Last night, one of my really good friends sent me a email and asked me if I could call up Mike Arrington over at TechCrunch or Pete Cashmore at Mashable to cover their new iPhone application.
(Trying hard not to sound like a dick) I basically told him that is not how it works. While I have their numbers and have even been to some of their houses for events and gotten to know them personally, I have never once hit them up to cover something for me.
Instead, what I will do is email their tips (there is a a link on pretty much every website) for news contact. Yes, I do it just like you do.
You have to keep in mind that these guys get literally hundreds of pitches a day for people to write about their products, and they obviously have to ignore 99.99% of them.
OK, but back to my friend… So he was like, “ OK, well great, then what do I do?” So I wrote this long email explaining what I do…
In the course of writing the whole thing out, I was thinking maybe others would find interest in my experiences, which is why I wrote this post.
BTW this is 100% written by me, Jeremy Schoemaker, not by some fly by night ghost writer, so prepare yourself for foul language, typos, and run on sentences.
Hopefully you find it useful
This guide is based on my last 7 years of successfully getting my applications and websites in major news outlets around the world. I have never worked at a PR company and never hired a PR service. This is purely based on my experience.
When this guide works for you, depending on how high profile the news outlet is, you are going to get everyone and their mom (and your mom too) calling you and congratulating you.
It’s a great feeling when everyone tells you how awesome you are. No bullshit, let’s be honest.
But many times it becomes addicting, and you start to now focus on press more then on running your company. Don’t get caught up in the fame monster.
Years ago, I was on 20/20 with Barbara Walters after I tipped them to my video I put on Google talking about my experience with Best Buy and how they would never get my business again. After being on 20/20, Best Buy sent me a $2,000 gift card. But the amazing thing was my phone rang off the hook and everyone stopped me in grocery stores to ask me if I was that guy…
A month ago, I was on the front page of Investors Business Daily. I got over 600 emails from friends and fans congratulating me.
Yes, it’s distracting.
Ok – Now with all the warnings out of the way, let’s get to it !
How to Find Reporters’ Contact Info
Like I said above, with TechCrunch, just email email@example.com. With Mashable, you have to fill out this form: http://mashable.com/tip/. But that’s just the first time. Once someone has gotten back with you, then you have their email and can email them directly.
For mainstream reporter contacts – like for instance the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, NY Post, and countless others – all of the authors put their emails at the end of their posts.
To find them easily, use Google’s site: operator and search the website for a keyword relating to your product.
For instance, with my friend who wants to get press for his iPhone application, I told him I would search nytimes.com for the keyword “iPhone” to find some press articles.
Which looks like this:
Then I would click on a few links until I found one that I thought was related… then look for a way to contact the author. On the NY Times each author’s name is clickable:
When clicked on, it takes you to their bio page, which contains their email:
So in this instance the author’s name is David Pogue. It’s kind of funny that I randomly found an article by him because I have some previous experience emailing with him. He has always responded every time I email him. (Usually it’s me disagreeing with what he says.)
Personally, I think he is a dipshit with no real world experience. You are going to find this VERY common with reporters. I mean, after all, if they were experts they wouldn’t write for a living, they would be making products! This is actually important and I will get into why this matters later.
Anyway, the point is that it’s EASY to find the contact information for mainstream press.
Get As Much Intel As You Can
While it’s easy to find people to write about your application/website/service,- the real art is getting them to do what you want.
The best way is to stalk their whole life and get as much intel as you can.
Here, let me take you step by step:
1) Find their bio on the web – Take their name and search for it on Google and add in the word “bio.” For example, if we search for David Pogue (the author from above) + biography in Google, we can see:
Finding their bio will give you a lot of perspective of where the author is coming from, what they like, and stuff like that.
2) Stalk them on Facebook – Most reporters will have a fan page and a personal page. Keeping with the David Pogue example, you can see his page here (publicly accessible). You can find his personal page here and his wife’s page here. All are linked to each other and publicly accessible.
All of these pages on Facebook contain valuable intel you can use later. They have pictures of their family, kids, vacations they have taken, activities they like, and if you’re not sure, they even list things they are interested in.
How do you know this? Because it’s on his profile and it’s part of the information he has decided to publicly share:
3) Find them on other various social networks:
Other social networks will give you more vital intel about the reporter. Stumbleupon will tell you what websites they like. So will Technorati and mybloglog.
Just look at all the intel you can get from David Pogue’s LinkedIn Page:
and even more:
Notice at the bottom of his LinkedIn he talks about how he is a “College of Light Opera Alumni.” A little Googling on that can yield a lot more info… but I think I have shown you how easy it is to gather an ENORMOUS amount of information about a reporter.
Now, at this point you might be itching to contact the reporter… BUT WAIT. You need to be well prepared before making contact.
