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Our Guide to Getting Free Press for Your Startup

July 29, 2022

We all know the startup space can be highly competitive, and getting eyes on your business can be challenging. As a founder, you'll need to grab attention and build brand recognition fast, but where should you start? Of course, anyone can create an Instagram or a Facebook page and start posting, but how do you get your business into national publications? Trulytell has some tips to get you started and create a focused and organized plan to get the press talking about your startup. 

This article will focus on getting your business featured in prominent press outlets and how to work with journalists. But before we jump into "how," let's get clear on the "why." Why do you want to focus on getting press? At Trulytell, we think that press is a great tool because it instantly creates credibility for your startup. Being featured in TechCrunch or Business Insider is a sign of market validation for your business and helps your startup look bigger than it may be at the moment. This credibility will cause investors and potential clients to take you more seriously and set your business apart as an industry leader and trusted voice in your space. 

Now that we know "why," let's talk through the "how." Getting in contact with journalists and news outlets may seem out of reach for most early stage startup founders, but we promise, it's easier than you think. We have four steps to getting your startup in the press. Here is our tried and true way of garnering press for your startup:

  1. Identify Publications 
  2. Isolate Articles  
  3. Gather Information
  4. Email Journalists 

Identify Publications 

To start your process of getting press for your business, think through what kind of press you want for your business and make a list of publications you would like your company to be featured in. When making this list, think about your target audience. Who do you want to read an article about your business? What market are you trying to target? 

If you have a financial product, select publications like Financial Times, Money, and Forbes. Are you looking to target a Gen Z market, check out magazines like Teen Vogue, Vice, or i-D. Have an app centered around fashion, don't forget about The New York Times Style section or trade publications like WWD, Vogue Business, and BoF. Specifically looking for investors or trying to target other business owners, look at Entrepreneur, Fortune, CNN, and The Street. Don't underestimate the little publications either. This is a catch-all list, so include everywhere and anywhere you would like your business featured. “All press is good press”, as they say. 

Isolate Articles 

Once you have your list of publications, it's time to do some reading. This is your in-depth research stage. The goal is to create a database of articles (teaser to step 4, you'll be contacting the writers of these article). Review all the publications and begin isolating pieces similar to what you would want to be written about your business. Subscribe to publications' newsletters and skim their new articles daily for like-minded stories. Finally, start by saving article links in a spreadsheet. When you see something, copy/paste it in — if it looks relevant, just save it.

If you have trouble finding articles that resonate with you and your business, do a targeted search on google.com/news. You can use keyword searches and set up Google Alerts to monitor the web for interesting new and relevant content, see what press other startups are getting and save the articles you'd like to see emulated for your business.

Pro tip: Try to focus on articles written and published within the last 6 months; many reporters work on contract and frequently jump from publication to publication.  

Gather Information

Once you have a solid list (we recommend at least 50 articles as not every reporter will respond), you can create a rolodex of reporters to reach out to. Now add five more columns to your spreadsheet (in addition to the article URL): article headline, publication and the reporter's first name, last name, and email. It may seem like overkill, but we promise the extra work is worth it in the following steps when you mass-send personalized emails based on these spreadsheet cells. It’s also good to keep your contacts organized so that you're not confused when a reporter responds (sometimes weeks later).

Use the Trulytell template here

To find a reporters email is usually pretty easy, but sometimes you have to play detective. The first place to look is by clicking into their bio usually linked on the article itself. If you are having trouble finding a reporter’s email in their bio, try searching for their Twitter or LinkedIn, as most reporters have their email listed publicly. As a last resort, you can always guess. Google the name of the publication and the words "email format" and use that to guess the reporters' email addresses based on what format comes up in the results. 

If you have access to budget, we recommend looking into resources like Zirtual or RocketReach to help source articles and gather contact reporter emails, but dedicating a few hours to the cause is free if you’re bootstrapped.

Pro tip: It’s usually not worth it writing to general catch-all inboxes like tips@xyz.com. Always try to focus your outreach on specific people.

Email Journalists 

The final sprint is making contact with the journalists that you've researched. There are two ways you can approach this, either manually copy/paste their emails and your contact template (we will talk more about this in a second), or you can automate the process. For sanity's sake, we recommend going the automated route. You can use a mail merge system like HubSpot or YAMM to mass-send personalized emails. 

Once you know how you're going to send it, you can begin creating your template. The email should be concise, polite, and direct. Include links to your webpage and any other additional information but be careful to not over-explain. No one likes opening an email that is a wall of text, so make sure your messaging, formatting, and purpose are all clear.

Tips for your email template: 

  • Your goal is to build connection and provide value. If you come from any other angle, it will reek of desperation.
  • Use human language. Anything too jargony and your email could feel insincere or get intercepted by a spam blocker.
  • Hyperlink your company and avoid writing out too much information. Let your site do the talking.
  • 15-second skim time for the whole email. Journalists are just as busy as you are and get pitch A LOT.
  • Don't include unsubscribe options (as tempting and familiar as Mailchimp is)

You'll want to create three separate emails to reach out to journalists. There is a chance that your first email gets lost in the shuffle or intercepted by a spam filter. In our experience, email #2 is usually when you'll get responses from a journalist. 

Email #1:

Hi [ReporterFirst],

My name is Tom and I am founding ABC Widgets. I read your piece "[ArticleName]" and thought I’d reach out since we’re in the robotics space too. ABC Widgets has developed a fully-automated farm of alien robots that will take over the world.

I’d love to be considered for [Publication] — let me know if there’s any interest.

All the best,

Tom Jones
Co-Founder & CEO
ABC Widgets

Email #2 — 4 Business Days Later

Hi [ReporterFirst],

Quick follow-up — I wanted to see if what we’re building at ABC Widgets makes sense for [Publication]. I look forward to hearing from you!

All the best,

Tom Jones
Co-Founder & CEO
ABC Widgets

Email #3: — 4 Business Days Later

Pinging one last time — let me know if you would like to connect.

Best,

Tom Jones
Co-Founder & CEO
ABC Widgets

If you do indeed go down an automated path, take advantage of a sequence or drip-campaign setting in your mail-merge system. If you are sending your emails manually, be sure to keep track of what number of the emails you've sent to which reporter. 

Pro-tips:

  • Avoid sending on Mondays and Fridays. It's best to send in the morning (between 7-11am PT) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
  • Email servers usually limit the amount of emails one can send in a day. Usually that number is between 500-1000 emails. You will know you hit the limit when your email account gets frozen. Not the end of the world, but try to avoid it.

Looking for paid PR support? Check out our friends at Pear dedicated to supporting early stage startups in creating winning press strategies.

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