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How to utilise PR when you’ve got nothing to announce?

Even in 2023, “PR” equals “Press Release” for many people. But the abbreviation actually comes from the words “Public Relations” – meaning how people relate to your organization, which is done through building relationships. One of the most important relationships you can build is with the journalists that cover topics that are relevant to you – but other important stakeholders also include people like your clients, partners, and investors.

How to utilise PR when you’ve got nothing to announce?

We all understand that one way to communicate with journalists is to send them a press release. But to even have a press release to write, you’d need a topic for it. But journalists don’t appreciate an unsolicited press release about something they have no interest in – and even worse, something that has nothing newsworthy to say.

However, no startup has something newsworthy to announce every month. So you need to get creative. That’s what Maria 01 did together with their PR partner San Francisco Agency in the fall of 2022 when deciding how to get journalists interested in one of Europe’s leading startup communities – even when there was nothing to announce.

Everybody loves pitching, right?

The biggest get-together at Maria 01, gathering members and friends of the community from around the world to the campus for a day, is the annually hosted Maria 365 event. The event’s goal is to give everyone a glimpse into what everyday life at Maria 01 looks like, by showcasing the up-and-coming success stories and celebrating entrepreneurship.

In 2021, when relaunching Maria 365 after a couple of years of COVID-19, Maria 01 invited some of the up-and-coming startups in the community to come on stage and pitch. Because seriously, don’t we all love pitching? It’s a great way to attract the attention of investors, and potential clients, or just otherwise showcase what your company is aspiring to do to the community.

… but the media does not love events…

The problem was that for the media, events, in general, are not very interesting – because they are not interesting to the general public. Of course, leading industry events attract industry media, but that is only a handful of events every year.

Even if it’s a big thing for your startups that you are exhibiting/speaking/participating in an event, the media will not write about it. Nor will it write about you organising an event.

So how on Earth do we capture journalists’ interest? Especially getting them to come in person is hard, as we can still see that COVID-19 has left a mark on expert participation in offline events.

… but they do love seeing top companies in the industry they are experts in!

We know that journalists are top experts in their respective fields. Even if mainstream journalism is more common nowadays, meaning that most journalists are generalists in the news they cover, they are still usually experts in one or two fields that they follow most actively.

First, we needed to organise a semifinal day, the Maria 365 Pitching Day, where startups pitch in categorised groups based on their industry and have journalists included in the judging panel.

Knowing the up-and-coming technologies and innovations in the industry you’re following is key to developing anyone’s expertise – journalists included. Plus, they read, write, and study about hundreds of companies every year. How many can say they do the same? Right, not you, if you are not a journalist. 

And you know, if you’ve been following our tips for PR, that you are supposed to pitch your story to journalists when you want them to cover you. So, journalists are used to hearing and reading pitches and can judge a company well based on their initial presentation.

The rules in live pitching and written media pitches are basically the same:

  • Get to the point immediately
  • Don’t beat around the bush
  • Showcase the problem and solution you are offering – focus on the impact!
  • Give them the framework of your collaboration (for investors, the money you are raising – for journalists, your story’s embargo, for example) 

We did what we always do: identified the top journalist experts in their respective fields, and pitched the idea of them being judges in a panel with investors, and other experts.

After all, we managed to get six top-tier media journalists to come to Maria 01. 

Kickoff for an ongoing relationship

Even if all journalists had heard of Maria 01, most hadn’t even visited the premises. So the event served as an opportunity to not just see all the great startup pitches, but to actually tour around the property and hear more about the great work that Maria 01 does for the tech community. And the best part? Many promised to come again – and even wrote stories about the pitching competition!

Here is what TiVi said about our Maria 365 semifinal pitching competition.

And to summarise, Public Relations offers many more opportunities than just writing and spamming hundreds of journalists with press releases. There are multiple ways to attract media attention to your company: thought leadership articles, event keynotes, or inviting journalists to be judges for a day – these are just some examples of how you can offer true value to the media and their readers.

No relationship works if you always offer just a cup of coffee at the local deli. Get creative, and impress journalists with a unique approach where you have considered their benefit – that’s how you’ll get the most out of it, as well.

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