So you’ve spent twelve hours drafting, editing and refining your Earth-shattering press release. It’s big news: your Quorum-powered non-custodial BSV wallet has just passed muster with a top Chechnyan regulator. Wen moon? Soon, for sure. You spam the good news to 70 of your fave journalists, sit back and brace yourself for the media flood and then...nothing. Nobody cares. Your life’s work, DOA.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We tapped the entire Decrypt editorial board and a host of luminaries from other publications to hear just what you must do to avoid publicity obsolescence. Heed this advice closely.
Find the common ground between what is a good story for the journalist and yourselves.
Josh Quittner, Decrypt editor-in-chief and former TIME editor says “the word ‘exclusive’ is, of course, gold to any self-respecting journalist. There is often a happy place where our interests—finding a good, original story—and yours align. The trick is finding it. Having done that, we always want access to the principal at your company, so we can better understand it, in real quotes, not canned ones.”
Be careful what you wish for
Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent has millions of followers, and naturally, sending your press release to him could be the difference between making or breaking your startup. But be warned, if you're looking to pull a fast one things might turn sour. “My instant reaction to blockchain press releases is to delete them—unless they're very obvious scams in which case my ears prick up.” Make sure your company is watertight on what you claim, otherwise it might be game over.
Help make it easier for journalists to verify your claims
Wong Joon Ian, Coindesk managing director, and former Quartz staff writer says, “When pitching: understand that you operate in a very murky industry rife with scams, and the reporter's job is not to represent your client/your coin's interests. That means make it easy for the reporter to cross-check your claims. For example, you say you have a partnership with Bank X, give the reporter access to Bank X, don't make them take your word for it only.
Additionally, “don't get triggered or fall into weird conspiracy theories about how this publication isn't writing about you/your client. Usually, it's a very simple explanation: reporters don't have time and your story isn't that big.”
Don't be inhuman
Ben Munster, Decrypt staff writer, says, “When you include a ‘quote’ from your CEO, don’t make it something like, ‘We are excited by this development.’ Of course you’re excited by this development, that’s implicit, and it’s not news. You’re not going to be excited for your own business to fail, are you? Having said that, if you were to send, ‘We’re depressed about this development. We hate ourselves, and wish the monotony of our existence would cease. But alas, our miserable startup plods on, inexorably, into the grave,’ I would publish the hell out of that.
Another thing: never lead with a tenuous connection to another article I’ve done. ‘Hi Ben, I adored your piece about squirrels on the blockchain, I’d love to introduce you to Ivan Merklesky, an ICO-turned-STO advisor whose country of origin, Estonia, has a sizeable squirrel population.’ If I’ve written one article about squirrels, it doesn’t mean I’m on the squirrel beat. It doesn’t mean squirrels—or anything related to squirrels—will ever interest me again. Thanks.”
Don't sell old news as new
Adriana Hamacher, Decrypt's senior reporter finds it frustrating when an exciting bit of news comes her way only to discover it had been offered and written up by someone else a week ago. “They send you their press release shilling their amaze-balls, dapp that comes in all different flavors and benefits everyone including the Pope and Mother Theresa and when you ask when it launched, they tell you it was last week and got an AMAZING write up from Bloomberg, isn’t that great? Err, no that’s not great. That makes it:
- Not very current
- Why would we want Bloomberg’s left-overs three days after the event?
When it comes to your media strategy, identifying who are the people you would like to really have the work published in and focus your energy on those, rather than staggering out the release. If the story is good enough and it gets picked up by your top targets, chances are others will follow.
Avoid claiming to be the world's first, unless you can prove it
Hamacher continues with her advice on anyone looking to catch a journalist's eye. "Just as endearing is the screaming title on a press release, that says: “FIRST blockchain to enable property transfers in Europe!” Or similar, the first thing any self-respecting journalist is going to do is google that very claim. If there's a slim chance that the big bold claim is flawed you can kiss that sweet bit of coverage goodbye."
Having said all that, Hamacher believes the quality of PR is definitely on the up in the industry—a sign of the wheat-chaff process going on throughout. "There are some PR stars that make reading a tech-heavy press release a breeze, and work doggedly to get a quote or an interview on your behalf.”
Try to find the less obvious angle
Tim Copeland, Decrypt staff writer says the age of excitement around stablecoin projects are behind us. The space is so oversubscribed it's hard for anyone to get excited about a new coin of this ilk. Instead, try to focus on another aspect of your project that might be more newsworthy: is there anyone on your team that could act as a better hook for the story? Is it targeting a specific geography–and therefore suitable for journalists based in that area? Try to find a different angle that makes you stand out.
Avoid the dreaded "on the blockchain"
Guillermo Jimenez, Decrypt senior reporter says we're all beyond any non-ironic use of the phrase "on the blockchain" and any attempt at using it will be "met with an immediate and prolonged eye roll". While the technology is still in its infancy, journalists who work in the industry have seen most of what's on offer already. The blockchain industry can be best thought of as a niche topic and as such, requires a PR or press person to understand the unique nature of the industry.
Have someone on hand to field journalists' questions
David Gerard, blogger, and former Wikimedia spokesman finds it frustrating when he gets a press release and no one is on hand to answer his queries. “Have a PR person who answers their email and/or phone and can answer questions. Too many think their press release is just going to be reprinted. And it will! In spammy bottom of the barrel Bitcoin blogs that nobody actually reads."
If someone calls back, says Gerard, "make sure the PR contact knows anything about the product. You might think this obvious, but too many say, ‘Oh, the guy who knows the answer is unavailable/on tour/in another dimension this month.’ This particularly applies when you ask, ‘Yes, but how does it do that’ about the big headline claim.
Embargoes create the wrong kind of buzz
“This isn't the entertainment industry," says Gerard. "Unilateral embargoes are an invitation to reprint your nonsense poking fun at it. (See FT Alphaville for past examples.) Also, it helps your claim to an embargo if your client doesn't also tweet it the day before. Or two weeks before." It all goes back to taking a more intimate approach to working with journalists. Instead of contacting 60 journalists and hoping the embargo holds, go smaller, focus on the publications that matters to you and you're far more likely to keep your big news under wraps.
Give up on press releases altogether
The press release has run its course, says Peter McCormack, presenter, and creator of What Bitcoin Did podcast. “I bin press releases.” Many other journalists undoubtedly feel the same. Instead, keep the email short, make it personal (i.e. use their name) and demonstrate an understanding of the type of subjects they cover.
Know who you're talking to and what they write about
Amy Castor, freelance journalist and former Forbes and The Block contributor says a little Googling on the journalist you're trying to reach can go a long way. “Make sure you have no idea what areas they cover, so you can pitch [journalists] something completely unrelated to what they are doing."
Ask journalists the best way to contact them
Matt Hussey, Decrypt editor-in-chief says, “You only need to use one form of communication to talk to a journalist. If you email and don’t get a response, stick to email. Don’t go round a journalist’s personal Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Instagram account (unless it says explicitly they’re open for submissions). It comes across as a bit pushy and is the quickest way to being ignored in future.”
Telegram is an incredibly popular form of communication in crypto, and there are also email addresses that some teams use for pitches that reach everyone. Better yet, Decrypt uses an email address which sends it straight into one of our slack channels. Each journalist is different and they'll appreciate being asked.