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!
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.
If you want to give it a shot, I've found five main ways to get it done:
I'm going to focus primarily on the first option, but I'll come back to the other four later.
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.
First up, do your research.
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:
Include the following:
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.
Once your ducks are in a row and you've built relationships, reach out and pitch. Here are a few pointers:
As far as the angle that you're pitching, it should be personalized to each journalist. Here's how to create it.
Hopefully, your outreach landed you some solid press coverage. But the work doesn't end there.
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.
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.
Here's what other indie hackers had to say:
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?