T – 3 Weeks: How to Hack the Media at RISE

T – 3 Weeks: How to Hack the Media at RISE

July 10, 2015 by Anna O'Hare


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As a startup, if you want to get the most out of the conference, you need to think about how you are going to engage with the media. Publicity is a great bonus to the contacts and relationships that you can foster at RISE.

So here are some tips and tricks from Mike Harvey, our head of strategic communications at RISE HQ. He used to be a technology journalist with The Times in Silicon Valley and ran communications for Google in northern Europe. So he knows what he’s talking about.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

When it comes to interacting with the media, you can’t expect just to rock up and wow them. You have to work out in advance what you want to say, who you want to say it to and how you are going to say it. If you don’t do your research, then you are fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

What is your story?

Work out what you want to tell the media. What is your company narrative? You probably already have a pitch for investors? Adapt that but think in terms of a cynical journalistic audience. You are not looking for investment but to get them to write about you. Be brutal. What is new and newsworthy about you? What other stories are in the media about similar companies, about your sector and your provenance. What is the hook? Is it your product, your founders, your struggle for funding or your good looks? Every time you think you have come up with something, ask yourself “So what?” Because that’s what journalists do many times a day.

Who are your targets?

Be realistic. The Wall Street Journal does not write about every startup that comes knocking on their door. Who are the media that covers your sector, who have written about companies similar to yours? Draw up a hit list. Ask the organisers to see a press list in advance. Be warned – journalists commit to attending conferences as late as possible and then can change their minds. Work out how to approach them before the event if possible. Get hold of their email address. Don’t stalk them on the phone. That won’t wash.

What is your collateral?

The classic example is a press release. Be aware that journalists tend to get hundreds of them every day. Make sure you have something to write about: an announcement, new product, or an event. Don’t get too technical.

If you don’t have anything new, think how you can package up the details about your startup in an easy to read, digestible way. Think Buzzfeed. Perhaps have a list of stats, key facts and a timeline. Include some quotes. Include contact details. Keep it all on 1 page. And if you are emailing, don’t put in an attachment. It won’t get opened.

Don’t send it with typos. Journalists hate typos. They think: “If this guy can’t be bothered to get the simple things right, I can’t be bothered to read to the end.”

Another way to get your collateral to the media is to use the Startup App

To upload your press release to the Startup App, go into the app, and click “Add Press Release”. You can then click “Choose File” and submit your release. Please keep in mind that the file has to be a PDF.  The event media team will share your press release with media coming to the conference. It’s as simple as that!

At the event

Engage your plan. You have your (realistic) media targets. Use the event app to search for and connect with media. Work out what they have written recently. Be prepared to introduce yourself. Stop hovering. Be confident but don’t be pushy. Media will be found around the media village.

Talk about previous coverage you may have gained. Let them know how much you enjoyed a piece they’ve written. Have some collateral to hand over. Try and get a contact number/email address to follow up on. Don’t feel entitled. Don’t be downhearted if you fail more than you succeed. There is a lot of competition out there for column inches.

Final tip: Media live or die by the stories they uncover and write about. Put yourself in their shoes and give them what they need to succeed. Then you will succeed as well.

About the Author

Anna O'Hare
Anna is a storyteller at heart and is particularly passionate about telling the stories of startups. After returning from a year working in New York City's tech sector, she now writes for Collision, Web Summit, RISE and SURGE.