Life lessons from a Startup Entrepreneur

By Deepak Pathak

10 things I learned about getting your story to journalists

I have been very fortunate these past weeks to attend some very well organised events within the centre of Birmingham.

The first was Launch48 which was well documented in this article: 10 Things I learned about a new startup.

The second, which I attended today was Launch: Meet the Gaming Press.

Launch Gaming event was interesting to me for two very good reasons.

Firstly in 2002 I opened Video Games stores within the Midlands UK. That was the first business I actually created from nothing and all by myself. It was an incredible four-year experience, which saw me working very closely on PSP, PS3 and Nintendo Wii launches.(I was one of only 6 independent stores nationwide that received their own Wii pod).

I worked with some amazing people and though our well-known tournaments we amassed quite a following for an indie store (independent store).

As with all good things in UK, it came to an end due to supermarkets. The land we had the store on (which we owned) came under the compulsory purchase of the council on behalf of Tesco.

Tesco being a part of a long list of supermarkets that were selling games under cost price and sending indie games retailers like myself virtually out of business. So Tesco helped ruin my business, and then brought my business!

At this point I decided to pursue my MBA in foreign lands and landed some amazing job roles within continental Europe.

Which bring me to the second reason why the Launch event was so interesting to me.

WeWana Play2 weeks ago after Launch48, I founded my first tech startup, WeWana:Play. It’s within the general gaming fold, so the timing of this event alongside the chance to meet journalists one on one was simply priceless.

Whilst I was expecting only some general direction as to how to interact with media, I left with way more than that. I left with some amazing insights into how PR really works. Not stuff you read in books or magazines on the subject, but strategies from real journalists who are inundated with press releases and requests for stories all day long.

If you want to get in front of these people it pays to listen to what they tell you works and what they tell you definitely does not work.

I was extremely fortunate to be able to spend one to one time with many of those well-known people present. I was only scheduled to meet one person one on one, but I hung around the entrance to the ‘one on one’ room and jumped in any time I saw a seat spare! Well, sometimes you have to hustle!

 

Here is a list of some of the talent available to answer questions at Launch:

 

Jo Twist -  CEO of UK Gaming body UKIE. She was a great host, so being a presenter in a past life myself I went over at the end to just show my appreciation. Think she was genuinely touched until the bit I told her she had really great eyes… it was genuine too but I’ve never seen someone run so fast! Well, at least she will never forget me!

 

Will Freeman – Great guy. He kicked off the event with the first presentation and has me scribbling down notes. I really hustled to get my one on one time with this guy. He’s also a video game journalist at Develop Magazine.

 

Natalie Griffith – Head of PR & Marketing at Blitz games. Comes from the more corporate style background that I am recently used to, so a very interesting addition to the group. Has crazy stories about losing phones in taxis too!

 

Richard Eddy – Director of communications at Codemasters. I sold plenty of Codemaster games in my time so it was nice to meet some of the team behind the games. What Richard talked about was perhaps out of this world for many indies – hiring Battlesea power station for a marketing event… but that is how the big boys role.

 

Colin Macdonald – Such a down to earth guy. Colin is Commissioning Editor for games, Channel 4. Although I didn’t quite fit the category of having a game, Colin shared some great tips with me as to how to network effectively and how to get your message across so it is heard.

 

Keith Stuart - Guardian Games Correspondent. As luck would have it, one of the very first people I met that day happened to be very close to Keith, so I was introduced to him very early on. A young fun guy with a lot of great knowledge to share. The fact that he had helped other young startups make their way to the event too, shows that he really cares for those he gets close to. Great guy with a great sense of humour.

 

Alex Wiltshire - Editor Edge Magazine. I followed this guy around until he gave in and talked to me! He tried his best to get away but I wouldn’t have it! Alex is another great down to earth guy. I’ll be bugging him for sure in the future!

Keith Andrew – Deputy Editor at PocketGamer.biz. Part of an interesting Q and A panel with journalists. Didn’t have the chance of a one on one yet…. I’m coming for you!

