Getting press coverage can be a real coup for a crowdfunding campaign, with the potential to deliver thousands of dollars in pledges for creators who do it right. But it can be hard to get the media to pay attention to you when you’re an unknown entity, and launching a Kickstarter is no longer novel enough on its own to merit press coverage. How can you get press attention without handing over your entire campaign budget to a PR firm?
Shift your mindset
Look at your project from the journalist's perspective. (Photo: Karl JK Hedin)
As you start planning to reach out to press for your campaign, the first thing you should do is radically shift your mindset. The pitching exercise is not about you, your product, or your campaign, but about the needs and priorities of the person you're pitching to.
Journalists and bloggers need to churn out interesting content relevant to their particular audience on a daily basis. Your pitch will be successful if (and only if) you can solve the writer's problem of finding interesting topics to write about.
Consider how your project meets the needs of each publication you approach. Get clear on why it’s a good fit for their readership, how it builds on writing they’ve already published, and why it will drive eyeballs to this publication in particular.
Moreover, in order to get anyone’s attention, you will have to find some way to get them excited and convince them to care about your project. Don't fall into the common trap of thinking that people will take interest in your campaign out of mere good will.
While there are certain steps you can take to improve your chances of getting press (we'll cover that below), fundamentally, if your project does not have that spark of originality or excitement, no one is going to want to write about it.
Shift your thinking away from what you personally like about your project to what will meet the needs of the writer covering it, and give them a nugget of content worth writing about.
Pitch to publications that will actually pay off
The purpose of press is to drive backers to your campaign. Consequently, you'll want to go after publications that appeal to your target audience—the people who will actually step up and back your campaign.
Do your research
Find blogs that share your target audience. (Photo: Gaelle Marcel)
Start by making a list of publications that either report on the subject matter of your project, or whose readers overlap with your target audience. As you make your list, get an estimate of the monthly visitor count for each publication—you don’t want to waste your time pitching to a blog that no one reads.
Aim to get a range of publications on your to-pitch list, from smaller blogs like GeekDad, TreeHugger, and The Spoon to larger niche publications like Gizmodo, Lifehacker, and Engadget. Larger publications can give you breadth, with their larger readerships, while smaller blogs provide depth, with a committed audience that often converts to backers at a higher rate.
For each publication on your list, read enough articles to get a sense of the publication's tone and style. Determine how often they cover crowdfunding campaigns. If they have no articles that mention Kickstarter or Indiegogo, that may be a clue that their readership may not be your target audience. Take note of any articles tangentially related to your project—you can cite these as anchoring points in your future pitch email.
Use these three hacks to find more publications and blogs
HACK #1: To find relevant publications that might not be on your radar, run one of your competitors through a Google search. Click the “News” tab to see your competitor’s press coverage.
Search for a competitor or similar project on Google and click "News." (If you don't see the "News" tab, click "More" to reveal it.)
See all the news articles about that competitor and take note of the publications.
HACK #2: You can find smaller blogs relevant your project via the “Blogs” tab.
To get to “Blogs,” from the “News” page click “Tools.” A drop-down menu on the left labeled “All news.” Click this menu and choose "Blogs" to show blog coverage.
Click on "Tools" from the "News" page.
Find the menu labeled "All news."
Choose "Blogs" from the drop-down menu.
See the blogs covering your competitor.
HACK #3: Once you have a few publications and blogs on your list, you can run them through SimilarSites to find websites covering similar topics to each publication on your list.
While you should send your pitch to a range of publications, it’s okay to start small. Often, larger publications repurpose coverage from smaller publications, so any coverage can give you a jump start on your press cycle. Meanwhile, the more coverage you get, the easier it will be to pitch to other media organizations, since you can mention existing press coverage in your pitch to demonstrate social proof.
Pitch to the right person
Narrow your publication list down to your top ten publications. You can send more pitches later on, but focusing on this shortlist will give you room to send a high-quality pitch tailored to each publication.
