Tips for reaching out to global tech press

Some rights reserved by smiling_da_vinci
Some rights reserved by smiling_da_vinci

A few months back my colleague Junya posted an article (on our Japanese site) about the typical questions that he usually asks entrepreneurs during interviews. So after I recently presented on a similar topic last weekend at a local iOS meet-up here in Tokyo, I thought perhaps I’d share some of the main points here – for Japanese startups and entrepreneurs especially. All my slides can be found here, if you’d like to read the extended version [1].

When it comes to covering technology companies and startups here in Japan, I’m always very surprised (and somewhat disappointed) that Japanese startups don’t reach out to me more often [2]. I usually tell companies not to hesitate in contacting me, even if it’s for just a small update. Even though I might not write about it, I’d still like to know what you’re doing and how you’re doing. For app developers in particular, such updates could be:

  • Your initial app launch
  • A new version with new features, new localization
  • Download milestones
  • A notable partnership
  • A round of fundraising

The question that I usually ask myself when deciding whether or not to share a story with readers is “Is this remarkable?” If I’m not interested in it, then it’s hard for me to make readers interested. I also need to consider whether it’s a story that has already been covered or not. While many media sites tend to rewrite company press releases or other media reports, that’s something that I’d prefer to avoid in favor of communicating something that hasn’t yet been communicated [3]. We’d like to fill a real need rather than just re-blog.

It’s also important to keep in mind the scope of a tech publication before pitching your story. For example, we tend to target much of our content towards investors, so we will usually ask questions that we anticipate they might have. Before speaking to press, you should be aware of what you are willing to disclose and what you are not. If you disclose something you shouldn’t have, or something your investor would prefer kept secret, that’s your problem – not mine [4].

Startups can also prepare extensive ‘about’ and ‘FAQ’ pages that can answer many journalists’ questions in advance. Your backstory is important, and laying out a timeline of events in your company’s history is helpful. You should also prepare company logos, team photos, maybe an office photo (if your office does not suck), and screenshots (if you are an app developer). It’s always wise to provide high resolution versions of your images, because if you ever want to be covered by a magazine or newspaper, low-rez JPGs aren’t good enough.

Inviting journalists to beta test your app is also something I wish companies did more often, especially here in Japan. I’m not sure if there is any regional difference, but in my own experience it seems like Japanese developers aren’t as accustomed or willing to let writers preview early beta releases. But giving someone time to understand your product better will help ensure that they can better communicate what it’s about, rather than just give a superficial overview from your press release talking points. On top of that, making yourself or your company representatives available for an interview is obviously a big help as well. You don’t necessarily need to be in the same location, because interviews over email or Skype are always easy to arrange.

You can always be your own media

At the risk of making my own role unnecessary, I think startups should also maintain their own blog and social media presences too. Maybe this is obvious, but I don’t see too many companies taking advantage of this as well as they should. Capturing an audience pre-launch via Launchrock or building a newsletter using something like Mailchimp (as we do here) can be helpful in keeping in contact with people interested in your service. Sources can go directly to consumers when it suits them. Line Corporation is a good example of this [5].

For more information that might help when reaching out to press, do check out my slides in full, as it includes lots of links and external resources that you might find helpful.

  1. This particular article/summary is written with many Japanese tech companies and startups in mind.  ↩

  2. Of course in some cases this is due to a language gap. But in most cases, I think it’s not.  ↩

  3. The redundancy of the tech press these days is absolutely agonizing.  ↩

  4. Compared to Western companies, Japanese companies and startups are surprisingly comfortable asking me for changes or adjustments after I publish. Taking information away from a reader after I give it to them is something like taking giving a child a cookie and then snatching it from his hands a moment later. But insofar as I can see, media in Japan often work to please companies more than they do to please their readers.  ↩

  5. Although they aren’t the most responsive when you send question their way.  ↩