Getting a Game Plan
OK, now let’s step away from stalking reporters a bit and figure out what the hell we actually want to do.
Having no game plan before you contact the press is like ranking #1 for your keyword and converting to no sales.
Sure, it’s great for bragging rights but does it help your company?
What exactly do you want to accomplish by getting press for your application? Do you just want to see your name in the paper? If you could write the article yourself, what would you want it to say?
Sometimes people submit their stuff to me and when I ask them what is the goal of having me write about their article, their answer is usually “well, to make sales.” DUH.
Ok, so then I should just write, “Hey, this guy wanted me to write about his app so you go and buy it.”
No, of course that won’t work.
So here is what you do. Make a 10 bullet point list of all the key features that *MUST* appear in your article. Obviously you want to drive sales, but what kind of story can you tell about your product? I will go over this in the next part…
The Press Kit
OK, now let’s step away from stalking reporters a bit and talk about something that is probably the most important piece to getting your application, website, or service press: a well-prepared press kit.
When I was a total newb trying to get reporters to talk about my stuff, they were like “Ok, send me a press kit.” ERR, what? Press kit? Well, it’s something you should know about! I can’t tell you how important a press kit is.
- Legitimacy – If you have taken the time to prepare a press kit, then the odds you are worth checking out.
- Communication – Press kits give you the freedom to show off your product with pictures and copy that just can’t be done in an email or phone call.
- The Meat – If the reporter understands what you’re talking about, they can skip over stuff quickly. In an email or a phone call you are going to lose them quick.
So how the hell do you write a press kit and what needs to go in it?
Well, I can tell you from my years of experience there are a lot of DO’s and DONT’s when putting a press kit together.
First of all, you should create your press kit originally in PowerPoint. Make slides. Just trust me. The press kit should look like a presentation. Make your slides look nice. All the fluff that normally does not really matter in the real world matters with reporters.
Now, when it’s totally done we will export it to PDF format (or you can keep it in PowerPoint if you are presenting to raise money).
IMPORTANT ShoeMoney Tip:
Always keep in mind the reporter has an ego and wants to look like he is doing his readers a favor by shedding his knowledge about your product. Your job is to provide him with enough data that he can do that. Here at ShoeMoney we have a saying… At the end of the day, people just want to be enlightened and entertained. That’s it. So while you want to come across as professional, you should also have fun with your press kit. Most importantly, be yourself!
Right now, take out a notepad and answer the following questions:
Here are the key ingredients:
The Executive Team?
Who are the CEO/CMO/CTO and what is their backgrounds? You should have a very short bio (120 words max) and a headshot. This should fit on 1 page/slide.
Is your company privately funded? Did you raise money from firms or private parties? How much funding? Is it just a bootstrapped company running out of your garage? All of this shit is important to include, the reason being most companies DO NOT like to reveal it. So the more transparent you can be, the better chance you have.
Who is on your board of directors/advisers?
It’s vital to have people who have experience in doing what you’re trying to do as a part of your team. And if they happened to at one point work for a big named company, then all the better.
Yes, it’s fluffy shit that doesn’t matter, but if you have a person formally from Google, Yahoo, eBay or any big name company working in any department, you want to flaunt them here.
How big is your development team?
Never use the word “outsource” anywhere. No matter where your people are, they are part of your “in-house” development team. Always round up. If you have 12 employees, then you have close to 20. Dig? Always include a photo of your entire team together. If you need to invite a few friends and family members to, ehh, *cough* stand in *cough* then go for it.
Who is your product for?
Joe tier kicker? Small business? Big business? Be very short with this slide, but use an image of the person that your product is for. Try to get an image that shows them using your product. Pictures demonstrate so many things that words can’t.
Is it a needed service?
This is one of the 3 principles that we here at ShoeMoney live by. If it’s not a service that we would use every day, then it’s a dead end. So explain as briefly as you can what void your service fills. Don’t give a sales pitch: be direct and explain what your product is as short as possible. Don’t try to sell; if someone is reading your PDF, they are already sold and you are just going to turn them off.
Who are the competitors for your product?
People struggle with this one because they think its a negative. It gives the writer (and the end user) a much better understanding of what your product is. Even if you do not have any direct competitors, use other products to explain what your thing does really helps. For example, you could say it has all the functionality of YouTube on your iPhone but with Twitter, Google Voice, and Facebook integration. Drop as many relevant company names as possible without being confusing. If there is a company out there doing 1 thing, no matter how small it is in your application, you want to include that.
Why your product is better then your competitors?
What features does it have that your competitors don’t? Why would anyone leave your competitors’ service to use yours?
Who is on board already?
What big name companies or people are already sold on your product? Get testimonials from these people but keep them short. Also, make sure to include a head shot.
