With a shrinking population of journalists, getting coverage is harder than ever
By Anthony Caruana
The last decade has seen a massive revolution in the way stories reach the media, and how these stories are told. The market’s thirst for content is growing, but the number of people telling stories is shrinking. This makes it harder than ever for startups to cut through and get attention.
Over the last five years, according to data from LinkedIn, the number of people identifying as journalists in Australia has fallen by 20 per week. That’s 5000 fewer people researching and reporting stories. This is a trend that is being reflected globally, especially across the Asia-Pacific region.
The press rooms I frequent at events in Asia and around the world are attended by the same, dwindling group of journalists. With fewer journalists available to write stories, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. This is particularly impacting emerging companies, many of whom who see Australia as the Holy Grail in their expansion and growth plans.
Whenever I interview a founder or executive, regardless of whether they’re heading up a fast-growing startup or an established business, I always ask the same question: “What makes you special?”
I’ve stopped being surprised at how few startups I talk to have an answer. If you can’t tell me why you’re interesting or how your product or service differentiates you from your competitors, what story do you have to tell?
Getting the media to cover your company
For startups, the question of when to start engaging with the media is pivotal to achieving success. Many founders fall into the trap of thinking that their big idea is the story, but often it isn’t. How you got the idea, or how you’re solving a problem, might be more compelling.
Reporters are looking for the new–a story they haven’t covered before, a new approach, a new solution, a fresh opinion. You’ll need to invest time in really picking apart your startup and understanding how to convey your value proposition to different audiences in different locations.
Generally, your startup is ready to start engaging with the media when it’s growing fast, and you’ve got paying customers who are willing to be quoted in stories about how your solution helps them. You’re also interesting if you’re providing a solution that is topical and in demand, and have well-known investors or are about to announce the results of a funding raise.
Crucially, your founder or spokesperson needs to be coached in media relations, and should be comfortable articulating how your company is different. With publishing cycles that are now measured in minutes and not days, you may only have five minutes on a phone call to get your point across to a journalist. On live TV or radio, that window narrows down to just seconds. Training and preparation are crucial for making these opportunities a success.
Remember, compelling stories don’t start with fluff like, “Startup X is set to revolutionize the world with a paradigm-changing game of buzzword bingo.” If you want to get a journalist’s attention, don’t bury the hook. Make the email subject clear and put the money shot in the first paragraph. If you’re saving lives, saving money, helping improve the environment–put that in the first line. Concise press releases that get the facts across quickly and are free of effusive adverbs and adjectives have a far greater chance of being covered.
Having a well-thought-out communications strategy that includes how you will communicate with the media and what stories will be best for which specific publications is also important. It should also cover ideas for content you can produce and where it can be placed. A complete strategy will also detail how you’ll use social media, events, sponsorships and awards.
Invest effort in really understanding the stories behind your startup, and have a strategy in place to maximize your potential coverage. In this, as in anything, planning and preparation are key to success.
About the Author
Anthony Caruana is a well-known writer, presenter, facilitator, journalist and consultant who has built a career thriving in today’s digitally driven 24-hour news cycle. He is a regular commentator in print and on radio and TV. He’s also been the lead IT executive in several businesses.
As the CEO of Media-Wize, Anthony delivers media and PR training to ensure spokespeople understand how the media works, what makes a story, how to articulate an engaging message and build brand and reputation.