Crowdfunding is a great tool generating publicity around your idea and to attract the attention of the media. Unfortunately, the vast majority of crowdfunding campaigns fail to get a single article published about them.
Why the media ignores you
Five years ago, crowdfunding was the new kid on the block. There was little competition and the magical word “Kickstarter” brought lots of attention. But the novelty has worn off. At the time of this article, Kickstarter has hosted over 325,000 projects. More than 64% of them have failed. Many campaigns, after successfully raising funds couldn’t deliver products on time or meet the expectations of backers. Scandals around multi-million dollar projects have become a norm.
Because of this, the media isn't as excited as it used to be about crowdfunding. Journalists and editors want to see professionally prepared campaigns and strong support from the community before they devote precious time and space on their websites to your project.
Another reason why messages are ignored is the assumption that the media exists to promote you. Asking journalists to help you “spread the word” or “share” your project will only get you ignored. Journalist's jobs are to find worthy news that attracts readers. Your job is to craft your message in a way they can see it as news that leads to increased readership.
Avoid Purchasing Lists & Databases
You're likely to come across companies selling databases of journalists contact info. As exciting as it sounds, spamming purchased lists generally doesn't work. Finding contact info for relevant journalists is homework every campaign creator has to do before launching their campaign. Spamming thousands of journalists, sending long press releases or irrelevant news will likely get you blacklisted.
There's a good and bad time to approach the media. Many outlets publish their editorial calendars a year in advance. Approaching them with a topic that just was covered is not likely to get a response. Printed media’s submission deadlines are often several months before the magazines are released to the public. Trying to get an article printed in Forbes magazine when your campaign is already live is a waste of time. Also, don’t launch your crowdfunding project during or immediately after major industry events. The media's too busy, covering the main news and will likely ignore your messages.
Generate Media Publicity for Your Crowdfunding Campaign
There are many reasons why the media doesn't care about your campaign. But don’t assume that without hiring an expensive PR agency, you can’t generate publicity. Here are some tips to get the medias attention.
- Don’t launch the campaign until you create quality content. Videos, gifs, infographics and high-resolution images on your crowdfunding page. Work to attract as many backers as possible during the first days of the campaign.
- Spend time researching similar projects and studying their media coverage. You'll have better success by contacting the media that covers your topic and sending personalized messages.
- Read the outlet’s editorial policies. It will help you to better understand who to contact and what kind of materials they expect you to provide.
- When reaching out to a journalist or editor, send short, concise emails. Avoid sending long press releases. Remember, the media needs facts and exciting stories, not advertisements. Timing is an essence: an event that happened yesterday is considered ancient history. The media writes about the present or the near future.
- Take some time to craft your pitch message professionally. Pay the most attention to the subject line. It is the first barrier between you and a spam folder. Avoid using buzzwords such as “revolutionary”, “innovative”, or “groundbreaking.” Write in a way that makes a journalist’s job easier. Limit your messages to 150-250 words and don’t include attachments. Journalists usually access their emails via smartphones, so they are most likely not going to read long messages or open attached documents. You can include a Dropbox link to the folder with all your visuals instead.
- Use email tracking tools such as Yesware to monitor open rates of the messages you are sending out. If your initial email hasn’t been opened, try sending another message with a different subject line in 3-4 days. Don’t spam! Don’t send emails that say, “did you see my previous message?” or “I'm still waiting.” Come up with another angle, or look for the next journalist to approach.
- Plan your media strategy months advance. Contact outlets that have your topic on their editorial calendar. You can often predict what the media's going to write about at a given time: back to school, holiday gift guides, or gadgets for summer vacations, etc. Consider pitching your story during a slow season; between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, for example. The media needs to publish news on a daily basis, but at the end of the year most businesses are distracted by winter vacations. Your information can become more valuable because it's competing with less, and journalists are more willing to read your pitch.
- Be ready to react fast to breaking news. Few strategies are more beneficial than monitoring major news and finding ways to inject your story into their narrative.
- If you have a working prototype, participate in industry trade shows and contests. This allows you to directly communicate with journalists and demonstrate your product in action. The event can be as big as a Consumer Electronics Show which attracts thousands of journalists or a free startup contest such as TechCrunch Startup Battlefield.
- Connect with journalists on Twitter. Social media is about conversations, not advertising. Read through their tweets to better understand their interests and personalities. Twitter allows users to comment on re-tweets; use this opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Once they recognize your name and pay attention, then talk about your project.
- Understand the difference between journalists and bloggers.
- Journalists are paid to write about news. They have a huge influx of information and appreciate short, concise messages that can be transformed into articles without time-consuming research. Very often, they depend on editors who assign them a job.
- Bloggers, on the other hand, don’t earn salaries, nor do they have to sift through hundreds of press releases. They enjoy the freedom to choose what to write about and when to publish it. But bloggers are not volunteers. They work hard to increase their readership and usually expect a compensation for access to their followers. So, when approaching a blogger, be ready to pay for a sponsored post, provide a sample of your product for a review, or a giveaway. Don’t rely on the press kits that bloggers post on their websites or send to you. Verify all of the information by visiting their website, social accounts and checking out their traffic data on SimilarWeb.
View the media as your partners. Don’t try to bribe them and don’t take it personally if they ignore you. Work on designing a product worth talking about, gather community support and offer them timely, well-organized information. Establish yourself as an expert rather than a promoter. Make and execute a plan, and most of all be persistent.