PR for MicroISVs from someone who knows

[Note: I ran into Luke when I as a writer for Web Worker Daily I got his press release for BlogTalkRadio. I was so impressed with how he crafted that PR, I asked him if he’d share some of his expertise here. Be sure to check out Luke’s recommendation at the end of this post – it’s excellent.]

By Luke Armour
PR Coordinator
www.blogtalkradio.com

So you’ve got a killer app. Now what?

I guess the first thing would be to tell someone, right? Right. But shouting out the window or emailing every email address you can find on the Internet are not likely your best options. What are your best options? First I’m going to assume that what you’ve got is worth having. If what you’re shilling isn’t new or newsworthy (to someone other than you), go back to the drawing board. I mean it.

As a Micro ISV your goal is to get your products into the hands – and minds – of those who can best use it, best share it with others, or both. To do that, you must 1) pitch the story of your product to the 2) right people 3) in the proper manner. Your target audience might include a high profile blogger, an online news site, or a tech reporter for a print publication.

Remember, you are competing with hundreds of other people and thousands of other messages. And while a great, attractive product will speak for itself, getting it into the hands of the proper people will really help spread the word. When BlogTalkRadio unveiled Cinch, it was referred to as “the simplest podcast API ever.” Word spread quickly, especially when we released some additional developments and told a handful of relevant people.

You may only get one shot at cutting through the clutter and reaching the eyes of your audience until the next update, product or service – so do it right. Let’s talk about sending a quick pitch email to introduce yourself and your product. Since any good outreach begins with understanding your target audience, let’s start there.

Tailored/Relevant

Great outreach begins with a relationship, but we don’t always have that association to the media or the end users we need to reach. Without that connection, you first need to make sure what you’re offering is of interest. Every new name in the email inbox is a potential groan-and-delete for the media. Save yourself the bridge-burning and email the right people.

Doing a little bit of homework on each outlet or reporter is essential. That reporter who covers the education beat? Probably not your best bet unless you can make the connection. That mommy blogger? Probably not, but that social media marketing guy who loves the newest tools might be a good bet. Be creative and be energetic, but don’t be unrealistic.

Laziness is probably the biggest culprit here. You’ve compiled a list of email addresses; why not just send the note to them all? Because that’s why we don’t open 85% of our postal mail – it’s junk. Only it’s a lot easier to block an email address than to move, so take the time to make sure the outlet is suitable. Draw that connection between them and your offering if you have to.

Concise

As Bob Walsh notes in his book MicroISV Sites that Sell! a big mistake with many sites is “drowning your visitor with words.” That same principle can be said with any pitch letter. Brevity is your friend. Introduce your product and call the reader to action. That’s it.

Do not tell them everything there is to know about your product or service; your goal is to get them to want more information. At that point you can sell it to them in person, by offering more information or by welcoming them to the site for a trial. Mark Twain said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Writing succinctly is difficult because it takes time and energy to write short, tight sentences. Strip out the unnecessary and get to the core of your message as quickly as possible.

Keep relevant and concise in mind before you even sit down at the computer.

Now, let’s focus on how to craft your message. A good pitch letter should do two things: indicate your credibility and provide benefits to your audience.

Credibility

“Who are you and what reason do I have to believe anything you say?” This can be done easily with a few relevant facts or statistics. For BlogTalkRadio, I’ve written:

The site was launched in August 2006, redesigned with social-networking components in September 2007, and released from Beta in November 2007. Today, over 66,000 shows have been streamed from the BlogTalkRadio site. January logged 2.4 million listeners across the site, a 40% increase in listeners since the site came out of Beta.

That demonstrates that we’ve been around, that hosts and listeners are using us and that we’re growing. I did all that in three sentences.

Think Benefits, not Features

Remember, end users aren’t interested in how many buttons something has, they’re interested in how it makes their lives better. Even if you’re writing to the media always keep your end user in mind. For example:

BlogTalkRadio allows anyone – world wide – to host their own talk radio show with just a phone and computer. It’s completely web-based so there are no downloads and no recording equipment to buy, which makes it a perfect business or personal tool for today’s online enthusiast, like your readers. Want to talk politics? Cover your favorite sports beat? Rant and rave about today’s headlines or celebrity gossip? Now you can, from the comfort of your home – for free.

And then know when to stop (remember concise?). No one knows your product like you do, but you’ve got to stick to the core message in this initial pitch email. And the core can change with each message, because each email is relevant to the receiver of the email.

Call to Action

At the end you must call the reader to action with a simple way to get more information and an incentive to do so. From “drop me a line if you’d like more information” to “contact me today for a free 30-day trial,” you must prod them act. Watch some late night infomercials for more examples.

