Media attention for any startup is a difficult game. As President of a PR company in Toronto, we make sure to manage clients expectations at the beginning of the project. PR is a cost effective way for your business to gain impressions but it is also notoriously short lived if not combined with a strong digital strategy.

That first bump of press attention can be tough for an unknown company but if you package your messaging correctly, you should be able to gain your first few hits. If they’re in big outlets, you will get a drip down effect within 72 hours in which smaller outlets will pick up and repackage the content.

Hot off the press from the team at Grey Smoke Media, here are four reasons that your business is not making the news rounds.

  1. You’re making it too complicated– Many reporters, editors and producers are inundated on a daily basis with pitches from PR agencies. They have seconds to decide which is best. That means you also have seconds to sell yourself. This starts with the subject line of your email. The second most important thing is then the headline of your press release. If you have them at that part, you are doing better than 80% of the crowd. Dumb down what you are selling to at least grab their attention. Once you have that, they will read on.
  2. Your timing if off- When a major story hits the news, the staff are ordered to find angles at the time when the public interest is peaking. In that period many strong PR agencies will try and newsjack it. Newsjacking is the process of inserting yourself into breakings news stories. For example, one year at the Superbowl there was a blackout. Oreo immediately tweeted a topical message about dunking in the dark. It was retweeted over 30,000 times.
  3. You’re sending it off wrong- So many people think they should obtain a media list with thousands of names and do an approach I like to call, “spray and pray”. This my friend, is an excellent way to permanently gain some real estate in the spam box of the very people you need in media. I am against using newswire. It is an outdated method. Select 20-30 journalists in your niche. Email them each personally commenting why you think it would be a good fit for them. Quote old stories. Keep your pitch to 125 words. If they want more they will write back.
  4. Your idea isn’t sexy– We live in a click bait society. People want something that will grab your eye. You need to study the audience of the outlet you are targeting. It is humbling to know that almost no one cares about what you doing if you don’t package it in a way that it piques their interest. A good way of looking at it is this…Would you yourself click the headline? Every business has something cool they do. Find your nugget and pitch that.

It is important to remember that a media outlet needs content on a daily basis as much as you want to score it. There are hundreds of holes on a daily basis waiting to be filled with interesting and engaging content. Let’s hope the next one is yours.


Jordan Whelan, BCom ’08, is an entrepreneur who serves as president of Toronto Pr Agency, Grey Smoke Media. His latest e-commerce venture, Framestr, an Etsy alternative, allows users to get paid cash for sharing products among friend