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Every startup or project I have ever worked on has managed to get ‘free media’. All the way up to TV and even international coverage. There is a trick to it, a formula and it never fails. I’ve even got TV coverage on something as boring as a book here and here. But I also got this startup on TV, and this startup on TV, this project on TV, this project pretty much every news channel in the world, this podcast in the media, and even my blog covered. I feel like the list below when taken in your own context, will always result in free media coverage. We are now in the ‘Attention Economy’, it’s one of the few scarce things these days. So here’s my top 29 hacks to getting free media in a world where attention is sometimes the first asset we need to build.

29 Rules for Getting Media

  1. It is now easier than ever to connect with writers and reporters. The barriers to connection are now gone forever. So go connect.
  2. Traditional media still has some kick in the old beast with big audiences. But they look to micro media for their stories, so have an open mind on what small coverage can become. I once did a mail box drop, which got me on TV.
  3. The PR agency is dead. They are now for the uninformed and Fortune 500 companies. Don’t waste your time or money using them.
  4. PR agencies have no place in Startup land. That’s the Founders job. If you can’t hustle media, how will you ever hustle customers?
  5. Media trust and prefer to engage with business founders & CEO’s, not PR firms.
  6. Entrepreneurs are the new rock stars, Startups are the new MTV. They want to hear from the star – You have the trust and the credibility – you’re the star, embrace it.
  7. Journalists are easy to access, get to know them. And think about how you can help them in their work. Use the lower barriers to be a resource. It’s not about us.
  8. Cast the media net wide. Don’t be too targeted. Think like an entrepreneur and not a marketing or advertising person. We take what we can get.
  9. Target the message not the media. Invent messages that matter.
  10. Every business has an incredible amount of media angles. It’s about them (their readers / viewers) not us. They don’t give a hoot about our business – ever.
  11. Have a media mind jam about your startup. Think about how it touches peoples lives, provides change, hope and solutions. Even if only on the fringes of what you make, sell or do.
  12. Live in the shoes of the journalist. Pages and slots have to be filled. It’s the entrepreneurs job to fill them….. If your angle is valuable, you are a solution to their content problem.
  13. So it’s about flipping your mind. Don’t think you are the receiver from the media, but the giver of great stories and content.
  14. The number of angles for solving the content problem are limitless.
  15. There are media angles every startup can link to what it does: How is your startup; Altruistic, a new business model, helping people make money, helping people save money, providing productivity improvements, becoming a platform, the first of its type, using new a technology, ecologically sound, making the web physical, unusually funded, disrupting old industry, uber cool, uber offensive, old world reinvented, something in the extreme, allowing vicarious living…. The list is infinite.
  16. The list above is the guided missile to free media coverage. Find the angle and attach the brand and story – then provide hope and value for the end readers / viewers.
  17. Support the work of your favourite media personnel. Read their articles, watch their shows, tweet their links and help them with their job first. Be a fan of their work. But only be a fan if it is genuine. Find people whose work is aligned to your values. It makes this thing a collaborative effort.
  18. But make sure you’re a resource for the media contacts. First provide them with stories not about you. Gain trust through creating value.
  19. Make the journo’s look good with insider insights. New stories, quirky angles and stuff not about you, but your friends, colleagues and other startups.
  20. Do this at a 10/1 ratio. Then when you put up your hand, you’re not someone pitching a media idea. You’re a trusted resource – the laws of reciprocity set in.
  21. Make comments on their posts. They read them all trust me I know. I once read 474 comments on an article I wrote for the ABC – they do too, it’s their job. The journo should know you by name before you ever contact them.
  22. Give away your business success secrets to get stories. Counter intuitive I know. But the media love depth and truth and people who are good enough to compete with you know these secrets already.
  23. When in doubt give more information for the story than you think you should. In any case you can’t step in the same river twice.
  24. Once you’re getting coverage, use the previous bit to earn the next bit. But make the messages and the angles different.
  25. Just like school, doing grade 5 gets you into grade 6. Local media leads to regional media, leads to state media, leads to national media. There is no media too small (A friends blog) to start the process. Validation leads to further validation.
  26. Promote media coverage on social channels – but be humble and promote the message & lessons not that you’re in it.
  27. Keep the media alive in your startups web presence. Post links to coverage. Use it as a tool to gain sign ups and customers.
  28. Big launch campaigns are not sustainable, not for startups anyway. Frequency beats depth every time. It’s better to have frequent small bits of coverage than a big killer piece of coverage. It’s a momentum game.
  29. But mostly it’s about giving. Give value to the readers, the viewers, the listeners and being a resource to the journos. Do this and the world will know who you are and what your startup does.
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