8 Free Ways To Get Press Coverage For Your Startup (2023)
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
I think we can all agree that press amplifies sales.
As a small business, you may be thinking this is a non-starter:
- How do I budget for this?
- Is my business newsworthy?
- How do I get press for my business?
In this guide, we'll discuss various creative (and proven) ways your business can generate press without breaking the bank.
1. Pick up press through your product launch
Getting press through your product launch is all about being strategic, and if done properly, can result in a ripple effect across a ton of different audiences.
Let's say you're about to launch your big idea on ProductHunt - you're hoping to gain a ton of traction and as a result, get picked up by a few different news outlets.
Sure, there's a chance this could happen organically for you, but odds are you may be missing a big opportunity here if you're not proactive PRIOR to the launch.
You may want to consider curating a list of journalists and reaching out to them individually (through email or phone) telling them about your launch plan.
Travis Peterson, founder of Joker Greeting launched on Kickstarter and received an overwhelming amount of press
My brother and I have always loved to make fun of everything. Around 2014, we visited my mom’s house and she had this musical greeting card. We thought it was annoying. We asked each other, "Who wants to listen to this!?" Then Nick asked, “What if it didn’t stop?”
That was it. Nothing more. No market research.
I bought 1,000 units and received them about eight weeks later. We thought we could only sell about 750 units and we would use some for marketing and personal use.
We launched on Kickstarter - we didn’t have a brand, website or anything.
We hit our $7,500 goal in 3-4 days after being picked up on CNET, and ABC News.
Later it was BuzzFeed and Gizmodo and more. This was when I learned what “going viral” truly meant and how making a great product can matter so much more than making a just a good product.
2. Connect with influencers
Influencers are a great way to reach a loyal audience and may help you get picked up by an even bigger press outlet or blogger.
The key to getting your content or product in front of other journalists is by showing them that others are interested in the product.
There's no better way to do this than by having an influential person post about it themselves.
Truth is, influencers have relationships with other bloggers, PR and media outlets- so one post could be your ticket to an even bigger opportunity.
Eddie Huai, founder of Flyby discusses how a big influencer secured their first interview with a major press outlet:
For our launch, we posted Flyby on Product Hunt. That’s when things really started to take off. We got 262 upvotes overnight, landed a spot in the Product Hunt daily newsletter and our inbox was exploding with emails from bloggers, excited consumers and even potential investors.
This is when we hit our first major inflection point. That single post attracted tens of thousands of visitors to our website. This lasted about a month and then the traffic from Product Hunt started dying down.
But through this post, we were connected to an early adopter who was close friends with a big influencer (@weworewhat 1.9M followers).
We ended up sending @weworewhat a box full of samples with a personalized note. This landed us a free IG story mention which not only gave us social proof but also secured our first interview with a major press outlet (a reporter reached out to us after seeing the IG story).
According to Robert Cialdini, who studied the principle of social proof in-depth in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, “we view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it”.
So for example, if you’re uncertain about purchasing this one product but then you see that “insert famous celebrity name who you really like” posts something it, this would transfer the positive attributes they see in these “celebrities” to the product. This would give the product that verification and push you to purchase if you’re on the fence. There are many forms of social proof you can use too (e.g. customer reviews, large followings on social media, press etc).
That article ended up getting syndicated across major outlets and we ended up driving over 100,000 visitors to our site and generating $200,000 in revenue within 60 days of launching.
3. Get featured on a podcast
Another great way to generate brand awareness is by getting featured on a podcast
Podcasts are a great way to reach new audiences, build trust and establish yourself as an expert in your space.
The best part is, you don't have to have your own podcast to reap the benefits!
Louis Nicholls walks us through how he booked himself 5 podcast guest appearances in just a few days:
Step 1: Find some (relevant) podcasts to appear on
Here are the top 3 that worked really well for me:
- podcasts I either already listen to or where I know the host
- going to communities where my audience hangs out and asking them what podcasts they listen to
- searching for podcasts that featured guest episodes with people who are like me, but 1-2 steps more 'internet famous' (eg Val Geisler, Courtland Allen)
Step 2: Reach out and ask to be a guest
The next thing I needed to do was reach out to the podcast hosts and convince them to book me as a guest in the next few weeks.
And this is easier said than done - even smaller podcasts get 5 pitches for each available guest spot.
So I put together a unique cold email for each guest. Consisting of...
- 'proof' that I listen to the show and am serious
- a clear, powerful explanation of the value to the host of having me as a guest
- a clear, powerful explanation of the value to the host's audience of having me as a guest
- a few, tailored topic suggestions to make it easy for them to say yes
Because I was using Pigeon as my CRM (inside of Gmail), writing and sending each email only took ~2min/each for a super tailored email.
Here's one of the emails I sent, which got that amazing response from above...
4. Submit a press release
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some key points to remember when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
5. Build relationships with journalists
As we all know, relationships are everything and have the ability to take you very far.
You may want to consider building relationships with journalists before you need their help, as this will increase your chances of getting exposure/press when the time comes for you.
This could be as simple as getting yourself on their radar, connecting through outlets like:
- Twitter mentions
- Connect locally - drop by and bring lunch to their office and just say hello!
You'll love this story of how Mano Manoharan, founder of AMANO teased journalists with postcards and breakfast in 5-star hotels back in the '90s:
Back in the 1990s, I came up with a 3-stage Teaser campaign, inspired by my EMI Records days. Teasing Journalists with a sequence of postcard images (sent via the post - no internet then) of famous film stars and an enigmatic statement that steadily built up - to a ‘reveal’.