Matt Martin – Editor of GamesIndustry.biz. Another participant of an interesting Q and A panel with journalists. Didn’t have the chance of a one on one with Matt either, but I’m coming for you too!

 

There was a lot of information on offer throughout the day and a lot of interesting connections to be made.  Here are the top 10 things I learned about getting your story across to journalists in a way that will actually get you heard.:

 

1) Journalists can get between 30 and 200 press releases a day.

Press-ReleaseYep, that simple stat is all you need to understand not only how hard it is for you to be seen, but also how hard it is for journalists to keep up with the constant stream of information hitting their inboxes.

Will mentioned this at the beginning of his presentation and it certainly shocked me a little. They do not have time to even read all the press releases that they receive, so all that time and effort you spend crafting them may simply be wasted.

Sending a press release is no longer enough. you have to stand out… understanding that now is a big step

 

2) Build the relationship

Knowing a journalist can receive upto 200 press releases a day, should tell you that the ‘from’ column is just as important as what you write.

Journalist do not have time to read every email, so they are likely to read something that gives them a better indication of relevance.

Title often look-alike in press releases, so it is the ‘from’ column that will stand out. If your name is on their radar, then you have greatly increased your chances of having your emails read.

Start by telling your story early, and build up the relationship so that journalists will be looking for your story and even looking forward to your story.

Rather then you fighting to be seen, you build a relationship via consistent effort which helps you to be seen.

Sending a single press release gives you little chance of being seen. Start building the relationship in the months leading up to your releases and your chances are amplified.

 

3) Tell a story

Press releases have to be interesting. They have to tell a story about you or your company that is interesting to people other than yourself.

If you startup or business has a funny or interesting story of how it was created, or something special that gave you a break, then tell it.

Press releases need to be interesting and a story is a great way to make that happen.

 

4) Be personable

Dee KumarHaving your name stand out is great. However, having your face stand out is even greater.

Pictures help people put names to faces. It also helps any potential article look complete so always add a picture whenever sending information to journalists. Even if they do not use your press release, your picture will help you stay in their minds better than a whole lump of sales related text.

Be a person and not just a brand. That means going out to events and introducing yourself too. You are not looking for anything more than simply being remembered, as it will help immensely when you true push for press releases is needed.

 

5) Get on Twitter

Journalists converse with each other via Twitter.

Get on there, follow key journalists and people within your industry and engage in meaningful conversation.

The more you are mentioned or retweeted by meaningful people, the more your name will start to become recognised, which in turn will attract more attention to you and your brand as people begin to wonder who you are.

If people recognise your name, they will recognise you in their inboxes too…it’s all part of the same cycle.

 

6) 3 details about a story that give you a picture.

We mentioned adding a picture earlier, but your words also need to create a picture in the reader’s mind.

Keith mentioned hat he was taught to always add three pieces of detail within a story that helps a reader create a picture within their heads. He mentioned an example of a company that said they watched movies to generate ideas. Although it gives some indication it is not enough detail to make an interesting picture.

What would be more interesting is if a business that watched ‘James Cameron’ of any other director’s movies. It gives the audience detailed information that they can use to create a picture of your process and enough detail to make them remember you too. In your head you can imagine someone watching James Cameron movies and suddenly thinking of an idea!

If a quality  journalist tells you it is what they need to write a good story … listen.
7) When sending updated press releases, do not assume the journalist will remember you

Always give them everything they need to remember you in the same message. Do not make them trawl around to find info about you because they will not. Which leads me to….

 

8 ) Make it easy for them.

make it easy for journalistsWrite an article/press release as you would like it to be written by the magazine in question. Tell the whole story so in essence the journalist can simple lift it and use it in their publications. The easier you make their lives, the better your chances.

 

9) Do your research

Do not simply send mass press releases. They are easy to spot and unlikely to be useful.

