includes how you’ll communicate with the media and what stories will be best for specific publications is also important. It should cover ideas for content you can produce and where it can be placed. A complete strategy will also detail how you’ll use social media, events, sponsorships and advertising.
Invest effort in really understanding what stories exist in your startup or small business and have a considered strategy to maximise your potential coverage. Planning and preparation are key to success.
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