Editor’s Note: College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
Startups are naturally pretty lean, as maybe they haven’t landed any seed money or even a sale yet. So spending anything on marketing is likely a stretch.
But when starting up, generating exposure for your company can be vital. For cash-strapped startups, fortunately, gaining the attention of the media can often cost little or nothing — and chances are good that doing so will help build brand awareness.
That’s how I got the folks from Agent Anything to give me a chance. I joined the New York-based services marketplace during my freshman year of college in 2010, just before the site officially launched. I convinced the founders to take me on even though there were no job openings. I saw the large-scale potential in the “eBay for services” website, and recognized that they needed to generate awareness and goodwill.
You could wait around for someone like me to come along, or you could try on your own. Here are five media-generating tricks of the trade that any young entrepreneur can accomplish in between classes:
- 1. Pitch journalists directly.
A great place to start your pursuit of media attention is with Help a Reporter Out, a free service that connects reporters and other media professionals with sources like you. Three times a day, requests from various journalists are sent to your inbox. You get to pitch based on what a journalist is seeking for his or her next story or project. Note that if you’re trying to run a business in between classes, this platform offers flexibility, as pitches can go out any time of day, as long as they’re submitted by the deadline given.
- 2. Don’t waste time.
Don’t dilly dally. In dealing with journalists who often operate on tight news cycles, you should attempt to get there first but also be brief. Journalists can receive hundreds of pitches a day, so get to the point. You must also offer something of value. Just being a cool company is not enough to make headlines. It also pays to get to know certain journalists who cover your industry or target audience. Entrepreneur magazine’s editor-in-chief Amy Cosper (@EntMagazineAmy) accepts what she calls twitches, a 140-character micro-pitch on Twitter.
- 3. Stand out from the pack.
Partnering up can lead to invaluable opportunities for media attention. For example, Agent Anything recently did a promotion with Ben & Jerry’s for the launch of their brand new ice cream flavor, Late Night Snack. The key to developing partnerships or to create opportunities to work together with others is to never be afraid to research and contact other people.
- 4. Revisit past connections.
Whether you’re searching for your next mentor or press-worthy partnership opportunities, consider your existing network. You could, for instance, reach out to alumni of the schools you’ve attended or currently attend. LinkedIn is a great tool for this. Through the site’s advanced search, you can type in the name of a school and filter everyone who has that school on their profile. These are all people who might be willing to help you.
- 5. Absorb what’s around you.
Read the news, listen to the radio and scan social-media sites. It will help you connect the dots and understand how a relationship or opportunity can benefit your startup. For instance, I’m currently talking to a startup company about how we can work together. I only realized the potential opportunity after reading a news article about what they are doing.
How have you managed to gain notice for your brand from the media? Tell us in the comments section below.