Getting 10 PR Stories published without Spending a Single Penny.

When I joined my second organization ever, my boss entrusted me to do the PR for his super early-stage startup. Essentially, the goal was to get at least once in news in a week.

Initially, we planned to onboard a PR agency and it seemed like it can happen. But then, COVID happened and to be conservative with the finance, we decided to ditch the plan of onboarding a PR agency. We never revisited the goal of 1 coverage per week, but we wanted to be frequent on PR.

In the last 8 months, we have been in news 10 times (>1 per month) sans our funding announcement and new product announcement. Even for funding announcement, we did this on our own and our servers sweated like never before, that day. The New Product announcement was a paid PR and we still think we did no get the due coverage for this.

So here I am summarizing, how we got those 10 PR stories done (not story by story but a larger formula which we used)

Think from a Journalist’s Point of view

A journalist gets so many stories in his or her own inbox that your story getting buried in those emails is natural. So the key point is to get your story the attention you think it should get. It is not just about writing a clickbait subject that might ensure mail opening but it might still not get published.

So a journalist needs an interesting story that will attract the reader’s attention. Since ours was an early-stage startup with a not-so-popular founding team, any hiring or product update will not get their ears.

To know what we did to get their attention, read the next point.

Capture the moment

We captured the moment. Since we were serving a niche target audience like Freelancers, we tried to create stories around what was happening externally and how it impacted freelancers or how it was related to them.

Since most people want to be a part of the trend and journalists are no different, this helped us to get almost all of our coverage. Some of the examples of what kind of stories did we do (each one of these were backed by solid research by our team)

  1. In April’20, we got a story published in ET on how COVID19 is impacting the payment time for Freelancers and small businesses. Since Businesses started to show the impact of COVID and Lockdown, this made a lot of sense. This was captured by a senior ET journalist who locked horns with Vani Kola of Kalari Captial on Twitter very recently.
  2. In May’20, since mother’s day was around the corner, we wrote a story on how new mothers are opting for freelancing as a career choice to balance between family and career. This was picked by Indian Express Bangalore.
  3. In Aug’20, we wrote a story on how brick and mortar businesses are looking to go online. This was backed by the increase in demand for Social media and website development-related freelancers by such businesses on our marketplace platform. This was again picked by ET. This was the time when newer, non-physical business models were being discovered, thanks to COVID.
  4. In Sep’20, we wrote a story on how engineers use freelancing as a bridge to try different professions apart from what they studied in Engineering. This was picked by Education times (A property of Times of India). 15th September is Engineer’s day.
  5. Most recently, we did an opinion piece on the impact of budget’21 on Freelancers. This was picked by YourStory. This budget had mention of Gig economy and OPCs etc.

As my boss says, you need to have an eye for PR. There is a lot of context in day-to-day news and we just need to build around it.

Don’t be afraid of cold emailing

Even when you identify the context, write a story backed by solid research, it might still not see the light of the day unless you send it to a Journalist. To know the right journalist we used Wizikey to identify journalist in a publication who writes on these topics. Then we tried to find out their email ID using Google Search, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Once you crack the email syntax of a publication, it will be easy to know email addresses.

Now you have the email address, just write a crisp cold email, attach your story and if all goes well, you will see the magic happening.

Build relationships

Interesting fact, half of these 10 were covered by ET and its properties. The reason was we could establish good relationships with ET Journalists. To an extent that if one left, she would connect us to the next one who took over her work. We reciprocated by giving them bytes as and when they asked or if they needed any connections from the founder’s common circle. This is how it works, give and take.

So these were the small things which we did and we could get such coverage. I won’t say these were the best possible practices at that time, but they did work for us.

If you have any thoughts or ideas, please feel free to reach me at ashutoshgarg273(at)gmail(dot)com

Growth Marketer