Should You Bother Targeting the Tech Blogs for Your PR Campaigns?

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 | 27 comments


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.

  • http://twitter.com/dnsievers David

    I think that last line is a good one. I’ve found that putting some seed info out there helps people gather a base of interest/info when researching what you’re all about.

  • http://www.onetact.co/ Rishi

    Mark: Like someone said, the last paragraph is really good advice. :) I have started maintaining a log of people I’d like to network with, blogs / news editors I’d like to target, and events I’d like to attend this year; It’s been helpful so far. Planning in advance helps, but I just think one needs to be well prepared and ready before they approach or start focusing in that direction.

    On a side note, you should consider tweeting important advice / quotes, like the last line, from your blogs. I know it’s probably asking for too much, but I think you always seem to have some really honest, valuable advice in your posts.

  • http://www.Launch.it/ Trace Cohen

    Great advice! PR or rather publicity is already hard enough, so it wouldn’t make sense to leave anyone out for the slim chance that they might be interested.

  • http://www.hypedsound.com/ jonathanjaeger

    100% agree. I guess the flip-side to ignoring tech blogs for PR is thinking that getting “coverage” will make your company. At most it’ll give you some momentum, but really it’s just one peak in a series of hopefully bigger peaks.

    When the Weebly co-founder spoke at Startup School (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUIz-JemK8I) he showed the graph of their very long road to success. The TechCrunch, New York Times, and other blog coverage gave them spikes but they never really hit their stride in acquiring a consistent stream of new users until the snowball effect of word of mouth really caught on. You’d be lucky to have tech coverage cause that snowball effect!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    that’s a good way of putting it, david. and yes, I owe ya a text message ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks. re: quotes – I try not to tweet a post too many times so I don’t piss people off. usually I try to have the title be the thing that would pull somebody in. but when I see people quote an interesting line from a tweet sometimes I’ll RT it

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I generally agree. But press coverage helps in ways that are beneath the surface. You’re at an event and you meet somebody influential for your company. You introduce yourself and they respond, “yeah, I can’t remember where but I heard of you guys.” That’s the power of PR. And it can make a difference in getting deals done, recruiting, funding and so many other ways that are done subconsciously.

  • Silverborn

    Hey Mark, Loving the PR series. Currently taking a Skillshare course taught by founders from Yipit and Carbonmade on User Acquisition strategies. One of the strategies is PR and they give advice that’s very much in sync with yours. One thing I really liked in the course so far is the very specific example that the Yipit founder gives in this blog post of how they were able to get coverage for some of their projects – http://viniciusvacanti.com/2011/03/28/two-cold-emailed-techcrunch-pitches-that-worked/. Looking forward to the next post.

  • http://twitter.com/MikeDuda Mike Duda

    Focus on the audience(s) that gives you the greatest chance to build the business, not merely get backslaps from a tech industry echo chamber.

  • http://bothsider.com/ Mark Gavagan

    Very helpful to see the big picture…

  • Andrew

    Hm.. I’m curious why VentureBeat is never mentioned. I always considered TC and VB side by side.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Alexander.T.Bea Alex Bea

    Hey Mr. Suster, thanks for your insight. I’ve found that getting articles written about your company helps boost team morale. They’re gentle reminders that at a minimum, your team is doing something interesting. And while we all read this article from different perspectives (VC, LP, Entrepreneur, Tech Followers, etc), from the Entrepreneur’s view, moral boosts are few an far between. Articles about your company are like glitter, they make you happy and boost your confidence for a bit, but they come and go with the wind. Keep the PR-ticles coming.

  • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

    Don’t leave out HN. I’ve found the traffic from a successful HN post much more sustaining (over the short term), insider, and effective than TC et al. No doubt journos are reading HN ;) Though the major tech press has a longer long tail. I still get visits of TC mentions from years ago.

