7 Steps to Getting Free Publicity for Your Startup

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Partner & Chief Creative Officer
May 4, 2015

So you just released your startup into the wild and in your post-launch party hungover state you’re counting each and every click on that sign up button. Is it dehydration-induced delirium or is that click toll taking way longer than you expected to break into the hundreds – or even the tens?

You, my friend, need a large coconut water and some free publicity.

While you could easily devote even more of the balance on your “emergency” credit cards to pay-per-click and Facebook ads, there are plenty of more organic approaches that won’t cost you anything more than time. And you’ve got plenty of that while you hide out in your dark office/cave reviewing your analytics through bloodshot eyes – right?

We've got 7 steps that have been proven to help startups gain free publicity and can take the guess work out of your next steps. After you get about 10 more hours of sleep, that is.

1. Start writing

Before you start reaching out to writers at the publications where you want your product or service featured, you should have a fundamental understanding of writing.

Having a blog, a news section or some other aptly-named content area on your website has benefits that reach well beyond your immediate publicity needs (hello, organic search engine traffic and user engagement!), but for now we'll focus on the topic at hand.

First, your website analytics (Google or otherwise) on this news section will tell you who your users really are. When you're ready to start reaching out to publications for write ups, knowing which publications to focus on will be key. Also, the act of writing itself will give you experience and credibility when you're reaching out to journalists on social media and in emails. You might even be able to use your articles as a jumping-off point when answering journalist's questions or submitting your own press releases. And, if you're extremely lucky, one of your articles about your app's new features or how you finally reached a million users might just go viral - and then the reporters will be coming to you.

2. Research

After you've got that news section set up on your site, you’ll want to come up with a list of all the publications you want to be featured in. These should be publications that your ideal user would read. Next, find the reporter, or reporters, from each publication who cover the beat most closely related to your product or service.

Now that you've completed that research; do some more research. It's not likely that the editor of TechCrunch is going to answer your email. Spend your time more wisely by carefully picking out the up-and-coming writer(s) who will actually have time to communicate with you and will appreciate your handing them a beautifully-written article that fits their beat perfectly.

While you're researching, don't forget to be realistic. Maybe no one at TechCrunch is interested in or able to write about your startup. At least not yet. In the meantime, try to find your niche. Getting your app-controlled popcorn machine (great idea, you!) on the front page of Popcorn Daily is bound to have more powerful results than being buried in TechCrunch’s endless roll of startup articles.

3. Interact

You've determined which journalists you want to recognize your startup, now get them to recognize you. Using your personal social media accounts, start interacting. Follow them on Twitter and retweet them once in a while. Share their articles on Facebook and leave thoughtful comments. It can't hurt to gain a little name recognition in preparation for sending that first email.

During this phase, keep in mind that a Twitter handle like SparkleUnicorn666 probably won’t garner much name recognition. Or respect. Actually, stop reading right now and change that.

4. Make the pitch

You’ve been stalking your prey for weeks, and now it's time to attack. And by that I mean send a cordial email to your journalists of choice.

Your first impression is key. Make sure your email pitch is friendly and personalized. Tell the reporter how your startup fits their beat and benefits their readership. Offer them an exclusive interview. Try to tie your product to a popular book, movie, app or idea that their publication has been covering that week. Remember that they're a busy professional much like yourself and try to make an effort to get onto their to-do list early in the week and day.

You should be prepared to revise this pitch several times. Proofread every single message you send. There’s nothing worse than sending an email with the wrong name in it or mentioning news that's days old. If you come across as spam, that's exactly how your email, and from then on your email address, will be treated.

5. Respond accordingly

On your 100th refresh of the day, you actually got an email from someone other than Meetup or Startup Digest! When a journalist takes the time to respond to your pitch, make sure your response is prompt and accommodating. Offer to set up a call. If they’ve already sent you questions, answer them with well-written, quotable and grammatically perfect copy. Make their jobs easier and they might just want to come back to you next time they're looking for a quick story.

6. Follow up

You've been published! Hold the bubbly for a few hours, because now is the best time to make your free publicity work for you.

Obviously, thank the writer for a great article. Share it, and mention them, on social media. Comment on the article. Reply to questions and other comments that readers have left. Stay on top of any social media mentions your article may have received. Again, being prompt and helpful in this stage may win you users and future articles.

Try to stay in touch with your reporter, but don’t be annoying. Let them know when you release a big update, reach a milestone or do something else newsworthy. Know that you're relationship is based on mutual benefit and only reach out if you have publishable information.

7. Have patience

Lastly, and most importantly of all, have patience! Be consistent in your efforts and understand that in time your startup will start to gain traction. Manage your publicity with the tips above to help you make the jump from Popcorn Daily to TechCrunch.

Need publicity but don't have the time to devote to it? Integrity can help you reach your goals. We've got experts who can create blog and on-page content, handle your social media management, set up awesome search engine optimization and marketing campaigns and even more! Contact us today and get your startup started.


We launched a month ago and were featured in Fast Company over the weekend! Here is how we landed it.

How To Get Media Coverage For Your Startup: A Complete Guide

Why A Link from TechCrunch Will Not Make You Rich

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