Getting major news publications to cover your venture is something anyone can do if they take the right approach. When the Unreasonable Institute was just beginning, before we had run even one program, and at a time when I had no idea what I should be doing on a daily basis, I found myself with the role of getting the attention of major media.

Fast forward a few months, and we had received coverage from Business Week, Inc Magazine, The Wall Street Journal (twice), and had a full page article in the print version of Entrepreneur Magazine. Here are 8 initial things that helped me do it.

1. Let your story do the work.

In all honesty, when it comes to getting a major media source to write about your organization, it’s 10% about the effort you put in and 90% about the intrigue of the story itself—the key word here being story. No matter how amazing you think your organization is, your organization in and of itself is not usually worth writing about. Major media are looking for an event or a major announcement that can tell an intriguing story. It is within that context that people will hear of your organization.

When it comes to getting major media attention, it’s 10% about the effort you put in and 90% about the intrigue of the story. Tweet This Quote

2. Pique interest instead of press release.

In my novice opinion, press releases are useless (ok, maybe that is a little harsh—sorry, I never took a journalism class). You can imagine that folks in media get constantly bombarded with page-long press releases and don’t read the majority of them. You will be much more effective in piquing someone’s interest with a concise, intriguing email. If you can adequately do so, and of course include a call to action, then they are more likely to contact you. Then, you can tell them so much more than a press release ever could. Steve Strauss of USA Today discusses this point in depth in a post called “The (Almost) Surefire Method for Getting Publicity for Your Business.”

3. Contact low-hanging fruit.

There is an endless supply of journalists and bloggers you could contact, so work smart by finding and contacting “low-hanging fruit.” Said another way, contact writers who have published stories about your organization’s industry or about similar topics, thus showing they might have a genuine interest in your story. Unreasonable Institute Mentor Lindsay Clinton of Intellecap suggested I search for articles written about major organizations within our industry. Another way is to have technology find these people for you by using some sort of an article or blog reader, like Google Alerts, that searches for key words in newly published articles (my Google Alerts at the time, for instance, sent me emails with articles containing the words “social entrepreneur”).

To gain media attention, find and contact writers who have published stories about your industry. Tweet This Quote

4. Sleuth around for contact information.

Considering the amount of organizations seeking media coverage, you can imagine that many folks in the media keep their contact information well-hidden. Be creative in finding ways to contact writers. I have done everything from finding their emails on their personal blogs to reaching out to them on Facebook to simply guessing an email address based on their organization’s name.

5. Be persistent.

Some folks only cared what I had to say the second time I wrote them. Don’t stop after an initial email.

6. Play the numbers.

Even if you contact ten low-hanging fruit, chances are maybe only one writer will get back to you (and even that may not turn into an article). Now, if you contact 100 people….well, you can do the math.

If a journalist writes about you, make sure you spread the word—the traction that comes is good for them and you. Tweet This Quote

7. Help them.

Remember, the job of the writer is to get eyes on their articles. If they do write about you, make sure you spread the word—the traction that comes from it is good for them and you.

8. And of course, always say thank you!

For their help early on in the Unreasonable Institute’s life, thank you to Steve of BusinessWeek, Donna of Inc. Magazine, Ty and Durga of the Wall Street Journal’s Venture Capital Dispatch and India Chief Mentor, as well as Jason from Entrepreneur Magazine.

Do you have experience gaining serious media traction as a startup? Share your thoughts below.


A version of this post originally published on UNREASONABLE.is in September 2012. It has been updated and reposted to inspire further conversation.

About the author

Tyler Hartung

Tyler Hartung

Tyler is the co-founding Venture Fund Lead and COO of Unreasonable Institute. He helps ventures doing good in the world get the funding they need to create impact and also works with Enable Impact, which helps entrepreneurs find and connect with over 1,500 impact funders and programs.

  • DrivenbySuccess

    Interesting, this article can be the root of some great things to emerge from people who read it. I think right away with the advice about letting your work do the work for you is pretty important. I think you have done a great job in getting to where things are right now because you stood by what you stood for.

  • Kyle Schiedemeyer

    Great article! I will take this information and use it in my everyday life as a college student. I say this because right now I am attempting to network myself and meet people that I can help one day and who can help me too. If I could ask Tyler Hartung a question it would be, out of your 8 tips, which is the most important and why?

  • treehugger90

    Good article! This makes me think of my future about opening my own business and what would help me promote it! I agree that you have to be persistent and help them!

  • AndreaBehling

    Thank you for the article, Tyler. As a journalism major and public relations minor, this list is pretty much a standard media relations strategy—minus your opinion on news releases (which is an opinion we share.) It’s been interesting for me to see both the journalism and public relations side of things during my time in school. As the student newspaper editor, I receive dozens of email news releases a week and don’t read a single one. Yet in my 300 level public relations course, we spend weeks on writing releases, and it feels like a waste of time. In your opinion, do you think public relations and marketing courses need to be updated? I think there is definitely room for more innovative ways of approaching media relations even when your business idea is still spawning.