Next, you need to find the right person to contact at each publication, along with their email address. You'll want to contact either:
- A writer who covers topics related to your project
- An editor who assigns projects to writers
Most of us do not have personal connections to journalists, so to reach them you'll be using one of (or a mix of) these three approaches:
- Getting a warm introduction from someone with contacts at the publication
- Establishing new relationships with journalists and bloggers (and emailing them later on)
- Sending a cold email
Option #1: Leverage your network to get a warm intro
A warm intro to someone at the publication you want to reach will give you a higher chance of success than a cold email. Go through your network (searching Facebook and LinkedIn are good methods) and see who you know who can connect you to people at the publications on your list.
We're not saying you should harass your entire personal network, but if there's any chance you can get an introduction to someone at a publication relevant to you, now is the time to hustle. If you're pitching a project worth writing about, you may be surprised how happy people will be to help you.
Option #2: Build relationships with press
Get out there and make some friends. (Photo: rawpixel)
You can also work on building relationships with journalists, bloggers, and editors on your own. Standard advice suggests connecting with them at industry events, but you can also make connections on Twitter.
Most media folks are active on Twitter and open to engaging with others. Follow the writers you’d like to see cover your project some day. Retweet their articles and reply to their tweets where appropriate.
Engage genuinely—don’t spam their mentions with self-promotional content. Your goal on Twitter is to build relationships, not deliver your pitch, and people can tell when you’re just trying to get something out of them.
A bonus of engaging with writers on Twitter is that you’ll start to get a sense of who they are, what they care about, and what kinds of articles they tend to publish. This growing understanding will help you get an idea of what kind of pitch will resonate best with them, and what sorts of content they find tired and boring.
The tweets and articles of writers you follow can also give you a reference point to anchor on in your pitch if they’re related to your project in some way, e.g., “After reading your piece on [whatever], I thought you’d be interested in [project]...”
Option #3: Send a cold email
Prepare to sleuth your way into a stranger's inbox. (Photo: Neonbrand)
A lack of a warm introduction to the person you want to contact shouldn't stop you from sending your pitch. Most media editors (and many writers) expect to receive pitches from people they don't know, and consequently, they make their email addresses available to the world at large.
For each publication, choose one person to email. We recommend first searching for a writer who has written stories in the same vein as your project (make sure these are relatively recent). Otherwise, you can email the publication’s editor.
Here are a few ways you can find email addresses for writers and editors:
- Twitter bios: Either find the writer or editor by name, or search “@[PublicationName]” and “editor” on Twitter to find an editor to contact. Many post their email address right in their Twitter bio.
- Writers' personal websites: Google search "[firstname lastname] writer" or "[firstname lastname] [publication where you found them]. Most will have some kind of contact info available on their website.
- Publication website: A writer’s email may be directly attached to their articles (in the byline or in the "About [writer]" section beneath the article) or in their author profile (found when you click on their name). If not, check the publication’s masthead (usually in the “About” section of the website) to find an editor's email.
Write a good pitch
A lot of crowdfunding advice sites try to instruct creators on how to write a “press release” to send to media. Personally, we find this advice a little silly—a canned five-sentence pitch rattling off your product features is no one’s favorite thing to read.
If you’re not a professional PR person, we don’t think you gain much by trying to act like one. You will be more compelling if you commit to playing the role of yourself, and in general people respond better to emails that appear to have come from a human.
Most writers will want to do more than copy and paste whatever you send them, so the point of your initial pitch email is to capture their attention and get a reply back. All the details—feature specs, team bios, product photos—can be sent in follow-up communications (more on that below).
Plan to send out your pitches 30 days before you launch your campaign. This time frame allows for back and forth emailing with the writer, gives them time to write something solid, and adds a window for sending out review units if you choose to.
Pitch subject line
Give them a headline they won't be able to resist. (Photo: Johann Walter Banz)
The subject line of your email should translate to a potential headline for your prospective piece. Some examples could be:
- The 10-Year Hoodie: The sweatshirt challenging everything you think you know about how clothes are made
- The cure for anxiety, insomnia, and stress? A weighted blanket.
- Don’t waste time brushing your own teeth—Amabrush does it better (borrowed from this article)
- Buy Frank Zappa's house: Filmmakers auction off personal items to fund musician's documentary
You may want to come up with a few different subject lines and track which one gets the best response rate. If you use email-tracking software like Boomerang or a CRM like Prosperworks, you can also track which subject lines produce the highest open rates.
