viernes, 6 de mayo de 2016

Quick guide for entrepreneurs on how to talk to journalists

Photo: Oscar Ortiz, July 2014
If you are an entrepreneur, the CEO of a new startup that will rock the world and totally disrupt its industry, you probably don’t have time to read this. You have more important things to do, many important meetings to attend with potential clients, investors, mentors, partners and the list goes on.

But chances are your business model depends on getting traction in the market, getting a five digits user base by XY month. And, if you are not completely delusional, the only way to get to that is to get your story out. For that, you need the good-old, and not so old, media. Editors, journalists, yes, but also bloggers. We all know social media is powerful, but to think your product will somehow emerge magically as a topic of conversation is a risky plan to say the least.

So here is a quick guide on how to talk to journalists:

Prepare yourself to have a conversation

You have practiced and mastered an awesome elevator pitch. To tell the story of “Sara”, the customer that has a pain that you will help to beat, all of that in 3 minutes. But to actually talk to a journalist you should be prepare for more than a 3-minute conversation. Yes, an actual conversation. One with follow-up questions, where you might get bored, uncomfortable, challenged, it might get repetitive and perhaps boring. But you need to seem interested, enjoying the ride even. It is your responsibility after all that the interview is a success, not the journalist’s. Believe me, it shows when someone sees it that way.

Avoid the occasional look at your watch, answering your phone, getting interrupted by “Mark” the marketing guy that has a crisis on his hands that only you can solve. It can wait. All of this should be common sense, but you'd be surprise.

Sell ideas and messages, offer facts and figures

The journalist in front of you has probably interviewed other CEOs of new startups before. He knows you are passion about your company, your product, your SaaS, PaaS, and what-not business model. But so are the others that he has interviewed. Offer facts and figures, and don’t get too technical, but explain what you mean by SaaS, why is it important. You could make a quick research about the journalist before the interview, to have an idea on what he usually writes about. The journalist should be doing the same about you, and you could even the scoreboard.

You should go to the interview prepared with a printed Facts Sheet to give to the journalist (yes, people still print things), with figures not only about your company but the industry: size, revenue, growth, focus markets, etc.

Most people get disappointed when they read the piece when it is published. They feel they said a lot more than the couple of quotes used. Perhaps you should try to repeat important ideas during the interview in different ways, which will give you a higher chance that your message gets across. Especially important if it is a video interview.

Be a people’s person or hire someone that is

It doesn’t have to be all about you. It is about your company. What you are doing to improve the lives of customers like “Sara”. It is possible that you are not the right person to give interviews, and that is completely fine, as long as the person that gives the interview has an important role in the company, perhaps a Co-Founder.

The problem here is that in new startups, Marketing and PR functions more often than not are given to interns or recently graduates. I have nothing against interns, full disclosure, I was an intern long time ago and I am finishing a Masters degree right now. Truth is, you should not give the responsibility to be the face of your company to someone with close to zero experience. Perhaps I am wrong. But the case here is that someone with those functions and expertise should do a great job in an interview. Use that asset if you have it.

And please, whatever you do, NEVER, never ask the journalist to see a draft of the piece before publishing it.

* With this post I begin a new chapter for the blog, one in English that is.

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