  • Gantz002

    Thank you for your informative article. I will use some of these approaches to help further my story and my future business.

  • JamesSpadge

    I have worked in the media industry and this article is spot on. This is how every company should market themselves and every product should be sold. In media it is all about the story so give them a story.

  • DBrownDreamer

    This article was very helpful for identifying ways to obtaining publicity. This is something that I have catalogued as useful information for the future. I think the author’s insight on emailing while touching base with “low hanging fruit” verses writing full press releases most helpful as I have taken many communications courses and they seem to focus on the latter.

  • znazarzai1

    I think step 7 is the key to the advice being given. Essentially, we are responsible for helping those that decide to help us. In the past, I’ve found that people are little hesitant when it comes to promoting their own work. They often wait for others to help them spread the word, however, waiting for others can limit your audience. Asking others to spread news about your organization/event/cause is just as important as spreading that information yourself.

  • ZecCepeidaConner

    The media is a hard part of the puzzle to fit into marketing. Getting to become part of a start up is incredibly hard. The best way to do it is to just be super social. You never know who you’ll meet and who they will know in consequence. step 3 holds some truth.

  • Kay

    Using the media is one of the biggest way of marketing. I’m sure this article will be very helpful for those who are seeking success in business!

  • Michael Diaz

    This article gives you a perspective on how you can go about using the media to your advantage. This can really help with marketing a business.

  • Brad Moule

    Great article. i myself have a difficulty locating email and have too guessed an email based off others in the company. Thanks for the great advice.

  • rmantero

    Thank you for the great article! These tips will definitely help!

  • AndreaOlsen22

    Each of these 8 steps are extremely helpful for those that are trying to get themselves/their ideas out there, which honestly should be everyone in some way, shape, or form. We must remember that there are millions of people out there trying to become known, so we have to be unique. Make your story different and more interesting than anyone else’s. We have to be pushy/assertive when we want something. Once we “get” it, step #7 is the most important: “help them.” Giving back to those that have helped you shows gratefulness. This article really shows how media can be our best friend if we use it to its potential.

  • Alex Tomaszewski

    This is brilliant and so straight forward at the same time. An expression I will never forget and is always replaying in my mind whenever I’m seeking help for a proposal I’m doing or business plan is “facts tell stories sell”. When you can capture the attention of your audience in this case media sources a story that others can relate to or has a powerful message or impact can go a long way. It’s fascinating that after reading steps 1-8 or as I’m reading each one individually, I’m thinking to myself ah, oh, that makes sense. Well written and very informative, thanks man.

  • Paigekenley

    I do agree that marketing can be a huge part of success in business by getting your name out there. I also feel that many people have also forgotten how important and successful word of mouth can be as well.

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  • Tom Ashmus

    I really like this article because I think this is the majority of peoples problems. They have the right ideas and the resources to make those ideas come to life, yet they lack the ability to promote themselves. Getting the media to support you can mean the difference in being productive and having overwhelming success.

  • Tom Ashmus

    I agree, having success with the media can be the key to being a successful company. You need media exposure in order for people to see your product/idea and have a chance to add to that.

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  • Jessica

    I think the greatest thing about this article is the fact that it’s modern and it fits with what works NOW. I am currently taking a class that is requiring us to write a press release, and I really don’t see the point in it. Not only that, but I am not of a generation that is familiar with a press release and I have never studied a minute of journalism. I love this because it’s simple and concise, while also being extremely helpful for someone (like myself) who may need to get the major media’s attention one day. I love “steps to success” articles like this one! Thank you!

  • James Robertson

    This article is a prime example of the modern touch of how to go about a good idea or venture. Everything in this world is changing and what was said last year may not be prevalent now. This article is up to date and provides great insight into how to go about a great idea and gaining the attention needed to grow in the media.

  • Nicholas Carter

    I personally don’t have any experience starting up a business, especially through experience with the present day forms of media. I think in regards to a start up, i believe a start up doesn’t have much of a voice in their early stages and I believe can play a very beneficial role in the success of that company. I think #8 in the process of a start up, by simply saying “thank you”, is one of the most important parts of the process.

  • Danielle Devereux

    I really like the advise that is given in this article. I truly believe that writers are way more interested in the story behind the business, instead of the business itself. I found out about this fantastic fitness company started by two women who just started making fitness YouTube videos together, and it just grew from there. Now they have a huge brand, and it all got started because they happened to met at their gym and realize they had the same things in common. When I read articles about them online or in magazines, its always about how they got started, more so than their company. It is really great though, I think, to learn the back story behind every business. The most successful companies always seem to have a colorful, and interesting stories about how it all got started.

  • Rachel Rodriguez

    Nic I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe our generation has a tendency to expect things from people and that they are entitled to things, such as positive media coverage. I cant describe more how important it is to demonstrate your appreciation for people who stick their neck out for you and can help you along the way, especially in situations when you are a start up venture.

