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Press Coverage: How to get coverage in the media (and whether it's worth the effort)

I research growth a lot and I often come across people talking about the importance of getting press — particularly at launch. And I get it. Press is a big deal for established startups. In fact, one study showed that PR can convert at 10 to 50 times higher than advertising. But what about founders of scrappy little businesses — is press even a possibility? Is it worth the time and effort? And if so, what's the best way to go about it?

I did some digging — hope it helps!

Is getting media coverage worth the effort?

Plenty of indie hackers have gotten press coverage, so it is certainly possible for us — even with early-stage businesses. But is it worth the time and effort? Honestly, what I've read has been a mixed bag.

Getting press is particularly helpful during launches, but it can offer a boost at any time. It can increase brand recognition, enhance credibility, and attract users (along with other forms of interest, like investment). From an SEO perspective, you may get some high quality backlinks, and the articles might rank for some quality keywords. And as a nice little side effect, the more press you get, the more press you're likely to get — journalists will jump on the bandwagon and they'll have more information to pull from.

But that's if a journalist decides to write about you, which is a big "if." It's also an "if" that often requires a significant amount of work. And even if you do manage to get press, those articles are not necessarily going to drive any direct sales. In fact, they often don't.

So is it worth it? I think so, but only in moderation. It's important to find a balanced approach — but more on that later.

Ways to get press coverage

If you want to give it a shot, I've found five main ways to get it done:

  1. Reach out proactively to journalists.
  2. Let it come organically over time.
  3. Do a publicity stunt.
  4. Use a newswire.
  5. Go through a PR agency.

I'm going to focus primarily on the first option, but I'll come back to the other four later.

Getting press coverage through proactive outreach

Here's the advice I've gathered on reaching out proactively to get press.

TL;DR: Come at it with a relationship-building mindset. And do the work for them.

Research

First up, do your research.

  • Follow media in your industry so that you see the trends and get familiar with what makes headlines. While you're at it, familiarize yourself with likely journalists and keep track of them in a spreadsheet.
  • Proactively search out who is writing pieces about similar topics and companies.
  • If applicable, include local publications, as they are often eager to write about local businesses. And don't forget about podcasts.
  • When researching, keep an eye out for contact pages, and search for journalists' socials and emails. Email databases like Hunter and Clearbit Connect can help. You could also try something like OnePitch or Press Hunt, which are specific to journalists.
  • Once you've got a list of journalists, prioritize them based on reach, demographic, and probability. In other words, your top priority will probably be someone whose platform reaches lots of people in your target market, and who is likely to give you the time of day.

Build relationships

As I mentioned above, it's super important to come at this with a relationship-building mentality. Journalists will be more likely to work with you when there is some degree of familiarity. And if you build a real relationship, you can collaborate long-term — you bring future releases, etc. to them, and they ask you for expert opinions.

Even if you don't become best friends, they should at least recognize your name before you pitch them. Here's how:

  • Get intros from your network.
  • Leave comments on articles.
  • Engage journalists on Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc. Do not make an ask. Just appreciate, add new perspectives, and discuss their work.
  • If local, consider meeting for coffee (or at an event).
  • If they're technical, consider sending them an invite to your beta.
  • Be friendly and human.
  • Start building these relationships at least 2 months before you pitch. It takes time.

Create a press kit

Press kits will increase your chances of being featured, so it's important to have one before you pitch. Here's a good example.

Include the following:

  • Founder photos that reinforce your story.
  • Logos in multiple colors and formats.
  • A short blurb about the company. Include the backstory, info on what makes your product unique, and how you're challenging the status quo.
  • A sample press release in the form of a one-page PDF. The goal here is to give them something that they can basically just copy and paste. Bullet the main points then elaborate, share your story, and give a couple of quotes from customers (or influencers) as social proof. Make sure it isn't too salesy.
  • Links to pertinent blog posts of your own.
  • Links to other press releases or previous interviews.
  • Product demo — videos are great, but it could be as simple as a presentation with high-quality screenshots.
  • Social proof (like testimonials)
  • Case studies
  • FAQ
  • Contact info

You can keep it in a downloadable zip on your website's Press page, or (even better IMO) present each item on the page like we saw in the example above.

Reach out

Once your ducks are in a row and you've built relationships, reach out and pitch. Here are a few pointers:

  • Have an outreach template but personalize each email.
  • Leverage the list you built, and start with the lower priority journalists so that you can make sure your messaging is on point.
  • Be a human, not a robot.
  • Anticipate their questions.
  • Continually iterate on angles, outreach templates, etc.
  • Make sure to only reach out to one journalist from each publication.
  • Link to your press kit.
  • Offer free access to your product.
  • Consider offering an exclusive if a particular site could skyrocket your growth.
  • Be prepared to respond quickly.
  • Track responses and follow up. Limit follow-ups to two, then let it go.

