Editor note: This post was written by Olle Aronsson, a reporter at Dagens industri. Olle also co-hosts Digitalpodden, a bi-monthly podcast about the Swedish Internet industry.
There’s been a bit of a buzz this week around startups that promise to help other businesses to get in contact with journalists and convince news organizations to write about their product.
For me, as a tech journalist, this debate is interesting because it gives me an idea about what some people in the industry believe is the key to convincing reporters like me that a certain company should be covered in Sweden’s biggest business publication, Dagens industri.
Sadly, many get it wrong.
First of all, the very idea of hiring someone else to do your early stage PR work is flawed. Journalists don’t want to talk to some consultant charging way too much money in exchange for providing questionable value for their clients (yes, this is my general opinion of PR people even if there are exceptions).
Journalists would much rather talk to you. You’re the one sacrificing money, sweat and sleep on the mission to creating a kick-ass app or hardware device or whatever. Reporters do respect this which makes them more inclined to listen. That doesn’t mean that they’ll always answer your calls or e-mails. But at least your odds improve.
I for one prefer to talk to the founders themselves because I know they have complete knowledge of the product. That way, I’m at least assured that I’m not wasting my time with someone who does not know the answers to my questions.
But what, you might ask, if I lack the skills to do a media pitch? After all, you hire consultants to do stuff you can’t manage on your own, right?
It’s true that PR consultants can help you furnish your press releases and improve your understanding of what certain publications like to write about. However, there is one group that understands this even better: Journalists.
It usually takes me about thirty seconds to figure out whether a startup is news worthy or not. It doesn’t matter if your press release looks a bit amateurish or if you sound insecure while talking to me on the phone.
Journalists understand that great founders don’t necessarily make great salesmen or media pitchers.
Which leads us to another false pretense that some companies seem to be using as a starting point for PR work: That it’s just like sales. James Pember, a very talented sales person, mentioned in an earlier post here that journalists are “notoriously hard to convince”.
I disagree. In fact, journalists are very easy to convince, as long you deserve their coverage. If your product is truly new, interesting and different and you can prove it really solves a big problem or attracts a lot of users – a good tech journalist will notice this. If the reporters says no, it’s probably not because of your pitch performance. The reason is, most likely, that your company is not ready to be covered in the publication you just pitched. If the journalist still writes about your startup, the reporter in question is doing a bad job.
The art of convincing is simply overrated.
I think this is partially because some founders still believe that the startup industry, at least in Sweden, is under-covered. This was perhaps true a few years ago but not anymore. Dagens industri, where I work, and our main competitor Svenska Dagbladet has stepped it up. So has Veckans Affärer, Sveriges Radio P3 and others. Techcrunch, even though it’s written in English, remains an important site for early stage companies in Sweden that can’t get press anywhere else (no offense) to spread the word. Swedish Startup Space serves a similar purpose but has the clear advantage of local presence.
Considering that major news companies have very limited resources these days and that we have to cover other industries as well, I think startups now get their fair share of coverage.
Anyone not getting media attention is either not trying or not deserving it.