How can we get feature coverage in business press? Itís probably the question we receive most often from privately-held technology companies. Itís not always easy to do, but it can be done. †
As a starting point, it helps to understand the current media landscape. While those business headlines might seem glamorous, the working environment for todayís business tech journalist is far from it.
- Newsrooms are running leaner than ever.
- There simply arenít as many technology business reporters to connect with as there used to be.
- Reporters are tasked with breaking hard news via shorter stories that drive big pageviews, all at a torrid pace.
- Journalists (and their editors) know that readers gravitate toward stories about big, publicly traded companies that have an impact on peopleís daily lives, change the world, or have a stock price attached to the headline (read: Facebook, Google, Tesla, Apple).
Clearly, journalists are being asked to do more with less than ever before. Given the environment, even grabbing a journalist'sí attention can be a challenge in its own right for private companies. While there are always exceptions, such as Uber and until recently, Snapchat, the majority of business press focuses on publicly traded technology companies by design Ė so much so that it often feels like every other tech headline is centered on Google or Facebook.
The deck is stacked against private companies at the outset. They donít fit the established mold for business feature coverage, but know that the rules arenít always hard and fast, and rules are also made to be broken.
The fact is your company is probably young, growing, and evolving. This means, considering all is going well, you will likely have a plethora of exciting milestone moments around funding, partnerships, customers, major new hires, and myriad other hard news items that take place along your growth path. These all constitute potential business press opportunities, especially funding news, but they arenít exactly hard earned in a PR sense. You almost expect this type of coverage.
So letís look at feature stories and profile pieces Ė the Holy Grail, of coverage. We did some research and our findings were a bit alarming, noting itís the same 15 or so private tech companies receiving features across outlets like Forbes, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal and beyond, time and time again. The one commonality is they are all considered high growth and on a clear IPO path. Last year, we referred to many of these companies as unicorns based on their billion dollar+ valuations. This year that term has gone out of vogue, but itís the same caliber of private companies getting the headlines.
Why is this the case? Itís because these companies are considered the next group of organizations that will fit the typical feature story mold of being hot, impactful and publicly traded. How do you get into this group of rising star companies? We can help with that. We might also ask you to put us in touch with your investors because they can help with that, too.
Once established as a hot private tech company to watch, thereís an opportunity to tell your bigger business story in tier-1 press. Weíve seen about 11 formulas that work well ranging from storylines like ďHow they Did it and How You Can Do It, Too,Ē ďSharing a Counterintuitive Take,Ē Old Way, New Way,Ē and some other great formulas that we love sharing and brainstorming with clients. We also have to credit Sam Whitmore, the analyst guru to many tech PR agencies, for coming up with many of these formulas that simply work and are proven over time.
Also know that a big feature story wonít always be in the cards. Levels of PR ďhotnessĒ tend to ebb and flow with your business and overall industry, so certainly develop your narrative and strike while the iron is hot. But you should also always be looking for ways to attach to current news cycles where your opinion and experience can lend itself to trending stories in a useful way. Be sure to keep the following tips in mind:
- Be provocative.
- Have an opinion, take a stand. †
- Offer some relevant tips on how businesses and people can overcome todayís most pressing challenges.
- Have confidence in what you know and aim to be memorable.
- Stories about achieving ROI worked 50 years ago, and they still work today.
In other words, position yourself as a subject matter expert and authoritative voice on the topic at hand. In doing so, youíll endear yourself to business reporters as a useful resource, while positioning yourself as a thought leader in the process, even if youíre perspective isnít directly tied to the product or service you are pedaling. To use a baseball metaphor, itís important to be in the ballpark, but most importantly, itís important to get in the game and play.
Also remember, business press is just one aspect of a well-run communications program. Donít forsake your trade press, speaking and awards program, analyst program, contributed article initiatives, or lose sight of the importance of an integrated approach, all in your quest for the big business hit payback. A business story on its own is still just one story at a moment in time, and itís the sum of all communications parts that puts you on the map, helps you show your value, and letís you stand apart in a differentiated way in your industry over a period of time.
That being said, business coverage is exciting and impactful, so know that with the right approach, it can be done in a way that makes a difference for your organization and helps drive your business forward.