Your pitch should run around 200 words and cover the following areas:
- What is your project?
- Why is it interesting?
- Why is it relevant to this publication?
- When are you launching?
If you have a physical product, we recommend offering review units to the writers you approach. Many writers will be more inclined to cover your campaign if they can see the product up close first, and they’re often open to returning your prototype to you if you send them a prepaid mailing label.
Here’s a pitch template you can use as a starting point:
Hi [first name of writer or editor],
I’m the [founder of [company] / the creator of [project] ], a [description of your project] that [statement of value proposition / problem it solves / subject matter it addresses]. The [project] is [most compelling thing about your project], and [statistic showing your growth / description of impact the project will have].
We’re launching on [platform] on [date, time, and time zone]. I’m bringing this story to you because [publication] consistently produces such great coverage of [relevant area], and when I read [example article ideally written by the person you’re emailing] I thought [project] would be of interest to you and your readers.
I am happy to send a sample of [product] for you to review. You can reach me at [phone number] or [email] for more details. I look forward to hearing from you.
Here's how you stick the landing. (Photo: Steven Welch)
Crafting a good pitch will take time and effort. Here are some guidelines to make your pitch shine:
- Tailor your pitch to each publication. Make it clear that you know their audience and their general vibe. You may want to highlight different elements of your project for different venues. If you can, touch on articles by the writer you’re emailing that relate to the project you’re pitching.
- Cite a statistic or other evidence related to your growth to show you’ve already got the wheels in motion. Sales to date, Instagram followers, and previous press coverage are all good candidates for demonstrating that your project has legs and that you’re already well on your way to success.
- Force yourself to keep it brief. If you’re going over 250 words, you’ve said something irrelevant. Cut it down.
- Avoid buzzwords and showy words that don’t communicate anything substantial. Don’t tell me it’s “an innovative new solution,” just tell me what problem it solves.
- Don’t plead and don’t grovel. Be confident, direct, and genuine.
- Don’t try anything too weird. Perhaps someone out there has succeeded with a pitch that just said “BacK mY tHIng, DUDE” with a campaign preview link, but we don’t recommend going too far off script. Similarly, don’t be rude or aggressive.
- Don't send attachments—they may get your email routed to spam, and most journalists won't open them.
- Some blogs have guidelines for submitting Kickstarter projects. Read them and follow them.
- Some advice suggests that you send a link to your campaign preview page in your initial pitch, but we don't advise this. The goal of your pitch email is to get a response. The more information you share, the more reasons you give the recipient of your pitch to decline to cover your project. Give them just enough to get them interested, and cover all the details in follow-up emails.
Pitching your own articles
Guest blogging is a great way to get your name out there. (Photo: rawpixel)
If you are an expert in a domain related to your project, consider pitching a guest-blogging piece to relevant publications. The proposed guest piece should be some kind of interesting content informed by your expertise, not just a long-form plug for your campaign.
Your knowledge in a particular domain gives you a strong angle for contributing content of value to the publication, and publishing a guest piece will give you credibility that may help you get your foot in the door elsewhere later. If you’ve published articles like these before, consider referencing them in your pitch to establish your bona fides.
Manage your followup emails
In order to write their piece, a writer will need more information about your project. Expect some back and forth emailing after your initial pitch, and be responsive.
The best way to get the writer all the information and assets the need is to share your campaign preview link (in a followup email, not the pitch). They can use the preview link to link to your campaign in their piece—it will automatically redirect to the live campaign after you launch.
In case the writer needs information that is not readily available on your campaign page, it's useful to have a press kit available.
A press kit is a package with all the information, statistics, and photographs a journalist or blogger will need in order to write a solid article. Read a couple articles that resemble the coverage you would like to see for your project, and take note of the points the writer anchors on. You’ll notice they include certain kinds of details to flesh out the article, like:
- Sales statistics (“...with 1,500 units sold so far…”)
- Founder backgrounds (“...two Harvard PhD students who previously worked at NASA and Google…”)
- Product features (“...works with both iOS and Android…”)
You want the writer to find these kinds of details in your press kit.
