PR and startups. A post. Addressed in particular to founders of startups

Have a good story. A good story is not something you make up. It's something based on factual items, technology, product, and market dynamics. A good story is short and to the point. If you need pages to tell it, you do not have a good story.

I have been asked over and over again in the past weeks “how do you guys get so much media coverage”, “please intro me to your journalist friends”, “how this”, “how that”.

The question people really want to ask is: how do you get attention that matters when you are no one and unknown to the world?
Because of course if you are a rock star startup, any change of pixel on your home page will get an unsolicited wave of PR coverage. But you are not. No one cares about you. Yet.
I have a very disappointing answer for you. I have no secret. Just many ingredients collected over the years. I will share some of those. And before I start I will say this: this has nothing to do with having the network or even having started a Techcrunch blog. Experience helps (read below) but it's mostly about your motivation and drive.
It is about obsessive hard work, never letting go, and being a good story teller.

Top 10 media tips

1. Never use a PR agency. Ever. At least in the early days. You will lose your time and money. No one will be able to tell a story like you. If you can't, either learn, or hire someone full time that can. If you do not do that, you will fail. Every startup that is visible (not fake visibility) has behind it someone that tells a good story. This cannot be outsourced because it requires deep passion, genuine voice, and commitment that an agency paid $5-10k per month will never get you. I can't count the number of startups frustrated with their PR or communication agency. They are not designed to replace you.

2. Have a good story. A good story is not something you make up. It's something based on factual items, technology, product, and market dynamics. A good story is short and to the point. If you need pages to tell it, you do not have a good story. It's hard to make a good story because you have to use simple words and go to the point. It is easier to be wordy and lengthy. In other words, it takes a lot of time to make it short. One last thing. You can't fake a good story. You can't buy a good story. A bad product will never make a good story even if you are a magician. You need to "earn" it.

3. To know if you have a good story, like a muscle, train yourself. Repeat it as many time as you can until you are sick of it. To anyone. You will just know when you have one. Pay attention to the reactions, the eyes, the body language, asked questions and silent expressions. Learn from those. Sharpen it as a knife. Repeat until it's razor sharp.

4. Never wait unri the minute you need coverage and attention to obtain it. This is the least understood thing in PR. You may be lucky to get immediate attention if you are a rock star serial entrepreneur with top VCs backing you. It may work. Once. But it won't over time. You need the direct contact with the people you want attention from. You need to build that up over a long period of time, well ahead of your own needs. The reason? Bloggers, journalists, and influencers are submerged in solicitations. I know, I have been on the other side

5. How to get attention: contribute, help before getting helped. engage before being engaged. This is the best tip you can get. Find a few people you really want attention from and build that relationship. It does not mean you need to stalk your contacts. But be smart about the topic they are interested in, answer, post, like, submit tips, or ideas and suggestions...

6. When it is your time you need to be prepared like in a battle. You need to be hyper-focused because the phase of outreach and coverage is intense. Organize your attention and time to be laser dedicated to it. Ideally the CEO should do it in the early days. This is highly time consuming but highly rewarding when things happen well. The timing can be defined by your own agenda (funding, product launch...) or the market (news jacking, as I call it).

7. Get organized: a nice data room with all the material (pictures, links...) and a well-structured email including a very short paragraph and structured appendices. First ask if they want to receive the material then send it. Since you may end up contacting many people, use a CRM tool to keep track. I personally never ever wrote a press release in my career. I hate them, and I think most journalists do although they ask for it. Instead have a sharp structured material they can use. When I am asked for a PR, I simply that we do not have one and that I can provide structured material or a blog post ahead of the date of publication.

8. Get your team set up and ready for battle: even if they are not involved in the outreach, coverage, and interview everything needs to be crisp behind the scene.

9. Be available for an interview or direct questions, ideally via chat any time. It is time sensitive, there is no optional way to delay things. If you have an embargo (date to which you publish) communicate and respect it. You will screw your name forever if you do not. Many agencies, in search of quick results will burn you and find somehow forgiveness. This is your red line.

10. Once things get published, read and engage with the readers in comments and Twitter. If an error shows, contact the writers and ask respectfully for corrections.

Bonus tip:  You will get MANY rejections, and ignored emails. Here is one tip: be a lion. And. Never. Let. Go. Insist without being a troll. I will soon appear on an important podcast. I built that up for months by way of engagement and regular and respectful reminders. You need to be a little crazy and obsessive here. This is were most agencies will fall. You have an advantage: you are a crazy entrepreneur.


I am sure you have many more questions: do not hesitate.
But the sad news is that there is no shortcut and no easy ways and as always with things that look easy, you need to work hard.

About the author: Ouriel Ohayon is the CEO of ZenGo and co-founder of ISAI.