So you have a product in the pipeline, and finally — after months of development — you’re ready to launch. You want some publicity, so you’re going to approach media. Here are three things to keep in mind.
Journalists want traction figures because it reassures them that by the time audiences read about your product, it will still be on the market. The fear of covering new, uncertain startups is based on the fact that most of the startups they had previously covered have gone on to fail. You have to prove that your business is less uncertain than the hundreds before yours. Focus on what separates your company from the rest.
If this is your startup’s first product, traction figures could be tricky to prove. But there are other things you can use – like user growth, a successful crowdfunding raise, pre-launch funding.
If you’ve been in beta launch, those figures, properly packaged, could provide insight into the stability and potential of your product. Perhaps your customer retention rate is extremely high, or your month-over-month growth is seriously impressive. Whatever it is, make sure you package these into your press release before approaching journalists.
Maybe this isn’t your startup’s first product. In that case, you’re in luck. Feel free to use relevant traction figures from your previous products, and draw parallels as to why those figures will lend credibility to the new product. This will help build the sense of trust with journalists.
Sometimes, traction can be shown in ways beyond just numbers. Does your founder have a great track record? Is a core team member’s profile seriously impressive? Don’t be shy to showcase the talent in the team to build trust in the product.
Sometimes we have unicorns created by first-time startup teams. Singaporean unicorn Sea (formerly Garena) is the first venture of Forrest Li, a Stanford University graduate. Li harnessed his connections as a Stanford alumni to connect with industry frontrunners like Skype cofounder Toivo Annus and Kuok Khoon Hong, CEO of Asia’s leading agribusiness organization Wilmar, through mutual friends. These powerful connections became angel investors in Li’s first venture. Your client base and investors are pools of talent to showcase as well. Do you serve a notable organization, or are you backed by an elite organization or personality?
Just as important as showcasing the product is showing its impact. Have you considered how the product will change behavior in the short term? What about the long-term vision? What other goods or services does your product open new doors to? Journalists will want to explicitly know how your product will be moving your chosen industry forward.
Are you a disruptive startup? If you claim to be so, make sure to clearly state what you are disrupting, how, and why this disruption is going to make something 10 times better. Why should people care that you’re changing the face of an industry?
Singapore startup Artzibit communicated their impact to journalists when they launched their app that integrated augmented reality into art buying. One of the biggest challenges in art-buying is visualisation – Artzibit would eliminate that risk by allowing users to see exactly how an art piece would look in their environment before buying it. The disruption came in the form of the art-buying process.
With the media, timing is everything. Is your product relevant to a breaking story? Did some large turnover happen in your industry, positioning your company to add to the discourse? Are there emerging trends specific to your region that your product can help to influence?
If yes, then snag the opportunity and announce away. You’ll be relevant and refreshing to the media. Grab, a Singapore-based ride-hailing app, observed a common pain point among riders in Asia who were experiencing poor customer service with local taxi companies. By providing a peer-to-peer platform that combined existing technology with knowledge of the local Southeast Asian market, the app showed media that its familiarity with the machinations of the different Asian countries and its consumer base made it a strong local competitor to U.S.-counterpart Uber.
If you can’t find any convincing traction figures or are having trouble clearly stating your impact (or if it sounds like “we have to see what the market reacts like to know”), then perhaps it’s not the best time to publicize your product.
Yes, it’s a hurry-up-and-wait situation. But journalists would rather hear about a six-month-old product with good traction and rising impact and relevance than a brand new one with no backing.