TGIM (Thank Goodness It’s Monday) and welcome to another Startup Monday here on MorganLinton.com! Today I am excited to share the last segment in my coverage of The Startup Conference LA. If you haven’t read the first four parts you can easily access them below:
The Startup Conference LA – Part One
The Startup Conference LA – Part Two
The Startup Conference LA – Part Three
The Startup Conference LA – Part Four
The last few sessions of The Startup Conference were a triumphant end to a truly spectacular day of talks.
One of the last sessions of the day was about how to get press to cover your story. This session was done in a panel format with writers from Investor’s Business Daily, Entrepreneur Magazine, and LA Business Journal. One of the first topics they covered is how to reach the press.
Many entrepreneurs start by writing a press release and sending it out to as many reporters as they can. By not paying attention to the basic rules you can end-up reaching reporters completely out of the blue and at the completely wrong time.
Most magazines get hundreds of emails a day but there are only a few people reading the emails, and most of what they read is from people they already know. If you are going to email out of the blue then you should read the magazine and write an email specifying where in the magazine you want to be or what story yours might relate to.
One great way to get in the door is to compliment a writer on a recent article. This could help you establish a relationship with a particular journalist before sending them your story. If you can find face-to-face time with journalists at conferences or events this could also be one of the great ways to get in the door to start.
Another possible avenue that you could use to getting your story covered is to have your article covered on a blog or news site. You can then send this story around to the press and since it’s already been covered it has some validation.
Rather than focusing on how a story can be written about you, start thinking about how you can be included in a larger story. Responding to blog posts on a related topic could also help you be seen as an expert or at least relevant in the field.
It’s all about breaking through the noise and the subject line is the most important. Rule #1 – do not write “Press Release” in your subject line, these will get ignored. Look at the headlines in your local newspaper and use this as a guide for your own headlines. After the subject and the headline make sure your first paragraph is absolutely critical.
At the end of the day reporters are looking for experts, so the more you have blogged about a topic, spoken at conferences about it, etc. the more a reporter will want to talk to you. If you email a reporter and don’t hear back, don’t give-up. Persistence is key and it absolutely will not hurt you. The more a reporter sees your name in their inbox, the more attention you’re likely to receive, but don’t go too far!
One of the reporters on the panel complained that nobody ever calls them, everyone sends email. If you want to build a relationship with a reporter start with a phone call. When you call them make your point right-away and then build on it rather than the reverse, which may seem like a more traditional approach.
What are some of the things that you as startups can put out there to get coverage?
Ask a handful of reporters to get involved in your private beta. If you want to create more buzz give-away some beta codes they can send-out to users. Once you launch-into public beta write a press release about it too! There are also some topics that are considered “evergreen” – Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. find ways to make yourself part of the story.
I had a burning question for the press panel that’s been on my mind a lot of the last couple of years, “How much value is there to using a service like PRWeb or PRNewswire?” I was told by a PRNewswire rep that I should be okay spending big money on a press release through them because they get more coverage than anyone else…well it turns out that nothing could be further from the truth!
The expert press panel was excited to get this question and to shoot-down this urban legend. In fact they said that they always ignore just about everything coming in through these sources. Also, most of the coverage these blasts get are not real stories but instead publications that simply reprint the release which doesn’t hold much credibility. The panel felt strongly that these releases are only valuable for SEO, if you want good press coverage it’s all about making relationships.
The final talk of the day was by Paige Craig the co-founder of Los Angeles-based BetterWorks. Paige launched directly-into advice for entrepreneurs and at the top of his list was, not surprisingly, do your research. So many investors reach-out to other entrepreneurs and investors who haven’t taken the time to learn their market.
When you talk to investors make sure to research them as well. Understand what the investors you’re pitching invests in. Too many entrepreneurs approach an investor out of the blue at a conference without knowing who they are or why they might be interested in your company.
Paige emphasized the fact that he doesn’t want to make you money, he doesn’t care about ROI or multiples, he wants to hear how you’re going to make a difference. Your company should also be attracting great people, if you can’t attract great people why should an investor put money into your business?
If you tell an investor that you’re an entrepreneur be prepared to tell them what you’ve done. Too many entrepreneurs live in the world of ideas and dreams but you have to go out there and make something happen.
LA has great VC’s, great angels, and incubators – there are lots of ways to get your startup rocking in Los Angeles. If you live in LA you are in a big ecosystem, do your research and become part of the community, the opportunities are there.
The day ended with an investor panel featuring Jim Andelman, Nate Redmond, Paige Craig, and James Baily. This final session took a select group of entrepreneurs who pitched earlier in the day. These bold souls took to the stage to pitch their idea in front of some major VC’s and angel investors.
It was a great end to a great day. It is so valuable to hear entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and then listen to VC’s and Angel Investors provide feedback. This is the fourth time this year I’ve seen this happen and I learn something new from each and every pitch. There was tremendous value and lots to learn from each and every session of the conference.
That’s a wrap – The Startup Conference came to Los Angeles and made a big splash, I hope they come back next year but I’ll be looking to attend their next event no matter where it is!