Hustle. That’s the short answer. If you want the raw details, read on…
The question: How did a startup company with no website and less than $40K in revenue end up with mentions in Inc. Magazine, Mashable and the Wall Street Journal?
Here’s my scoop:
Whinot mentioned in Inc. Magazine
Actually, Whinot got press in Inc. Magazine a few times. I’ll focus on the first time, though, because that’s the most telling. In September 2010, I heard about an awesome service called Help a Reporter Out, or HARO for short. (Where did I hear about it? I forget.) But I signed up and started reading the press queries on business and finance, which come out three times a day.
That first month, I saw a query from Inc. Magazine about sales mistakes. I submitted an honest and detailed explanation of the sales mistakes I had made so far with Whinot. I also researched the reporter, Donna Fenn, and tried to craft the pitch to her background.
What do I mean by that? Well, from what I found out, I knew that Donna wrote a book about young entrepreneurs with “upstarts” (not startups). So I started my pitch by highlighting that “I am the 28 year-old Co-Founder and CEO of a 9 month old upstart.” (Read the rest for yourself.) Did that make a difference? I don’t know.
But what I didn’t do is give a real concrete example that Donna, and the readers of the article, could sink their teeth into. Luckily, I got a shot to clarify my lessons learned in a follow-up e-mail. The rest is history. I have to say, seeing my company’s name in Inc. Magazine was pretty cool.
When I started writing articles, I realized that they need to provide valuable information to my readers. If you don’t have a well-structured article which will offer useful things, then your magazine might suffer the consequences. No one will read your posts, and you will lose credibility and popularity. But, once you find a good role model and follow your instincts, Google will learn to recognize your posts and push them further. The best way to improve the visibility of your articles is to implement the SEO, as well as informative posts which will target the specific type of people.
Wall Street Journal
In February 2010, Wall Street Journal ran a piece called, “How to Succeed in the Age of Going Solo.” It was written by a guy named Richard Greenwald, who was a professor and dean at Drew University studying the topic of freelancing. My co-founder, Ben Baran, was also in his academic pursuit of a PhD.
There was a ton of overlap in Richard’s article and our vision for Whinot. Ben sent Richard an e-mail, and he got back to us to learn more about Whinot.
Keep in mind: We didn’t even have a website at this point. We had a LinkedIn group, that was it. We had a quick call with Richard, which initiated a relationship. As Whinot got started and had news to share, we sent it to Richard and others to keep them updated. In July of that same year, Richard replied to one of these updates saying that he was writing another piece for the WSJ. We offered to demo the new Whinot site, and we did that demo with Richard a few days later.
I was absolutely ecstatic. This could be our big break! That high continued for a few weeks as we waited for the piece to be released. I told everyone I knew that my little startup would be in the Wall Street Journal.
Well, I was eating my words as weeks turned into months and nothing came out. “It’s in the editors’ hands” and “It’s supposed to come out next month” were the only updates I got. By October or so, I figured the article had been scrapped.
So you can imagine my excitement when I got this Google Alert on a Sunday afternoon the following February (2011):
I learned the following morning that the article was in print when I bought five copies at 7-Eleven.
The site saw a boost in traffic for a few days, but it didn’t turn out to the be big break I once dreamed of. Not sure what else I was hoping for …
While I was dealing with my depression related to the seemingly lost WSJ article, I had other PR opportunities to keep me busy. Via SnapEngage, I got this chat message on the website one day. Aliza Sherman was doing a bunch of research on the crowdsourcing industry for her book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing.” She had found out about Whinot through my guest blogging on The Daily Crowdsource.
We setup a time to chat and I told her about Whinot and everything else I had learned about the crowdsourcing along the way. We stayed in touch in the coming months with an e-mail or tweet here and there.
Six months later, Aliza wrote an article for Mashable titled “18 Ways to Earn Money From Crowdworking.”
Whinot in Mashable
I didn’t get a Google Alert about this one for some reason. Instead, a few days later, an expert who read the article registered with Whinot and told me about it. Again, it was very cool to find Whinot in Mashable.
So what does all this PR really mean? Well, it strokes the ego for one. Two, it raises awareness for your business and your vision. And it helps move the needle forward toward building something great.
I’ve learned it’s actually not as hard as you might think to get great press. I’ll leave you with a few practical tips:
Guest blog on relevant sites (Maybe on Whinot?)
Strike up a meaningful dialogue – not a sales pitch – with reporters/freelance writers in your space
Stay in touch with those same people
Be fast to respond when potential opportunities do come up
Be patient until they develop
Say thank you when they do
What’s your story on your first major PR?