How to get PR / publicity for your startup?


For someone who is not in a popular incubator like YC or 500Startups, how could you get journalists or blogs to write an article about you?

It seems for those startups it's very easy as the bloggers are actively seeking them to write a story. And hiring a PR firm to do this for you is pretty much out of the financial ballpark for those bootstrapping their business.

So, what are some tricks for a new unknown startup to get media exposure?

Media List PR Publicity

asked Jan 31 '14 at 18:46
670 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

5 Answers


You need to either find something newsworthy about what you're doing, or be able to parlay your expertise / experience into a quote that gets your startup a courtesy mention.

One of the main mistakes startups make is in not figuring out when to seek press, and doing it without premeditation. Pitching pre-launch stories about how the app you haven't built yet is going to change the world will not work. Pitching a "hi, we're here" / "just launched" story without noteworthy things that distinguish your launch from others' launches is uninteresting, and will not work. Pitching a "here's what we're doing story" that isn't distinguishable from your own day-to-day, much less anyone else's, isn't notable and won't work.

Here are some things that are newsworthy:


  • Things people wouldn't expect from a normal action / time period (e.g. 75,000 signups on our first day after launch). All it takes to create this news is planning, focus on a particular metric or two, and setting up good analytics.
  • Things people don't realize (The average business spends $xx,xxx on [problem we solve]). This is a good one if you're in the trenches and can't produce big news about what you're accomplishing yet. Pitch stories about the market / the problem instead.
  • Things people don't normally see (we spent the first year working on our business from Tahiti). Do something unusual, whether it's hosting a unique event or random acts of kindness or just putting a crazy amount of effort into something. Don't get too gimmicky -- it needs to relate to your business, and drive other results than just a chance at getting press.


  • Repeated small wins. Landing a big-ish customer. Content going viral. Successful marketing experiments. Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is potentially a news story. Identify and communicate trends within your own company to create a more compelling pitch.
  • Be the first in a niche to be part of a bigger trend. "Bringing big data to agriculture." "Global currency startup in our small town." "Yelp for Christians."
  • Get out there to get included in round ups. Plenty of blogs do round-up stories about companies in a vertical, and also matching some other factor like stage or geography. Get listed in startup directories like Angel List, Crunchbase, and local directories to start getting included in these.
  • Be the one to alert journalists to tipping points. "Did you know there are now ## companies in ##?" "Did you know there are now more [something new your startup's part of] than [something old]?"
  • Trends != "me too". You can try leaving a comment on news stories about trends you're a part of but didn't get included in an article about, but try to add more value (some extra insight or interesting anecdote) than just saying "me too". Occasionally you can get an article updated this way. But I wouldn't recommend ever emailing a journalist to say "you forgot about us" -- I have never seen a journalist write a follow-up story about a company they learned about this way.

Big wins.

  • Customer / user milestones. Large numbers of any kind. It sounds silly, but journalists (or at least their readerships) have a bias toward big numbers. This doesn't have to be the number of users / customers. It can be number of times they've used your startup for something, or amount of money spent through your platform, or aggregate metrics of things they've achieved through it.
  • Notable hires & partnerships.
  • Exclusive gains & data accomplishments. Anything you have / get / accomplish that none of your peers or competitors can claim. "Now have over 5,000,000 datapoints about _____, more than any other _______." "One of the only two companies licensed to use [notable thing]."

Hopefully those are some helpful seeds for you to create pitches that work. Make sure you read up on PR fundamentals like knowing who to pitch, creating relationships with reporters, using personal outreach instead of press releases, and planning your messaging. Good luck!

answered Feb 1 '14 at 15:42
Jay Neely
6,050 points


Here is the exact process I've used to get one of my old startups featured in Time Magazine, MSNBC, NY Times, and others. It cost me just 15 to 30 minutes a day of my time.

1. Sign up to get HARO leads (free) and/or PR Leads (paid). Both these services provide you leads on what journalists are writing about.

2. Pick the leads that are relevant to you. Don't waste your time responding to or pursuing leads which you don't have expertise in.

