Finding journalists to write about your startup can be one of the most daunting public relations tasks.
While the journalism industry has been in steady decline, there are still thousands of publications and many times more reporters filing copy each day. So who wants to write about you?
Reader Santa Sahoo recently asked me how to find journalists and publications that cover enterprise software, and Security-as-a-Service. While I don’t have specific domain expertise on Internet security journalists, I do know a thing or two about how to look for journalist and how to build a beat.
How to find journalists to write about your startup
What follows are tips and tricks I use to find relevant reporters to cover specific topics and industry niches.
Similar Site Search
Similar Site Search is my go-to for ideas about how to get wide scale industry coverage for a startup.
Simply type in the name or URL for a relevant publication and Similar Site Search will spit out 50 similar sites based on a combination of keyword frequency, backlinks and other indicators of relevance.
Similar Site Search isn’t always as helpful as I’d like it to be for generating lots of leads. If the topic is very specific you may end up with service providers who have SEO’d their websites to show up high in search. If you’re clever you can take one high-quality result, use it as the subject of a new search and “spin” it into dozens more relevant outlets.
Muck Rack is comprehensive database of journalists and the publications where they work, along with a detailed breakdown of reporter’s beat, social profiles and other data about the stories they cover frequently. It’s a paid service and not one I use currently.
Muck Rack is great for keeping tabs on specific journalists and their activity across social media such as Twitter and Google+. Using Muck Rack you can also dive deep into the archives to see how often particular writers cover your niche, your competitors or relevant topics about your industry.
Using a combination of human editors and machine curation, TechMeme keeps its finger on the pulse of the technology indusry. Hot stories such as funding announcements, product launches and personnel shakeups are published on AllThingsD and the like, then they ”tip” on TechMeme almost immediately.
TechMeme has a leader board where you can see the outlets responsible for the highest volume of major stories in the technology industry. While TechCrunch is comfortably out in front, there are a few surprises, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and threatpost.
Here’s a secret: Stories that are hot on TechMeme are often the result of stories and rumors that were first published by bloggers who cover specific niche topics, such as Apple patents. TechMeme curates news and amplifies trending stories.
You can use TechMeme to trace back the original story source and build relationships with these reporters at smaller outlets.
Help A Reporter Out
Help A Reporter Out, (HARO) is a service that allows journalists on a deadline to ask questions of a large pool of subject matter experts. On HARO journalists post detailed questions they need answered, and they usually identify the publication where they write. As a Columbia Journalism School student I frequently used HARO to find sources who could talk about the impact of social media on spelling, digital medical records and seniors using Twitter. When I helped launch a publication about renewable energy and transportation, HARO was also very helpful when I needed to find experts on energy efficient vehicles, high speed rail and an assortment of sustainability topics.
Public relations professionals often stake out new source requests from journalists looking for “insertion opportunities” on behalf of their clients. Whether you’re ready to be an expert or not, you can monitor new HARO requests from journalists to see which reporters at which publications are writing stories about your industry. Once you’ve identified a match you have found a new publication that covers your industry and a specific journalist who is likely to be interested in your company now or down the line.
Hacker News is the brainchild of Y Combinator founder Paul Graham and a tremendous resource for startups looking to get blog coverage. Hacker News is a community of developers, engineers and technology enthusiasts who share relevant news from a wide variety of sources. At VentureBeat our most heavily-trafficked stories were those that were popular with the HN crowd.
A healthy portion of HN stories come from mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times, Bloomberg or TechCrunch. HN users also post links to their personal blogs and niche sites that cover interesting topics. Hacker News has a search function at the bottom of the main page that will allow you to find articles and comments about the topic of your choosing. Filtering through search results on IT security shows you which mainstream publications and reporters are covering the topic, as well as smaller, targeted sites.
Although the blogroll has somewhat fallen out of favor, it’s a great resource for understanding the media landscape around your topic. A blogger who keeps a blog roll on her site has handed you a list of the people she considers influencers. You’ve heard the term, “Like attracts like.” The blog rolls of writers who cover your industry provide a pretty good look at the folks with whom you need to form relationships.
And while the audience for certain influential blogs may be small, reporters at larger publications frequently get their story ideas from specialized writers who have dedicated audience. Read the stories that make it to the front page of TechMeme and they’re very often credited to writers and bloggers at niche sites who are top experts on highly nuanced topics.
I hope you’ve found this information useful on your startup public relations journey.
While these are some of the methods I use to find relevant blogs and journalists who cover specific topics, I’m sure there are many more methods that also work. Please share your startup PR hacks in the comments section.
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