  • Victor Ribakare

    These tips are really helpful and provide a more practical way to approach things. I understand that it is struggle for any more to get stories written about them. I also know that these tips are applicable to the many other news sources that have become more relevant today outside of websites, magazines, and newspapers. Either way, all of these tips work rather well. One big thing to remember though is that one can create their own brand and have the media seeking you.

  • Kade Hanson

    This article has a very positive outlook. I like that it is current and up to date. The amount that media is growing, Facebook, Twitter, Insta, etc., is outstanding so as time goes on I could see more and more sites come up and around. As this continuously grows the more jobs will be needed. I like the advice in this article and think it beneficial to have read.

  • Claire Salvucci

    I think that this article offers some great advice. Media coverage can be a crucial aspect for any business, but especially a start up that is trying to gain exposure. I thought that the first tip offered a unique approach to gaining media coverage. I agree that often times people will be more interested in learning about a story, than the actual logistics of a company. Having techniques to engage a target audience through social media is a great way to kick start any business

  • McKenna Solomon

    Speaking as a public relations novice these are all excellent methods for a startup company to get attention! BUT I think you’re missing two huge steps. I think it’s vital for an organization to build relationships with media pros. Many journalists and bloggers are open to fostering mutually beneficial relationships that result in intriguing content for their publication. PR is all about building and maintaining relationships, which can often benefit the image of the business. Building relationships with journalists leads to an ease in piquing their interest. There are a lot of ways to foster connections, other than a chain of emails and a game of phone tag. Meeting to discuss the project or inviting them to the event (if that’s a feasible option) are both great ways to engage journalists. Potential PR strategies are something that need to be considered in the strive for media coverage. The second, is to understand that PR and media contact is dynamic; they change as the company changes. Changes in structure, changes in leadership, changes in size, they all affect the way a business communicates with the outside world, particularly with journalists. There may come a time where it is no longer an option to send personalized emails to journalists. You can cheat the system by forwarding, editing the subject line and sending, but there may come a time where a press release is beneficial. If you have a more traditional journalist that you’re trying to reach, the press release may be an answer. For a journalist just entering the field, you might assume the press release is dead and send them a message via social media. The biggest point is that your PR methods should be dynamic. Those are my additions to this article as an introductory level PR professional.

  • Emily Butler

    Honestly I just really like this article because of how to the point and relevant it is. Major media plays a huge role in the success of upcoming businesses and it can make or break your publicity and recognition for people in the world. I think that all of the tips are incredibly helpful and could be really useful for a start up company who is trying to get into the public eye to get themselves off the ground. I’m interested in going into PR so from that perspective this article was interesting as well because it’s an opposite point of view from what I typically think of major media. It’s awesome!

  • Matt Goodman

    I love the fact that this article was written, being that it is incredibly relevant. A great media campaign can really change the outlook of a start-up, extreme examples of this would be viral advertising like in the case of Dollar Shave Club. These tips are all incredibly helpful and the list includes some great out of the box ideas. Im just left to wonder if guessing an email actually worked…

  • Katie Frank

    I found this article to be incredibly applicable and helpful. Harnessing the power of the publicity from major media can help launch a company into the public eye. I am curious ,however, how one can make their company more interesting and appealing to major media?

  • Hunter Ward

    Great article! I love how to-the-point this article is! I have a question though. Are these methods good for more experienced companies or just for start ups to use to gain more publicity. Why or why not? If these method don’t work for more experienced companies, which methods would?

  • Danielle Flynn

    I was instantly intrigued by this article because the first paragraph was very well written. I enjoyed how the author instantly tied in their hardships and related it to a business so you can see a first hand experience, and so the author has more credibility in the audience’s mind. This article was broken up into good chunks that are very helpful as first steps of starting in the business world.

  • Hjordis Robinson

    In today’s world, exposure and advertising is everything to a business. However, gaining public credibility is next to impossible without major media putting a focus on the business or idea. I am a huge fan of how well-written and informative this article is concerning the advice it offers as to how to get noticed by such major media. Because it is formatted as a list, this article offers a comprehensive and organized “cheat-sheet” to those who are working to get public praise and exposure.

  • Brittany Lane

    Hi McKenna, this is an awesome addition to the conversation, thank you! I think what you hit on, as opposed to simply “getting” media attention, is really maintaining it. That’s when focusing on relationships matters, as you suggest, especially for the long-term. You’re absolutely right that mutually beneficial relationships are what media publications and journalists seek, as it’s often a win-win all around. I also really like how you note the dynamic nature of media. We all need to be aware that what works today may not work in six months (or sooner), and we have to be open to changing our strategies.

  • Danielle Devereux

    I used this article for my first call to action. I had a specific friend in mind when posting this article on Facebook because he wants to start his own business, but also had a few friends who it might be beneficial to, for them to read. I am glad that the friend I had in mind ended up seeing it without me having to tell him about it. It only got acknowledged by him, but that does not mean that others did not read it and just not comment or like the post.