If you’re building a product for Joe tire kicker, include testimonials from your beta testers on what it did for them.
If you’re building a B to B product, get letters of intent or testimonials from companies who are using or intend to use the product and have them describe why. Again, head shots are important.
What is the result of your product?
DO not get super and feature crazy. Give examples of end results. For example, do not say, “We use this api and now your videos are doing this and blah blah.” DO say “Have happy users,” “Users can watch videos on the go and not be tied to a computer” (if your phone was a mobile video iPhone app).
Practice going through the slides like you’re giving a presentation to people about your product. Invite friends over that are technology retarded. If at any point they are lost during the presentation, ask them where you lost them. You might need to get better-looking slides or more eye-catching stuff.
IMPORTANT ShoeMoney Tip:
Much like sales copy and sales videos, your goal is to be entertaining and enlightening enough so that the person reading keeps reading. Do not get crazy with tech talk or marketing talk. You are writing the cliff notes version.
Is Your Shit Working?
I can’t tell you how many people hit me up to write about their application or website, and when I go to it it’s down or the link is broken. YOU SOLD ME, THEN YOU LOST ME. Seriously, you had me interested… and now there is no way in hell I am going to cover your stuff. What happens when I write about it? You make me look like an idiot if your website is down then =(
That sucks for you. So make sure your shit is in order.
The Methodical Approach
The next logical step is approaching the actual author.
The First Email
Your #1 goal in the first email is to start a relationship with the reporter.
In the first email, DO NOT mention your product… This is your introduction to the reporter. Remember earlier how I told you how these reporters are dip shits when it comes to actually working with technology? Well, the one thing they love more then anything is when someone tells them how awesome they are. Here is an example:
Subject: Great stuff REPORTERNAME
I bet you get a million emails a day but I just wanted to let you know I have been a long-time fan of your writings and just wanted to reach out to you and let you know how much I look forward to your posts.
I have a quick question for you. Is there any way I can get an RSS feed of just your posts? Nothing against your colleagues, but I just have limited time and it would be easier if I could just be notified when you post.
Thanks for your time,
That’s it. Tell them how smart they are, then ask them a question that also caters to their ego. 90% of the time you will get a response back in 10 minutes. TRUST ME.
DO NOT COPY AND PASTE WHAT I JUST WROTE.
Be creative, for Christ’s sake. Even with me saying that, many people will do it, so when reporters get a huge influx of that, they are obviously going to be hip to it.
If you look at my mock email above, you see there are a ton of persuasion techniques being used — everything from social proof, to authority, and even a little scarcity.
If these things are foreign to you, then you need to go watch my weapons of marketing video right now.
IMPORTANT ShoeMoney Tip:
Never say anything that sounds like you’re in a position of authority over the reporter. Little shit like “Keep up the good work,” while well intended, makes you sound like you are telling this guy what to do. Personally, it’s a pet peeve to me. Also, do not give any tips on how they could be better. Again, you are the idiot and they are the grand master. Cater to their ego.
Use Your Intel
Another great initial email is to use what you learned in stalking the person’s whole life. What are they interested in? This is another way to be disarming. It can also be another great follow up email to the first one I showed you above.
Subject: RE:RE: Great stuff REPORTERNAME
Thanks REPORTERNAME, I really appreciate your response. Just added it to my RSS reader.
BTW, I noticed you’re a fan of Lady Gaga. My wife and I got a babysitter a couple weeks ago and we saw her in concert. One of the best shows I have ever seen.
Have you seen her live?
IMPORTANT ShoeMoney Tip:
If you noticed, I tried to point out all the similarities between myself and him. We both like Lady Gaga and we are both married and we both have kids.
The First Pitch
Now if the reporter responds back to that, then we have a real bromance going on. You can get an idea of how much the person responds back with. If it’s really short, your relationship isn’t very strong. Like if he said, “No, haven’t seen her,” then that’s not good. But if he says he has not but wants to and then goes into how much he likes music and has a degree from Yale in music and has kids and a wife and blah blah, then he’s in love and it’s time to go for the first kiss.
So consider an email like this:
Subject: RE:RE:RE:RE: Great stuff REPORTERNAME
Wow REPORTERNAME, that’s amazing. I did not know you had a degree in music from Yale as well as a masters in X. I really admire your dedication to X and wish I would have pursued a post-graduate degree myself.
So ironically enough, my wife was reading the NY Times yesterday and read ARTICLENAME you wrote. She was like isn’t this your friend who likes Lady Gaga? Pretty funny!
She thought I should run one of my latest projects by you to see what you thought. Honestly, I feel weird asking you to check it out and I TOTALLY understand if you do not have time to look at it.
