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Product Hunt is brilliant. People share new products they’ve found and, in the manner of Reddit and HackerNews, the crowd of readers vote the best to the top.

You know that guy/gal you follow on Twitter who always seems to be a source of neat things? These are the secret places they spend their time.

Because there are plenty of startups watching, one category of product that shows up fairly often is PR tools.

Young companies that aren’t eager to spend thousands on a retainer still realise they need to get their story out to the people who count.

But, based on the selection of tools showing up on ProductHunt, you’d think the future of PR was press releases and spamming media lists.

Take something like the little “Find a Reporter” hack put together by PressFriendly (who genuinely seem like really nice guys, but someone has to be the example).

Input any AngelList URL and it will use simple machine learning to tell you which journalists you might want to contact. Great, right? Real timesaver.

Because most startups pride themselves on using tech in a smart way to short-circuit the old ways of doing things, to a founder this could easily sound brilliant.

But to anyone who actually has experience with PR, we know it doesn’t work like this.

If you want to know which journalists to contact about a story, why not just go to their website and read for a few minutes?

Screenshot taken from ProductHunt

It’s not rocket science, it doesn’t take anything as sophisticated as machine learning and it comes with benefits that will help your pitch and your business.

It’s only by spending a little time in the mindset of a reader that you can get a meaningful grasp of what matters to the writers. And it’s this understanding that lets you communicate with them in the only term that really matters: how does your story make their job/life/day easier and better?

Perhaps the fact that these services are springing up all over the place now shows how commoditized the old things PR agencies used to obsess over and protect have become. 

I’m a big believer that media relations is pretty democratic now - anyone should be able to look up how to do it simply and if they have a strong idea, it should get through.

But I don’t believe that the one obstacle standing between great startups and people who want to write about them is lack of over-engineered PR tools.

So, to add a positive contribution to the subject, here’s a simple guide for anyone with a great idea to get the story out there:

  1. ID the people you really want to write about you.
  2. Throw that list away, because it’s probably full of ego and assumptions. Instead, search for phrases that your target audience might actually look up and see where the results lead. Those are now publications and individuals worth considering.
  3. Write and email a short intro to your story - I’ve started collecting examples on a little site called PitchHunt.com if you want somewhere to get started. This is really important and where you probably may have a slight disadvantage over those with years of instinct and practice.

Key: Think like a journalist. Take a minute to try and write the story you want from them, based on the pitch you’re sending. If you can’t do it, they sure as hell won’t.

After those three steps, you’re going to have a good idea of whether people are lapping it up and you’re onto something - or you need to rethink your next steps.

If nobody cares about what you’re creating, there are two possibilities:

  1. The pitch wasn’t right.
  2. The actual business is flawed. Knowing this, you can take the first steps to test either theory.

Shinier announcement documents won’t get you there faster. Email addresses aren’t hard to find. And forget the bloody machine intelligence for a moment.

You just started a conversation with someone and tested whether you have a story or not. That’s the real way to do good PR easily.

For more on this topic, read:

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Published 31 July, 2014 by Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Max Tatton-Brown is Founding Director of Augur, and writes about what's next in the world of technology, marketing and startups. He is a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google Plus

17 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Ted Richardson

Good links to some great resources.

I found the whole article to be littered with several examples of poorly written sentences and paragraphs which could have been crafted so much better.

Max you seem like an sensible fellow, you can and should be able to do better son.

Lack of understanding in the econsultancy's chosen and preferred use of vernacular.

I.e: "You know that guy/gal you follow on Twitter who always seems to be a source of neat things? These are the secret places they spend their time"

are we all mates now?

OR

Sentences with no commas: "But I don’t believe that the one obstacle standing between great startups and people who want to write about them is lack of over-engineered PR tools"

AND

Young companies that aren’t eager to spend thousands on a retainer still realise they need to get their story out to the people who count.

As an avid reader of this blog.

This "Maxamillion" who even calls themselves that these days.. Seems like the kind of fellow who has not read widely, has some good ideas but in my opinion isn't fit enough to be able to share the same forum as some of the great writers here.

His writing although informative (like a broken clock which is right 2 times a day), contains as much charm as a bank computer which purrs and wizzes before calculating your monthly overdraft statement.

Cheers,

Tel

almost 2 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Hi Ted,

Thanks for your feedback and sorry if a hastily written piece didn't flow as you might like. Sometimes as writers we hit the ground running in the hope that the idea and the point will make up for the lack sheen and finesse.

Hope you found something worth reading on that front at least. If you fancy taking a look at my drafts before I post them, let me know -- I always enjoy a strong perspective (as touched on previously here: https://econsultancy.com/blog/65024-death-to-content-long-live-the-editor)

Thanks for chipping in,

Max

almost 2 years ago

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Ted Richardson

Max

I don't think hiding behind the writers union is a good or valid excuse for your writing sorry pal!

I believe writing is a noble tradition and is one of the most important profession in the world. Words words and words is what allows us to understand and define our world and the people around us.

Regarding reading an early draft of your writing seems like this version should not have seen the light of day.

You don't hear any other professionals make some of the same excuses you've come up with...

"So Sorry Mrs Smith I was just practicing on your husband before I do some real neurosurgery"

"Yeah... I was in a rush earlier and forgot to mention I hadn't properly fitted the brake cables BEFORE letting you drive off"

Come on mate a simple man like Tel shouldn't be able to spot mistakes when reading a great blog like this.

Do better!

almost 2 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Hi Ted,

Again, thanks for taking the time to write.

I think your comparison to life-threatening professions probably makes a key point better than I could.

Always aspiring to do better,

Max

almost 2 years ago

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Tim Antos

Ted,

Do you run one of these machine based PR tools by any chance?

You seem to have an axe to grind with Maxilmilian! I though this post was very useful and your critique unnecessarily harsh and personal.

I struggle to understand what you are doing in the world of PR with interpersonal skills like that. May I suggest a book you should take the time to read and digest at some time: How to win friends and influence people - pay particular interest to the chapter on giving criticism.

As a consumer of blogs I really don't care about the spelling and style I just want great content!

Max keep up the great posts - very interested in PR tools & techniques for start ups; any further posts or links would be much appreciated.

Kind regards,
Tim

almost 2 years ago

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Ted Richardson

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your comment..... I was not being harsh. Econsultancy is a blog many ecommerce professionals rely on to guide them with their day to day job.

How dare Max treat the blog as a medium to air his unexpurgated thoughts. I'm just attempting to readdress the balance and make the editors more accountable to filter through writing which shouldn't see the light of day.

Max don't listen to Tim: we don't need more mediocre in the world. Frankly I've read better writing on the walls of Bromley adult literacy centre's toilet cubicles.

Yes please write more articles but think before you hit publish and come up with better, I know you are capable of it young man.

Tim: don't be easily satisfied by average.

Ted

almost 2 years ago

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