I’ve started a recent series on PR at startups since I get asked for advice on this topic so often. I will put the full list of posts here.
The start of this series was, Should Your Startup Announce Funding?
6 or 7 years ago when TechCrunch was at its peak market share (they are still strong but many more tech blogs have also popped up) there was a term for getting covered there called “the TechCrunch bounce.” If your company was featured there (in the early days of what people called Web 2.0) you were sure to get a rush of 60,000-70,000 new user registrations, a ton of pageviews and interest from a rash of people from investors to people trying to sell you services.
The problem with the TechCrunch bounce was that it often led the the TechCrunch free fall, as in your website’s precipitous decline in traffic and your products fall in users as that same 60-70,000 rushed to try the next product.
Sure, some products were amazing and the crowds stuck around. But the obvious thing dawned on many people – the early-adopter, tech-obsessed readers of TechCrunch at the time were not necessarily the typical users of many company’s products.
After that a meme developed amongst many startups (and the advisors that coached them) that, “TechCrunch didn’t matter. You should focused on getting coverage where your users are.”
The problem with this advice is that it was (and is) wrong.
Here’s how you should think about your PR plan
1. Understand That You Don’t Only Have One Target Audience
The main reason that your advisors tell you to focus on your vertical, your age demo or your users favorite destination is that this is the obvious way to interest your user base. And while obvious this misses a critical point – PR is not only about your users. It’s also important for recruiting, fund raising, business development and even company morale. And each of these constituencies are important at different times.
If you’re a fashion product you obviously care about having way more products featured in the vertical trade mags or niche blogs for that sector. If you’re an app for “normals” targeting middle America it might be good to target the USA Today or if you’re a B2B site you might target industrial rags. But newsflash – very few of your investors will be reading these and probably not many of your employees either.
It’s the same thing for me as a writer. I mostly like to have coverage in the tech press where most of my customers (entrepreneurs) and business partners (other VCs) are. But I also need to address the other side of my customer base – the people who fund VCs (they are called LPs). And they have their own set of journals they read like Dan Primack’s column at Fortunate or PE Hub so I’d be a fool not to focus on both.
So while your industry press coverage might dwarf your tech press coverage by 30:1 or more – it’s not a case of not focusing at all on the tech press. Trust me, you’ll regret it the next time you’re preparing for a fund raising event and every VC you meet knows your strongest competitor and not you. Perception = reality.
2. Focus on Your Journalist Who is Likely Tech Savvy
The other big reason to also get coverage in the tech blogs is that one day you’ll be pitching your story to the NY Times, the WSJ or industry journals like AdAge or AdWeek. Chances are that a good percentage of the journalists you’ll come across will be in their 20’s or 30’s and will have a strong enough interest in technology (they are thinking about covering you, aren’t they?) that they probably read the main tech blogs.
Like it or not, if they do a bit of research and find crickets on you their perception is likely to be lessened or they’ll at least question whether you’re too early for them. Remember that while the tech blogs exist to report companies at their infancy, the broader journals do not. They want validation.
And that means the first thing they’ll do when you, your PR firm or your VC tries to introduce you is to Google you. Kind of obvious.
Which leads to my last point.
3. Build Your Search History
Google. It is every journalists starting point for researching a story. Frankly, every VC’s, too. The first place I go when I hear about a company is Crunchbase. It’s the Wikipedia of tech startups. I just want to know if they’ve raised a bunch of capital and from whom. That helps me figure out whether they’re in my target market or if they’ve raised too much money already. Or if I know one of the angels I can reach out and ask for an intro.
And as I’ve already written about, tech funding is an angle itself and thus WILL be reported. So skipping this story is skipping your chance and building a broader search profile and legitimacy.
I understand the good intentions of advisors who tell you not to waste your time with the tech blogs. I think the proper calibration is don’t spend all your time obsessing with them. You can grow a meaningful tech company without being a TechCrunch darling. But avoiding them all together is just plain daft.