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Storytelling from Startups That ...

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Luica Mak who spearheads our European operation, is one of the most connected people I know when it comes to the UK media.

In this guest post, she asks veteran journalist Nick Booth three questions that probe how new ventures can attract media attention in the UK. I think it’s fair to say his input could be applied to any market in the world including the United States.

Nick knows a thing or two about deviating from the status quo as you can see from this Twitter handle:

nick's twitter handle


By Luica Mak

Hoffman Europe MD

Our Agency founder and CEO Lou Hoffman recently wrote in his blog about the Top Five Reasons To Work With Startups On The PR Front, and the passion that comes from discovering and working with the next technology rock star is certainly shared by both sides of the Atlantic.

As the startup scene gets more vibrant and competitive in Europe and with London’s TechCity and Berlin’s own Silicon Valley becoming the birthplaces of many known technology innovators (such as Huddle and Wooga), it has never been a more exciting yet difficult time to fight for media attention.

During a recent coffee with Nick Booth, a freelance journalist in the UK, he kindly shared some tips for startups on how to be on the good side of the media.

Luica: What makes a good startup story?

Nick: Personally, I like stories that show people triumphing over adversity. David winning over Goliath.

I got one of the national tabloids interested in a startup recently, because the person involved was young and enthusiastic. He created a company from his back bedroom while he was still in school, and he seemed to have created quite a following.

So the elements of the tabloid story that appealed were:

  • Youth
  • Disadvantage (triumphing over the odds)
  • Invention
  • Parochialism (this was a British kid doing well in an IT market dominated by U.S. giants)

Luica: What annoys journalists most about startup stories?
nick booth

Nick: I can only speak for myself, but generally I have a massive amount of goodwill toward the new entrants. They’re doing something I’d like to do. I would gladly give them coverage. Most of them are friendly and enthusiastic.

So, there’s a massive pool of goodwill for startups before they even talk to us. But some companies manage to neutralise any goodwill instantly, either by their own actions or their PR agencies.

Here are some other random annoyances:

  • Sending out a press release, then insisting on an embargo just for the sake of it
  • Trying to micro-manage everything that’s written about them
  • Trying to micro-manage interviews
  • Using a PR agency that can’t explain what the startup actually does
  • Putting out a release or holding an interview when there’s no real news angle
  • Refusing to discuss stuff that is already in the public domain
  • Refusing to have an opinion on even the most innocuous of subjects

Above all, lack of originality is one of the worst sins. People who give those awful corporate quotes, which have been approved by a committee, are the bane of my life. When anyone uses cliches like ‘paradigm shift’ or ‘democratising the market’ or ‘content is king’, what they’re really advertising is their complete lack of imagination.

Luica: What about any tips for a startup?

Nick: Practice explaining what you do, in layman’s terms, to a Luddite.

Technology is ultimately about saving money or making companies more productive. How does your invention achieve this?

Once you have established what it does, you can layer on details about how it works. Why, when, where and who it’s for.


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