But obviously I would love your feedback. I attached our media kit which goes over the application.
On another note, did you see Lady Gaga take home all those awards at the VMA’s last night? I was super happy for her! She totally deserves it.
IMPORTANT ShoeMoney tip:
Notice what I did here? I was completely disarming. I was not pitching…. my wife was. Being married, he knows how pushy wives can be. Then after the pitch, I QUICKLY got back to our personal stuff. See how that works…. I am gonna make you into a persuasion ninja yet.
Bloggers are Not the Same as News Reporters
Big difference between getting bloggers to write about your stuff as opposed to main stream news reporters.
Give to Receive
I get hundreds of pitches a day from people to write about their products. You know which ones I write about? The ones who help me.
Yes, unlike reporters, I don’t have to find news stories and I certainly don’t give a crap about breaking a news story or being the first to write about how Twitter is down…
But if you see me write about how I wish something existed or if you notice something I have that sucks, then fix it for me and I guarantee you if I use it, I will write about your stuff because I owe you. Period.
My price for doing a paid review is between $4,500.00 and $6,000.00, depending on how much work I have to do. So if you compare that between you just solving one of my problems (which costs you nothing if you know how to do it or paying some code monkey to fix something wrong with my stuff), it’s an awesome deal.
On 2 separate occasions, people have written about how being on my site drove 100x more sales then being on Techcrunch, which has over 400x more readers. The difference is the relationship with our readership. I know my readers and my readers know me. If I write about your product and especially if I can show how you can use it to make money, or better yet how I make money, then I am going to sell the shit out of your product.
All Reporters and Bloggers Can Be Greased
Every reporter I have ever known, the closer I have gotten to them, I have learned that it’s all about greasing the wheels. But it’s not just about money. Let me give you some examples.
Board of Advisers
Ever noticed all the companies I have equity in for being on their board of advisers? Guess what. Every time they fart, I write about it.
I have a stake in making sure they do well because my shares of stock in their companies go up.
Usually I don’t have to do anything for these companies, either. Well, that is not entirely true. I do have to go to their quarterly board meetings in awesome places like Las Vegas or the Bahamas and party like a rock star. Yea, it’s good to be on boards.
Let’s be honest. The whole reason they put me on their board was because they wanted me to write about them. So they get tens of thousands of dollars in free press on my website for giving me some shares in their company (which have a mystery value… and probably are worth $2 for all I know)
The point is it’s not a bad idea to offer a board of advisers position to a reporter or blogger. If they are considered an authority in the field, it’s a no-brainier. It’s a win win win. Now, you get to tout you have X person on your board, they will have awesome feedback about your product if you ask them, and you can be sure they will write about whatever new feature you’re implementing.
IMPORTANT ShoeMoney Tip:
Having a really solid board of advisers also have the extra bonus of really getting you a great valuation if you need to raise money for your company.
When all else fails, you can just pay for press. Pretty much every blogger can be bought with straight cash. Just email them (or use their contact form) and ask them straight out if they do paid reviews and also how much. Ask for examples of previous paid reviews.
With magazines and newspapers you can do advertorials. A couple years ago AzoogleAds (now Epic Direct) paid $20,000 to Revenue Magazine (and other publications) to do an advertorial featuring me and how I made over $500,000.00 using their network in only 2 short months in 2006.
AzoogleAds still tells me this got them more publishers than any other marketing they have ever done. The article was well done. It not only had a picture of me holding a $500,000.00 check, but also had my top tips on what I did to make such profits so fast.
A lot of times reporters have side projects with their own companies. You writing a positive review of their companies’ product is a GREAT way to open the communication door and get reciprocated.
I have done this with 2 different writers of MAJOR news outlets and it worked every time.
On occasion, you can find a reporter who will accept gifts in exchange for giving you press. Usually you have to know someone who knows them. Obviously they would lose their job if it ever got out, so it’s not talked about much. The best way to find out about things like this is to go to industry events, get shitfaced with your peers, and ask which reporters can be greased. Then ask them to do an intro for you.
In the past I have bought laptops, iPhones, iPods, and even a MacBook Air (when they first came out) for reporters. Sometimes they asked for them and sometimes I just sent them to them.
The Biggest Part
The real “secret” to getting good at getting press is practice. Sure, my best tips are all laid out for you in this guide, but are 99% of you going to actually put in the work to stalk reporters and build a press kit?
You better! I have spent 2 days writing this guide and I hope I didn’t waste my time. Get after it!
Ohh, and by the way:
DON’T TRY THIS SHIT ON ME
Whenever I write a guide like this, people will use these techniques on me and then get pissy when they don’t work.
Do you understand that’s like when a magician teaches you a magic trick, and then you’re upset when he is not amazed when you do it.
Anyway, good luck!!!!