The Wichita Business Journal sponsored the first Startup Weekend Wichita event. The organizers asked for a special guest post on how to best interact with the media.
You’ve been plugging away on your business plan, code and design. You have a product and you know you can sell it. You’re ready to unveil your startup to the public.
Media attention can help take your startup to the next level, but it’s best to have a plan for how you’ll approach journalists and how you’ll avoid possible pitfalls.
Here are some tips based on my experience reporting on business and entrepreneurship:
- Make sure you have news. Occasionally, journalists will do features on startups or profiles of entrepreneurs just because they’re interesting. In general, however, reporters want news. Their editors will ask them, “What’s the news here?” Examples of news: You’re launching an app, you’re raising capital, you’re starting manufacture of a product, you’re hiring your first employee.
- Don’t wait too long. A reporter would much rather write that your product is launching today than that it launched two weeks ago. News needs to be timely.
- It’s usually better to contact individuals than to email a publication or blog’s general mailbox. Read the publication and figure out who typically covers startups or who covers the niche where your business falls, and reach out directly to that person.
- Try to make contact personally, if possible. Reporters get a slew of messages every day from public relations firms. A note from a company founder is more likely to catch their attention.
- Help the reporter understand as much about the business as possible. Make sure you can explain it clearly. If there’s a product at the center of your business, try to give the reporter a demonstration of how it works. If it’s an app, consider offering the reporter a beta version to try.
- Understand that any conversation you have with a reporter is on the record unless you’ve made an agreement that it’s not.
- Be prepared for questions about the details. How are you funding your startup? Who are the founders? What’s the ownership structure like? How much is this costing you? How will you make money? In some cases, you might not want to answer all these questions, but these are the things readers want to know, and they’ll help the journalist present a full story. You don’t have to disclose all the financial information behind your startup, but expect to be asked.
- Make sure you know if there’s something you’re not supposed to talk about. If you’re raising capital or taking a company public, for instance, there might be certain details you’re not supposed to disclose publicly. A lawyer can advise you on this.
- Don’t expect you’ll be able to read the story before it’s published. As independent third-parties, most media organizations have policies that prohibit this. Some journalists, however, are open to reviewing facts and quotes with you before publication to make sure they’re accurate.
- Make someone available for follow up after your interview. There’s a good chance additional questions will come up as the story makes its way through the reporting, writing and editing process. If the reporter can’t reach you to get those answers, the publication might have to hold the story. Let the reporter know who’s available and how they can be reached. Offer an email address or cell phone number if possible.
- Maintain the relationship. If you’ve had a positive experience working with a reporter or publication, remember that the next time you have news. It’s likely that the reporter wants to continue covering your company. Make it easy by keeping them in the loop as your company progresses.
I’d love to tell your startups’ stories, so please keep me in mind as you move forward. And stay up to date on business news in Wichita by subscribing to our free daily email products, Morning Call and Daily Update.
Emily Behlmann is a reporter and web editor at the Wichita Business Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.