To handle the media is a difficult task. How is the best way to promote your new business and how should you make your story interesting to the readers? At Nordic Startup Bits we have asked Xue Mei Rhodin, Founder of Cedarwood and Startup Cabin (where she regularly vlogs), to share some tips she’s learned over the hears as an entrepreneur in the media.
If you Google “how to deal with media” as a new entrepreneur, you get pretty much the same answers: you have to be something the readers find interesting. Simply promoting your company isn’t going to cut it. Here tips from some of my hands-on experiences dealing with media for years and years as an entrepreneur:
- Really consider what is good for you to have in media and what is not.
As a founder, if you have an interesting, unique story, that is a great topic to share with the public. It’s inspiring, people oriented, and helps the reader get to know the core of your company. Talk about your values as an entrepreneur and what you stand for and believe in.
But, if you’re not a big talker, or if you’re uncomfortable voicing opinions and being photographed, don’t! You don’t have to be in the media to be a successful entrepreneur. Stay out of it if you feel that it doesn’t suit your personality. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time. If you really need to put yourself out there, for example, to get on TechCrunch and reach new users for your platform, let a media-savvy co-worker do it for you, who is comfortable with this kind of exposure. Don’t waste your precious time as a startup founder.
- What’s the story?
Find the story of your company, your innovation, your way of doing things, or you as an entrepreneur. What is unique? Surprising? Politically important? Important on a society level? What in your story will contribute to the world?
And here’s what you need to remember: write it down before you ever even get close to media. Media will pop up and ask questions when you least expect it, like when you’re hung over, 6 a.m. on a Sunday. If you’ve already thought through your most valuable points and facts to get in media, you’ll make their job easier. And you’ll be focusing on the right things. You’ll never be prepared for media otherwise. Do the pre-work. You can also have 5 topics prepared for different kinds of magazines. For example: if a tech magazine contacted me, what would I talk about? If a local newspaper contacted me, what would their readers want to read? If a fashion magazine wanted to write an article about a young entrepreneur, how would I describe my lifestyle?
- Trends I see happening in my industry. (Tech magazine)
- My lifestyle as an entrepreneur. (Lifestyle/Fashion magazine)
- How I grew up and what influenced me to become an entrepreneur. (Local newspaper)
- The impact of entrepreneurship in my country/city (National newspaper)
- Tips for other entrepreneurs. (Business magazine)
- Don’t go to the media to talk about your investment rounds.
A lot of startups get excited when they get investments and want to showcase it to the world as a proof of their quality. Don’t! Media loves to write about it, but they will love even more to write about it when you run out of money, when one of your founders quits or you have to do a down round. That can be very hurtful for you company in building momentum, even after you leave the company to start something new. Avoid trying to get into the news by bragging about big investor names or big investment rounds. It can bite you back hard later. Instead, focus on the story, the value of your service, and it’s impact. In media it will look like you failed, even when in reality, that’s just part of building a company.
- Always ask to check articles for information errors.
Something a lot of entrepreneurs do is that they are so excited about being in media that they forget to ask for “a fair procedure”. Always ask to see the article before it goes live. I have never worked with a journalist who didn’t get at least one vital fact wrong! Remember that they are very stressed and short of time, so help them make it right faster.
If they won’t let you check for information errors before, don’t do the interview. They are probably not professionals and don’t care about quality. It’s completely okay to say no if you don’t feel comfortable.
- Working with media is a long-term process, not a one-hit-wonder.
If you don’t have a good long-term plan to work with media, it’s not going to make that much of an impact. Media for me is a collaboration, it’s teamwork with journalists. They need interesting and unique topics to write about, most of them work freelance and are constantly looking for great material to pitch to their editor. If you find cool topics for them, you’ll help them out. Have prepared PR photos of you and your team, high-resolution logos, and quick 5-sentence introductions to your company and you as an entrepreneur. This speeds up the process for the journalists.
Don’t be afraid to give them other stories about other companies around you that do cool things; help journalists out for real. The more you help them out, the more they will have you at the top of their mind.
Now, go out and do it!
Xue Mei is a full-time business advisor to the tech, design and games industries and an entrepreneur since 10 years. She runs Startup Cabin Tribes, a hands-on entrepreneurs program for companies wanting to grow, and Cedarwood, a hire-a-CFO service for the tech industries. She’s also the host of Startup Cabin Podcast and Startup Cabin TV and a columnist for Digital Teknik.