3. Write 2-3 bullet points with data that would help the reporter on the article they're writing. Keep the email short, and DO NOT promote yourself in this email -- that will come later. Your goal here is to get quoted as a source in the article. The reporter is not going to write an entire piece dedicated to you right off the bat.

4. In the subject line for the email you'll be sending, use this simple formula:

(HARO|ProfNet): (The title of the lead)

So, for example, if a HARO lead is a journalist writing an article about "how does data loss effect businesses", your email subject should be: HARO: How data loss effects businesses

Journalists get a gazillion emails a day, so keeping it 100% relevant is the only way you're going to get noticed. And again, don't promote yourself in this first contact with the journalist / blogger. Can't stress that enough. You will build rapport 100x faster when all you're doing is offering help.

5. For the content of your email, here is what I send (and I've split tested this again and again over the years):

Hi Tim,

My name is Nishank Khanna, founder of Bright Journey. Here is how data loss effects businesses:

  • 1-2 sentences.
  • 1-2 sentences.
  • 1-2 sentences.

I'd love to talk more and help you with your article. Just drop me a line at [email protected] or (800) 555-1234.

- Nishank

Connect with me on Twitter

That's it! All it takes is responding to 4-5 targeted leads a day to get press. 15-30 minutes is usually all it took me to pick the leads and craft the message.

Once a journalist quotes you, they'll be way more receptive to what you have to say in the future. And I don't mean send them a press release. Press releases must die! Use your valuable time to craft content that journalists want to use, not writing generic press releases.

With this strategy you can start getting a few mentions that'll lead to traffic and sales. The next way to get press is creating useful content (for example, put a spin on data that your business generates as an industry report). Send this first to the journalists that quoted you earlier. Again, keep the emails short and too the point.

answered Feb 1 '14 at 17:38
Nishank Khanna
4,265 points
  • You just exposed how most PR firms handle their smaller clients. Ha! I have used a similar approach to get mentions as well. – Matthew Frederick 8 years ago
  • That's awesome! Just signed up for HARO. – Chrissie Gray 8 years ago
  • Awesome! – Juan Manuel Garrido 8 years ago


Apart from the great suggestions on this thread, you should have a press kit ready in advance. These days you don't really need the old-school hard copy press kits. You can simply have a section on your website with the things that make up a good press kit:

1. Pitch Letter (also called Letter of Introduction) - First impressions count and this is going to be your first touch point with a journalist. Bring your A-game for the Pitch Letter -- it's where you'll either gain or lose their interest. It should clearly tell them why they should care about your startup. Cut out any corporate jargon. Explain it like you're talking to a toddler.

2. Facts and Stats - This should be a short snapshot of your startup and how it began. Again, keep it short and without jargon.

3. Founder Bios - Introduce yourself and key management hires. Mention past successes and experience in popular companies. Try to have something unique and quirky about each person.

4. Major Milestones - List out some of the major milestones you have accomplished since opening your doors.

5. Recent press coverage - Show the best press you've received. If you've received a ton already, only show a few of the top ones.

6. Video and audio reels: If you have one. If not, it's still ok.

7. Miscellaneous - End the press kit with some or all of the following:

  • Pictures of the management team
  • Pictures of your office
  • Pictures or samples of your product in action
  • Testimonials from your top customers
  • High resolution logo
  • Screenshot of your website
answered Feb 4 '14 at 22:15
Jeff Bullas
61 points
  • Excellent! – Chrissie Gray 8 years ago
  • Thank you Jeff! – Juan Manuel Garrido 8 years ago


HARO as mentioned in other answers here is great to connect with journalists.

Another low cost way to get press is by using smaller PR firms. While most charge a retainer, some of the newer one-man operations will work with you at zero cost and only charge you when they successfully get you publicity.

Create a list of your target journalists (those who have covered your competitors) and engage with them on Twitter.

answered Feb 24 '14 at 21:39
Joe Gilbert
31 points


While getting press in a large publication or TechCrunch is great, to get your feet wet you can try small to medium readership blogs first.

They will be much easier to get featured on. You could even offer to write a blog post for them that they can publish exclusively.

answered Feb 5 '14 at 22:22
Chrissie Gray
1,107 points

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