  • http://www.bluecoastrecords.com/ Cookie Marenco

    Thanks, Mark, as usual timely advice. We’ve been concentrating PR on our market, which was working well. At CES we had a journalist from WSJ seek us out, which surprised us, and very welcomed. We’re in the midst of expanding our PR range and will include tech PR as a mid step to the more ‘lifestyle’ PR. Bootstrapping is a bitch… way too much to do! :)

    Any advice on foreign PR? We can see it comes up from our Google Analytics , but have a hard time searching for in Google.. doesn’t seem to appear in reg searches. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/michelebusta Michele Bustamante

    When is the right time to create a CrunchBase profile? Is it a good idea to draw attention during invitation only request phase, during early beta when few are allowed to play and give feedback, or when you are ready to go live? Seems like creating the profile alone could lead to some traffic and I’m thinking that traffic is best suited for the latter phase but looking for input.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks for the link. they’ve been great at driving awareness.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    no reason. just writing quickly and didn’t think of them at the time. It’s a worthwhile tech blog for sure.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I agree entirely. It matters more than most founders realize

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    HN is a mixed bag. I don’t recommend it except for very technical companies / projects. Yes, you get a huge boost in traffic but it is very technically focused and the commenters there are brutal.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    create early. no reason not to. key question is when to add investors. only do that when you’re ready to publicly out them.

  • Roman Giverts

    About 6 years ago, when I was still in college I was an intern at Techcrunch. Back then everyone was still working out of Arrington’s house and techcrunch was the coolest thing. When I started my current company, my friends said, “you must be so connected, are you going to go back to techcrunch to get your company written up?” I said ehhh… it’s not really worth my time.

    Let me explain why: Startups got articles on techcrunch by showing up at Arrington’s house (the myth is true) or bumping into a writer at an event or party. The most charismatic founders would tell a story that would be almost word for word written up as a blog post. The glowing article gets published, the company’s traffic soars, the company thinks they hit it big. A few weeks later, traffic falls, the company is really confused, and soon they’re back at the house or at another event asking for another article. It’s like a drug addiction.

    The thing is, the companies that were really worth writing about, didn’t need to beg. They got articles without even trying.

    When I started my company, I wanted to be like those guys–The ones who didn’t need to beg for an article. I figured, it was more important to be successful through users getting real value from our product and telling other users.

    Now looking back, I’m incredibly grateful I spent no time trying to get press. Ironically,
    I’ve found the less you try to get press, the more you will get it. The best press comes from your customers, partners, users, investors, and others who will speak about you publicly or to a journalist. Ironically it’s everyone but you. If are the CEO or founder and you’re spending your days worrying about how to get more press, you might be in trouble.

    Lastly Mark, I find your comment about the google effect and how you look up details on crunchbase really interesting. It’s fascinating because I assume most of your investments are probably through word of mouth introductions or long established relationships. It sounds helpful to look up a company, but can a crunchbase profile or google results it truly help you make an imminent investment?

  • http://www.yanado.com/ Ivan Mojsilovic

    That response is a fantastic thing to get a deal done. I just love when it happens!

  • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

    That’s a good point. Though brutal commentators are more a feature than a bug, depending on how thick your skin is.

  • http://twitter.com/michelebusta Michele Bustamante

    thanks, and do let me know when you are in SD, will buy lunch or dinner for more advice :)

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/forum-link-building.php Sanket Patel

    I am agree with you , but to deciding the goal that what you upto ? that is more important as well.

  • nannasin smith

    It’s been helpful so far.
    LM7805

  • adityavempaty

    This really depends on what you goal is and what industry you are in (Consumer vs Enterprise):

    Being in consumer you if you pitch to tech blogs and generate positive reviews you will get traffic spikes and have people checking your site out. But this does not mean you will get convert this traffic to people who want to stay in touch (which should be the goal for these reviews) . Reason being is: Its not just the review, it’s how your site captures users and keeps in touch with them over time as it takes around 4-5 visits before someone purchases. Thus you have a to have a good end to end model. You start with the blog post at the top -> Visitors to site -> Visitors sign up for trail, stay in touch etc -> launch marketing programs to keep visitors engaged.

    In the enterprise space, it’s a bit different as most tech sites are not setup (nor often have the technical knowledge) to do the in depth review enterprise products that most enterprise admins/ architects would like to see. Thus approaching bloggers or industry level analysts who have a great reputation in that specific area are often targeted to do reviews/ or write up posts that go into the positives of that product. But even in this case you still have to have a good method to capture these visitors and keep them engaged until they are ready to purchase. As enterprise cycles can range from as little as two weeks to 6 months to get the customer to trial, look at results and commit to a purchase.

    But in both cases you really need to have 3 things for a coverage to convert well :

    - Clear methods to convince visitors to stay in touch (not push to purchase)

    - Have content that addresses your customers pains (but not talk about your product, but rather in general pain points).

    - Have programs that educate people over time and are contextual to their behavior and not just time based. Thus you resonate more with your visitors and higher chance to convert