As far as the angle that you're pitching, it should be personalized to each journalist. Here's how to create it.

  • Decide on the story you're telling. Remember, it's about the story, not your company.
  • Think about the angles that will be important to the readers of each publication. This is not one-size-fits-all.
  • Make it timely and relevant. Explain how it is so.
  • Consider newsjacking to make it ultra timely.
  • Keep it short.
  • Include a hook.

Keep it up

Hopefully, your outreach landed you some solid press coverage. But the work doesn't end there.

  • Amplify press coverage in your newsletter, blog, social media, etc. Ask your supporters to do the same.
  • Add press quotes and/or links to your press kit.
  • Add press logos and/or quotes to your homepage (if the sources are impressive).
  • Maintain the relationships!

Four other ways to get press coverage

Like I said above, there are a few other options. You can grow and promote your company until press coverage happens organically. There's not much to say about that, except to keep doing what you're doing.

You can also do a publicity stunt. That's when you do something for the sake of getting eyeballs. They should be scandalous, provocative, controversial, artistic, funny, nostalgic, or mission-based. For best results, make it related to your product and make it timely. As an example, the most recent stunt that comes to mind is a couple of billionaires going to space. That's a little excessive, but here on earth, @jjejje of Kapwing has pulled a number of publicity stunts, with varying degrees of success.

There are also online services called newswires that publish your press release and send it out for syndication. PR Newswire and BusinessWire are examples. It costs a few hundred dollars and the general consensus is that it isn't worth the money. @ZakMiller of Hyperion spent $289 to publish a press release on PRWeb. They published it within a week, got it syndicated in 120 places, and emailed a list of journalists about it. Sounds great, but it only led to 40 clicks to their site. The only other benefit was that a few articles ranked for good keywords, so people would see them when searching his brand (lending credibility). Overall, he says it isn't worth the money. But there are those who disagree. @Marrynye thinks it's a good deal because you get the press releases without spending all your time doing outreach.

Lastly, if you've got the cash, you can hire a PR agency. They can be very helpful, but they tend to cost a few grand for a press release.

Help A Reporter Out (HARO)

While it's not really a tool for press releases, HARO deserves an honorable mention. It's an email list of 800,000 journalists, bloggers, and founders. Basically, founders can sign up and respond to requests for information. If you give good information, you might get exposure which can help you to grow your business and become a thought leader. More on that here.

What indie hackers say about press coverage

Here's what other indie hackers had to say:

  • @TylerQuinn of Logo Tournament managed to get syndicated in the Washington Post, PC World Magazine, and CIO Magazine. It brought in double-digit month-over-month growth. Granted, they'd been around for a while already and were doing well.
  • @ZakMiller of Hyperion tried both a newswire and the traditional outreach route. He says he's glad he did it. He learned a lot and ranks for some quality keywords. But press isn't something he will prioritize moving forward.
  • @Red8lima of SnapMob got a spike in traffic recently from some press.
  • @jjejje of Kapwing is all about pulling stunts to get press, and they've done a lot of them, with varying degrees of success.
  • Tech-journalist-turned-indie-hacker @twentyweeks advises answering the question "Why is this interesting/remarkable?" Then reach out personally — no mass emails. Mention something similar that they wrote and explain why you think yours might be interesting.
  • @craigp suggests going after local publications. He also advises removing obstacles so that it is as easy as possible for them to write about you.

My take

From what I've learned, my personal opinion is that press is worth it for indie founders… but only to a degree. It is not worth spending hours upon hours doing this when you could be building a better product for your customers. Create a press kit. Build relationships with a few high-leverage (but accessible) journalists. And then pitch them on your next release. That shouldn't take much time, and it could be super helpful in the long run.

So it's a mix between the organic and proactive approaches. I personally wouldn't work with a PR agency anytime soon, or a newswire ever. And a publicity stunt probably wouldn't be my style either.

But I'm no expert — this is based purely off of my research. So what do you think?

  1. 2

    This is a great post, thanks for taking the time to write it James! Agree with your take.

  2. 2

    I agree building a better product is better, if you have limited time. Yes we all have limited time but some more than others. I liked reaching out to press myself and also getting emails from press, or linkedin DMs or twitter DMs.

    I found this resource to be helpful, with contact info and what a writer is looking for.
    Bootstrapper Press Directory
    made by fellow bootstrapper Jade. It's an info product and saved me a bunch of time finding the contact info and finding the leads listed. Even if it saves someone a couple hours it's well worth the price.

    1. 1

      Looks like an awesome resource, thanks Andrew! 🙌

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