Startup PR on a Shoestring

On Monday we announced funding from Founders Fund and Mitch Kapor.  Leading up to the announcement, we decided to write our own press release and even though we have little experience, it turns out you can get some high quality coverage (although our friends certainly have helped us out), even without a PR agency.  To kick start the process, Jeff did a couple searches for startup press releases, especially those
mentioning a funding raise, and took it from there.  Here’s what we’ve learned, so far:

Remember the “Digital” Press Release

In business it’s standard practice to write a press
release, and we’re also fans of sending an email with a personal intro, a little
extra color on the story, and some great attachments (images, slide decks, etc) to
spice things up.  Catch the potential author’s attention, and make it super easy for them to put together an interesting post.

Use Correct Formatting (So the Press Will Take You Seriously)

You might be thinking, “who cares?”  Imagine a noisy
press room, with fax machines spitting out reams of paper.  In this context, making sure the overly-caffeinated and perennially stressed
out staff writer who receives your missive gets the full story makes a
lot more sense.  Correctly formatting a press release makes it easy for
journalists to turn a release into a story and press “publish”.

  • write FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    or FOR RELEASE <DATE> at the top
  • include contact info (name, company,
    physical address, phone number, email, website)
  • at the beginning of the body include the city, state and date in bold
  • make sure you include ### at the end of your formal press releas
  • include an About Company section AFTER the ###
  • if the release is more than one page include - MORE – at the bottom of each page
  • at the end of the document write END to indicate there are no more pages to receive
  • take a look at press releases from major companies for examples, they’re usually done by big PR agencies who are required to get it right

Think of this, if you’re a member of the media reviewing a stack of press release who are you going to focus on?  Conforming to the industry standard let’s members of know that you’ve taken the time to get it right, and you’re serious about your business.

Substantive Content (Not Just Noise)

  • keep the headline to less than 75 words, with words longer than three letters capitalized
  • include a 1-3 sentence summary of the release after the headline that sums up key facts
  • the entire press release should be between 300 and 700 words (not just the body)
  • the tone should be factual and include quotes from relevant individuals
  • at the end of the release provide info on how to contact your company for more info, as well as any trademark or other product info

To Release or Not to Release (Formally)

There are plenty of services out there who will publish a press release to the wire for cheap, and sometimes even for free – which is great when you’re trying to be scrappy. Sometimes, releasing an announcement by email to select contacts might be enough, because your product is not a consumer product and the press coverage you’re looking for is focused on the technology enthusiast niche (like us).

If you are going to release formally, why not run your press release through HubSpot’s Press Release Grader?  Get a score out of 100 and a bunch of suggestions on how to improve.  We loved this, it was fun making changes and then running it again (and again, and again) to see if our score went up.

Hubspot Pr Analysis

Get the Word Out

Once your press release is out there, make sure that you reach out to the people you’ve worked with, received advice from, and respect in your field to get the word out about your news.  Sending an email letting them know that you just made an announcement is good, and asking for their feedback and thanking them for their support is even better.

At the end of the day having a personal connection (just like with fund raising, hiring, etc) is so much more likely to help you break through the noise with an introduction.  Use LinkedIn, your advisers, investors, and employees to figure out how to make a personal connection with your desired media contacts.  You can do a lot of this stuff on a shoestring IF you
build up your network.  If you don’t have a network, using a PR firm is
great.

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