Subject Line

All of these tips won’t mean anything unless someone actually opens the email. Fortunately, these same guidelines apply to your subject line, which itself is a mini pitch. It should be short, relevant and catchy. Your subject line teases the pitch email, which teases what you really want to say on your site or on the phone. Write for the end user.

Conclusion

So do your homework and make it relevant to your audience. Keep it concise with your core information, facts and why this person should care. Finish with a call to action and wrap it in a punchy subject line.

Be creative. Media and end users often don’t even know they want your product yet. Follow up a week or so later with a second email that includes an additional feature or core message. If they say “not interested,” thank them for their time and move on. But don’t count them out for version 2.0 or that other application you’re tinkering with.

For more information about public relations, Brian Solis has a free eBook called PR Tips for Startups, which provides a great introduction to approaching PR. It’s a must read.
Good luck and good pitching.
===
Luke Armour is a PR blogger, podcaster and the PR Coordinator for BlogTalkRadio, the first citizen broadcasting network built on a web-based platform which allows any user with a phone and a computer to host a live, interactive Internet radio show; and the home of Cinch, the simplest podcasting tool ever. He can be reached at LukeArmour@blogtalkradio.com.

Comments

  1. Very useful stuff! BTW this post doesn’t have an SEO friendly URL for some reason??

  2. Unfortunately, I’m running WordPress on a Windows ISP – kind of like getting shoes on a snake. The upshot is that human friendly URLs are not presently possible…

  3. Thanks for the update Bob. At least it’s not snakes on a plane .. :P

  4. I know this is an old post, but it’s very relevent to me today, so here is my attempt at ‘bumping it”. ;-)

    So I’ve got this situation in my uISV. Two person company. We want to send out a “press release”. We’ve paid some money for a service that allows us access to a database of media contacts and we can search for them and build lists.

    One of us says, “Just get all of the contacts based on ‘beat’ or ‘subject’, and blast out the email to all of them. That’s the best chance we’ve got to get the most replies. So we piss off a few people.”

    The other guys says, “Well, that’s SPAM… I mean, just because we’re a particular software application that addresses a niche market does mean we should email everybody that covers the subject of “Software Applications”. That would be like somebody wanting to talk about a new Kidney drug to all of the people who cover “Health and Wellness”.

    The return argument is, “But these are all people who ‘opted in’ for receiving press releases.”

    …and the debate goes back and forth.

    But when you’re a small two person company, with dev, cust support, sales, marketing, qa, admin work to be doing every day and you can’t focus full time on PR, it comes down to what is the best strategy?

    One of us thinks, “Just do the blast. We don’t have time for the personal touch.”

    The other thinks that maybe picking 5-10 key media contacts and working on them with the personal touch might actually yield better results.

    Let me give you an example. We sent out a press release to about 8000 contacts this way. We only got a handful of requests back to our email saying “Please take me off your list.”.

    This provides some justification to the person saying, “Just do the blast… See, very few have complained.”

    The other person is getting agita over this noting that 1.5 weeks later, only three requests came in and their for small time publications and newspapers from Podunk towns in Iowa.

    We’ve discussed the points made in your “Tailored/Relevant” section above, but we’re not coming to agreement. I guess that the only thing to do is for the person that feels that the personal touch is more effective is just going to have to prove it with results by doing the personal reaching out to a handful, but if the other person insists on continuing the spamming approach, it could be doing damage to the efforts of the guy that’s reaching out.

    Anybody want to help me hit a home run by convincing us that the email blast is bad by sharing your experiences?

  5. Hi Mark,

    On the one hand, Press Releases sent out on a regular basis will get some very modest traction (Podunk, ID). This is in effect interruption- based traditional advertising to a select demographic (reporters/bloggers) – you have to do it over and over and over to make any dent whatsoever.

    On the other hand, you are far more likely to get more “press” if you target those reporters/bloggers who cover your area. The key thing is creating conversations with these people: If you can email them and say, Hi Joe, we wanted to let you know about X because your readers are interested in this and this is why it’s news” you are more likely to succeed.

    If you have the resources, do both; do the blast first, then follow up with key press and bloggers who focus on the same area as your company. If you don’t – and a 2 person company that’s a safe bet :) – skip the blast – it’s a very ineffective way to get results.

    Maybe I need to do a post on this topic again! :)

  6. Thanks Bob.

    I may have to just be the one of the two of us that starts taking more of the personal, relationship establishing approach, and when it starts getting some results, then I’ll show the other guy and start assigning him media contacts that he should start establishing some rapport with. ;-)

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