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Getting press for your newly launched startup can be hard. Really hard. But it can provide tons of upside and quickly get you the first few thousand users you’ve been craving. While nothing in Public Relations (PR) is guaranteed, I’ll tell you how to put your best foot forward.

When we launched WhichBus, a past project of mine that got founded at a StartupWeekend, getting in the press was the primary way we planned to drive traffic to the site, as it was bootstrapped with a lacking business model.

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We worked on it for exactly a year and not quite sure what to expect. Here’s what we did.

Start building relationships early

We started seeding the press well before we launched by building relationships. Some local tech press regularly attend Startup Weekend, so we made it a point to introduce ourselves and tell them a bit about WhichBus. It didn’t yield much in the beginning, but was fruitful in the end. We kept the relationship up indirectly over the next couple of months by engaging on Twitter and commenting on their blog posts.

Make an awesome press kit

Once the relationships were seeded and launch was near, we built out a detailed press kit, which you can find here. As you can see, it includes:

  • Logo in high-resolution
  • Screenshots of multiple formats (homepage and routes page)
  • Launch overview

The launch overview was the most important file in the press kit. It answers many questions the press will have, like what is your startup about, why it’s different, and why  should the press care. Basically, you are writing the blog posts for them. Make it as easy as possible for them to cover your startup, because they’re busy people.

Make the pitch flawless

In the outreach, it’s really important the pitch is flawless. It needs to quickly communicate what your startup is and why it matters.

There have been a number of blog posts on this, but the the formula tends to look something like this: [Name of company] [product / service] for [target user], [benefit or special sauce].

Here’s what we came up with for WhichBus: WhichBus is a simple, beautiful way to navigate public transit in metro Seattle.

Pitch multiple angles

When preparing for your outreach, it’s important to think about all the angles you can be pitching. The more angles you have, the more outreach you can do.  Benefits, technologies, design, founders background, and so forth could all provide different angles. Since WhichBus only worked in metro Seattle, we targeted local: tech press, neighborhood blogs, transit geeks, and public bus drivers on Twitter.

When doing the outreach, it’s incredibly important to:

  1. personalize the message so it’s relevant to who you are talking to (sometimes we’d link back to similar articles on their blog) – no form or BCC mails;
  2. keep it short and simple;
  3. be honest, transparent, and patient.

Results and closing thoughts

Our efforts paid off in the end. The launch ended up being covered by a local tech blog which drove 606 visits, a neighborhood news blog which drove 193 visits, and a local transit blog which drove 51 visits, all within the first weeks over launch.

What launch PR tips do you have?


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Dave Rigotti