Positive publicity is infinitely more valuable than traditional paid advertising. In fact, after Steve Jobs released the iPhone in 2007, the USA Today reported that “the avalanche of headlines and TV news stories about the iPhone…generated $400 million in free publicity."

But just because positive publicity is usually “free” doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait for it to fall from the sky. That's why American companies spend a total of about $5 billion on public relations each year.

And what if you can't afford even a $10,000 PR budget? Don't worry. This guide will show you how to get journalists to write high-quality articles about your company for free simply by improving the way you communicate with the media by email.

Here's what you'll learn:

  1. How to Streamline Your "Elevator Pitch"
  2. How to Find Journalists Who Want to Write About You
  3. How to Write Strategic Emails/Press Releases to Journalists

1. How to Streamline "Your Elevator Pitch" So It's Easier for People to Talk About Your Company

Can you convey the value of your product/service in three simple sentences or less? If not, you need to distill the essence of your company’s offerings into a clear “elevator pitch.” This will help people and journalists understand what you're doing, making it easy for them to share your message with others. Here are some streamlined pitches you'll want to emulate:

Shopify and DeWalt: An article by Sumo showcased the following excellent examples:

  • "The ecommerce platform made for you. Whether you sell online, on social media, in store, or out of the trunk of your car, Shopify has you covered. (Shopify)
  • The mig weld hammer is made of steel for durability and long life. It features a magnetic nail starter for easy, one-handed nail placement. It also features a vibration absorbing grip to improve user comfort. The mig weld can be used to not only drive nails but also to remove them!” (DeWalt Mig Weld Framing Hammer)

Ebay: EBay uses the following lines to describe its smartphone app on the Google Play Store. Can you see how each one-liner repeats the same basic message?

  • “Take the eBay marketplace with you wherever you go.” (eBay)
  • “Shop best-selling brands at amazing prices or bid on an auction on the go  just download to your cell or mobile device now!” (eBay)
  • “Manage your account, search for deals on your favorite brands, or sell items on the go.” (eBay)

Mad Libs-style pitch template: If you’re having trouble summarizing your business concept, Adeo Ressi from the Founder Institute advocates this “Mad Libs-style” pitch template:

  • “My company, (insert name of company), is developing (a defined offering) to help (a defined audience) (solve a problem) with (secret sauce).”

Easy right? Ressi also advises the following for your elevator pitch:

  • Define your company without relying on vague adjectives.
  • Avoid using buzzwords
  • Be specific when identifying your audience/target consumer.
  • Avoid weak value propositions that lack a “secret sauce”
  • Try to hint at your revenue model

Distilling your message like this is valuable for public relations because: (1) customers and journalists can better understand the essence of your message; and (2) it's easier for customers and journalists to share your message again and again. Take a moment to streamline your elevator pitch now before moving to the next section. Write it down and put it in your pocket!

2. How to Find Journalists Who Want to Write About You

Now that you've distilled your message into an elevator pitch, it’s time to connect with journalists. Here's how to find journalists that want to write about you:

Write down the names of journalists you already know: Most startup founders follow the media coverage of their industries closely. So you might already know the names of popular journalists who cover your industry on a regular basis. Make a list of these journalists and hunt down their contact information.

Search for journalists on Google News: Find more journalist by searching Google News for current events related to your industry. Use broad and specific searches to gather as many names as possible. 

Search for journalists using do-it-yourself media outreach services: Look for more names with a DIY media outreach service. These resources will help you find the most popular news pieces related to different keywords (and the names of the journalists who wrote them). Only one of these DIY services below is free, but even the paid ones should be within your budget:

Research the journalists on your list: Do more research on your list of journalists. Read their bios, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn pages, and take notes. Do any of their personal details match up with yours? If you and a journalist have the same background, interests, or hobbies, you can use this information to connect with the journalist on a personal level.

The process of finding journalists and researching them helps you identify the ones who frequently cover your topic, and it facilitates your ability to connect with them. The first journalists to contact are the ones with the largest audiences. Also, reach out to the ones who have a strong personal connection or interest with you and your startup company.

3. How to Write Strategic Emails/Press Releases to Journalists

It’s time to email your journalists. You'll want to send a unique, and personally-tailored email or press release to each one. But first, there’s something you should know about emailing journalists:

There are a lot more PR professionals than journalists. According to Muck Rack, “newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped 23% between 2008 and 2017." This has resulted in six public relations professionals for every journalist, and journalists are getting bombarded with emails by PR professionals. Most PR requests are boring and uninteresting, like this one:

You should write about my company. It’s really cool. So what do you think?

Similar to an attractive person on a dating site, journalists get inundated with flat, boring email requests, and most of them go directly into the trash bin. That’s why you need to set yourself apart from the pack. To do that, BigCommerce says you can email “targeted, relevant content ideas to the right people at the right time.”

It's not that hard to send the right kinds of emails and press releases to journalists. For starters, here are six free press release templates from West Media, that will improve your chances of getting a response from journalists. To boost your chances more, implement the following guidelines for emailing journalists:

  1. Reference a related story: Reference the journalist’s previous stories related to your pitch.
  2. Give a genuine compliment: Offer a compliment about something specific you liked in the journalist’s writing.
  3. Introduce your product: Introduce your product/service simply and clearly.
  4. Back up your claims with facts/research: Show that your service/product/company is backed by exclusive research when possible – and give them the facts and references.
  5. Try giving a headline idea: Framing your pitch with an eye-catching headline will help the journalist imagine it the article.

Can you see how this email pitch adheres to the guidelines?

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Also, include as much of the following in your email signature as possible:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • CrunchBase profiles
  • Company’s name
  • Website

As for timing, Agility PR Solutions says that most Americans check their emails between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., so send your email pitches and press releases out during the wee hours of the morning for the best conversion rates. After a journalist writes you back, respond immediately, and try to create a genuine connection. If an email doesn't receive a response, follow up two or three times before giving up.

In this guide, we've shown you how to 1. streamline your elevator pitch, 2. find journalists who want to write about your company, and 3. improve the way you send emails and press releases to journalists. Implementing these strategies has the capacity to literally transform the success of your startup. Best of all, they're absolutely free. So what are you waiting for? Start reaching out to journalists now!

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