I’ve been writing about startups for around four years now. During those four years, I’ve gotten a lot of email from entrepreneurs who want publicity. Some of those emails lead to in-depth discussion and coverage, while others go straight to the trash can. With this post, I hope to give you a better understanding of what writers and bloggers like myself look for when it comes to writing about startups.

We Want You To Tell Us A Story

Your story is going to be your first impression and quite possibly the reason we write about you. Having a good story is just as important as having a good product. I’m more likely to write about a startup with an okay product and an awesome story than a startup with an awesome product and no story. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but the simple fact is that good stories draw readers.

We Want To Write Stories That You Don’t Want Written

If we write a story that you don’t want written, like “Google To Acquire Facebook Next Week,” we get a lot of traffic and credibility from that, assuming it’s true. Use that to your advantage. Think about leaking financing or some other news to a single blogger who you like and want to write about your startup. Even if the news has nothing to do with your own company, it helps us write a story and we’ll remember that down the road.

Have A Good Product

Stories are important, but they’re not everything. Once your story is said and done, there needs to be a good product behind it. But that’s not all: you can’t just have the same “good” product as everyone else — it needs to be different. We see the same things every single day, so if you show us something new and innovative, we’ll most likely stop and stare.

Don’t Become Background Noise

I’m writing this from my back patio, where I’m surrounded by chirping crickets. When I first came outside, the chirping was obvious to me. But now, because it’s such a constant sound, I’ve kind of tuned it out and forgotten about it. You don’t want to be a cricket. Don’t email me every single day asking why I haven’t written about your startup. Instead, make one single good impression, perhaps through an interesting story. However, you do want to be part of the conversation. While it’s not a good idea to become background noise, it’s a very good idea to become part of the community and show that you can give back as well.

Respond To Coverage Of Your Startup, Critical Or Not

Every startup should have a blog, and on that blog you should link to and respond to bloggers who write about your startup. If it’s critical, you shouldn’t respond angrily — you should engage them on an intellectual level and start a discussion. If a blogger or journalist knows that you’re going to link back to them every time they write about you, they have an increased incentive to write about you more often. That probably shouldn’t affect our decision to write about you, but it quite clearly does and you should use that to your advantage.

Don’t Hire A PR Firm

I have a number of friends working in PR who won’t appreciate me saying this, but the last thing any startup needs is to hire a PR firm. PR firms, in general, don’t know anything about relating to the public. I don’t write stories from press releases. It’s 2012, and press releases are irrelevant. You shouldn’t let any PR firm send emails or make calls for you, and you sure as hell shouldn’t let them touch your social media. Do it yourself, or, if you’re really too busy, hire an employee. Not an agency.

If you’re looking to get press for your startup, you need to have a story and a good product, build relationships with bloggers, and respond to any and all coverage. I can promise you that these guidelines will prove far more valuable than any PR agency, and they won’t cost you a dime.

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