One was Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct (yes that scene) and the last was Jack Nicolson in The Shining - with a “tip of the tongue” solution to his “problem”.
My offer on the back of the Jack postcard of breakfast at a 5-star hotel was eagerly taken up.
In a whirlwind 2 weeks, I met 20 or so Journalists, had multiple breakfasts (often on the same day - well I couldn’t give the impression I was seeing other Journos could I).
And as a result in one heady week, we were on TV 3 times, Radio a dozen times (including The BBC and PBS USA) Newspapers and (after the publishing lag) GQ, Esquire, Cosmo, Details and Marie Claire.
6. Plan a publicity stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line. it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
One great example is when Maury McCoy, founder of Penny Portrait created a 9 foot tall Penny Portrait as a publicity stunt:
- Took 14,833 pennies and made a large portrait of a larger-than-life man all by hand
- The video explained how the portrait was made in a fun and educational way
- Received 12 million views
- Stunt was a big success!
7. Get press using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Craig Rabin, founder of The Airhook ($15K/month) explains HARO as the best way to get press:
Pitch, pitch, PITCH! Figure 1 in 10 responses is a good ratio.
The Airhook has been in roughly 100 publications since 2015, I’m confident I’ve pitched at least 1,000 times – typically ~5 daily based on current events and HARO (Help A Reporter Out).
Once the PR train starts, keep it on track! Make time everyday for media outreach.
Go to the HARO website and sign-up to receive 3 daily email blasts of reporters working on stories. Really, add this to your daily routine. It only takes a couple of minutes so scan the emails for stories that may fit and 75% of our media comes from this FREE source.
8. Consider guest posting
Guest posting is a great way to gain awareness for your brand and connect with a new audience. Often times, this is a free opportunity as well.
Here are two simple ways you can do this:
- Write an article on someone else's blog - bloggers are always searching for great content so they can increase value to their subscribers.
- Interview with a publication (Starter Story is a good example of this)
In addition to getting press, this is also a great way to up your SEO game through backlinks. It's a win-win for both the blogger/publication and your brand.
Here are some things to keep in mind when guest posting:
- Promote your post on all platforms - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.
- Post something that really represents your brand and your expertise. For example, if you're an expert at SEO, write a "How To" guide on that particular subject. Not only will this help with brand exposure, but it will also establish you as a leader in the space.
- In the post itself, make sure you continue to link to your own website and other materials.
- Look at the format/style of the blog you're posting on and try to adhere to similar principles. This will increase your chances of resonating with the blogger's audience.
Emenike Emmanuel, founder of Entrepreneur Business Blog provides us with the guest post pitch template that has generated great responses:
Guest post pitches
I also sent out guest post pitches to other bloggers. Some of them accepted and published my articles, while others ignored me. I didn’t take it personally.
For two reasons, I considered guest posting on other blogs:
- To get more people to know about my awesomeness in crafting jaw-dropping business articles.
- To get backlinks to my blog and boost my domain authority (this is the ranking of your blog on a scale of 0 - 100).
If you are just starting out here’s my best guest posting pitch you can learn from. Tweak it so that it looks natural:
Guest Posting Email Template
title=Would love to collaborate Hello [Editor’s or Blogger’s name],
My name is [your name], founder of [name of your blog] - a blog where I share my in-depth knowledge in the area of __, __ and __ [name the things you discuss on your blog].
For the past __ [mention how long you’ve been reading their blog - don’t lie] I have been following your blog [mention the URL of their blog], I have learned quite a number of things and have also retweeted some of them that are most relevant to my audience from your handle, [mention their Twitter handle].
Seeing that we share a common niche, I’d love to contribute a unique guest post that your readers will enjoy.
After going through your previously published articles for the past, [mention how many months or years of previous articles you researched on their blog] I came up with this article:
- [Mention the title of the article you wrote]
In this article, (attached below) I discussed __, __, ___, and __ [you can place this in bullet points].
This article is purely search engine optimized, free of spammy links (you are at liberty to remove or replace any link you consider unnecessary) and focused on your blog niche.
To have an idea of how my articles perform, take a look at my previously published guest posts on:
- [Name of the blog - Title of your guest post with its hyperlink]
- [Name of the blog - Title of your guest post with its hyperlink]
- [Name of the blog - Title of your guest post with its hyperlink]
If given the privileged to be published on your blog, I will share it on social media and to my email list. I will be here to respond to all the comments from your readers.
In case you prefer that I write on another topic different from this, do not hesitate to let me. [If you did proper research this won’t be necessary]
I look forward to hearing from you.
[Your name] [Your blog name]
How do I find relevant journalists?
- Search for your topic on Google and clicking on the news tab. From there, you can make a list of the various journalist's names that have written about similar topics.
- Leverage LinkedIn to find a desired journalist. The search function allows you to easily direct message via the platform.
- Use platforms such as Muck Rack and Haro to find journalists and outlets for you.
How much does it cost to get press?
The typical cost for a press release ranges from $500-$2500.
However, there are free press release distribution services as well, such as:
- All tactics mentioned in the above article
As you can see, there are various forms of media coverage that don't require a hefty budget - just a little creativity and consistency!
We hope you're able to apply some of these strategies to your future marketing and PR efforts!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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