Tailor each press release to the type of content already in each publication that you are approaching (read them) and always personalise the intro to the press release for the people you are directing it too. Not simply their name but mention some of their other articles or dialogues you have had with them.

 

10) Journalists need people who can help them connect to good stories.

Instead of formal press days where journalists are stood in front of press officers, organise breakfasts or events where journalists can see people interact with your product. If you create a story for them, it is much easier for them to write about it.

If you do not have launches then you can still be very helpful to journalists. Looks out for their upcoming articles and see if you can offer contacts, or even quotes yourself that may be of interest to them.

Every magazine has an upcoming features lists, which can often detail up to 12 months of their upcoming content. Request these lists and make sure you contribute to any articles that you can. (Thanks to Will for this tip)

 

Now your turn!

In the comments below please let me know of any experiences you have had with Press releases.

  • What worked
  • What didn’t
  • and what tips can you add to this list?

I reply to every email so don’t be shy!

 

 

 

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  • Christine Brady - April 5, 2012 reply

    Hi Dee,

    Well I am in no position to give tips on Press Releases as what I did falls in the “do not do this” category!

    Back in 2009 I had an online baby boutique and had heard from others that I should do a press release. Well, I hired someone from Elance to write it for me and submit it. Didn’t get anywhere near the response I was hoping for, so I declared it a lost cause.

    I think you make some incredible points about actually focusing on getting seen by journalists.

    Doing what I did just does not work – for several reasons, but particularly since I never tried to get in touch with a journalist or follow in their crowd.

    Many lessons to be learned here – if you want to be seen, make a (joyful) noise!

    ~Christine

  • Dee - April 6, 2012 reply

    I hear you Christine!

    I was in the blast out 100 press releases category in the past too. Seems so obvious now that I heard it from journalists, but of course to stand out you need to be seen, over a long period of time.

    It was one of those kick yourself moments when you think ‘of course!’.

    Follow important people within your industry on Twitter and be sure to interact where ever possible (in a useful way). and you will open many doors when they begin to reply and retweet your responses. Takes time and effort, but if you want to stand out do the 10% that others simply neglect to do.

  • Noel Cunningham - April 12, 2012 reply

    Hey Dee,
    I used to be in that category who blasted out press releases aswel – although I did see some increase in traffic and inquiries I know I never used them to their full potential.

    I’ve now since changed my approach and for the better. The idea of building relationships and networking with people is far more powerful than any “push button solution” or random press release.

    Of course it can take a lot of time but it’s totally worth it. Like you said some of these journalists receive 200+ pr’s per day so the only way you can get your releases infront of them is to have built some sort of relationship with them already – so that when they scan their emails you have a greater chance of jumping out at them:)

    Great pointers today, I’m taking notes as we speak;)

    Thanks – Noel.

    Dee - April 19, 2012 reply

    It is so obvious when you think about it in retrospect, could not believe just how nieve I have been before hand…

    Get along to networking events where journalists are due to attend. This is the best way of being memorable… has worked a charm for me.

  • Tom - April 13, 2012 reply

    I really like how you are building up your blog with these series of Excellent post!! i Keep up the great posts. Love reading them and learning. Please keep sharing!

    Dee - April 19, 2012 reply

    Cheers Tom. Always nice to hear cool feedback!

  • Wendy Owen - April 13, 2012 reply

    Well I have to say I’m also guilty of sending out garbage press releases. But even worse I had mine written on Fiverr. To compound this I had someone on Fiverr distribute it to multiple press release sites.

    In my defence, I was reacting to some bad news on the SEO scene, having just found out a number of my links had been deindexed.

    I can see the stupidity of it now and won’t go down that road again. Feel a bit sad that I have contributed in a small way to the ever growing pile of rubbish on the net!

    I think your idea about connecting with people in your industry on Twitter is a good idea.

    Thanks
    Wendy

  • Dee - April 19, 2012 reply

    We have all been there Wendy, in fact in the Online World press release blasting seems to be a very common idea. Quite silly really when you look at it in retrospect.

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