How to build a press kit
Not sure what information to send to press? Download our sample press kit for inspiration and guidance.
Your press kit should just be a Dropbox link that includes:
- A Word document with a few paragraphs and bullet points about your company
- Several high-quality photos
If you Google "press kit," you'll find examples of polished PDFs with nice graphics and Instagram-ready color schemes. In general, we don't think building a pretty PDF is necessary. Think about the writer who is trying to churn this article out as quickly as possible—it's going to be much easier for them to navigate and pull from a simple Word document than an overworked, graphic-cluttered PDF.
If you decide to ignore our advice and make a PDF anyway, design website Canva has a ton of press kit templates that you can edit with their browser toolkit. You can also download our example press kit for inspiration.
The document portion of the press kit should be 1-2 pages. The specifics of your press kit will depend on your project, but here are a few things you might consider including:
- Company mission or story behind your project
- Blurb about the company, about the team, or founder bios
- Product information, features, and specs
- Key milestones, achievements, or awards
- Statistics you wouldn’t mind seeing in a media article: sales or preorder numbers, Instagram followers, outside funding raised, etc
- Quotes from previous press coverage or testimonials from satisfied users
Along with this document, your press kit should include several high-quality photographs of your product. You can also include photos of the team, the founders, or behind-the-scenes photos you feel are worthy of publication. Stick the photos in their own Dropbox folder labeled "photos" inside the main folder you intend to send.
Drop the document and photos folder into a Dropbox folder and share the link.
Make requests that will maximize the impact of press coverage
You want to drive as much traffic as you can early in your campaign, so the timing of press is key. Ask the writer if they can publish their piece to coincide with the date and time of your launch.
Sometimes a writer can't publish the piece at exactly the time you'd like. You should still work to get a commitment from them as to when it will be published—ideally on the day of your campaign, otherwise on a weekday during normal working hours (not in the middle of the night when no one will see it!).
You can also ask if the publication can share the article on social media or in their newsletter.
Once your campaign is live, keep your media contacts updated with your progress. Alert your press list to new milestones so they can keep writing about you. If you hit a major milestone (like reaching your funding goal or hitting a big number), don’t rest on your laurels—revise your pitch with the new angle of this milestone achievement and pitch your whole media list again.
Should I just hire a PR firm?
Professional PR people have the media connections and experience to help you land good press. However, our view is that creators with a strong enough hustle (and an interesting enough project) should be able to secure press on their own. We caution against trying to buy your way out of any element of your crowdfunding campaign, press included.
Pitching to press is a good education in how your campaign messaging resonates with the outside world, and if you can make connections with the media on your own, you can carry those relationships with you into future projects.
If you do decide to hire a PR firm, expect to spend a couple thousand dollars at a minimum. Some PR firms offer off-the-shelf pricing, charging on a per-project basis with no retainer fees. Off-the-shelf-pricing might follow a fee structure like:
- $500 - $1,000 to write your pitch and send it to their personal media contacts
- $800 to write and distribute you pitch to newswire services like PR Newswire and PRWeb, which are subscription-based services meant to connect journalists with news stories
- $250 for each local print and radio placement
- $750 for each national print and radio placement
- $500 for each local television placement
- $1,500 for each national television placement
Keeping a PR firm on retainer will cost you much more. Startup rates typically run between $5,000 - $10,000 per month, though you can find firms charging as little as $1,500 monthly and as much as $100,000.
Beware of PR firms charging super low fees. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Before you decide to hire a PR firm, do the math to determine how many backers your press coverage would need to attract in order to cover PR costs. You only want to go down this road if it's truly worth it to your campaign.
Keep in mind that good press can’t save a weak campaign. Even the strongest press coverage will only help you if your campaign has the goods to deliver: strong product, strong story, strong message, and strong fit for the given audience. Ensure that when the media drives eyeballs to your page, readers find a project they’re excited to back.
Great press can't save a weak campaign. (Photo: Elijah O'Donnell)
Getting press coverage requires that your project have that spark that gets people excited. Go into your pitch with an understanding that your project needs to drive eyeballs to the publication in question and deliver content relevant to their target audience. Shift your focus to solving the writer's problem, and you might find they'll thank you for it.