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 former COO of the 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.