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The art of the press release

Startup 101

Tag Archives: public relations

The art of the press release

Ready for a DMZ hot take? Being able to articulate a startup win is just as important as the win itself. Reaching a significant milestone will be exponentially more impactful to your business if you share the success publicly. This is where press releases come in — a strategic symphony of words that transforms startup wins into news. 

For those new to the public relations world, a press release is an announcement made on behalf of your company about an achievement or new development. It serves as a tool to communicate the announcement to a wide range of stakeholders: customers, investors, partners and the media. Understanding how to craft a strong press release can be a cost-effective form of marketing, as it can lead to earned media, enhanced brand recognition and improved SEO. However, the media will not jump on every press release you write, and that’s expected! It’s important to note that not every startup update needs a press release.


Here are some examples of when you should write a press release:  

  • Partnership announcements
  • Funding announcements 
  • Product launches
  • Company award or accolade
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Company rebrand

Now that we’ve established the need behind a press release let’s dive into how you can craft your own. 

Define your public relations goals. 

Before you start writing any announcement, define what your broader public relations goals are. While the ultimate goal is to bring attention to your company, you need to specify what you hope to achieve long term. For more support on mapping out your strategy and where you can start as a founder, head to DMZ’s top 4 insider tricks for public relations success

Keep it formal and to the point.

Press releases embody professionalism, so use formal language and factual details. Remember to use plain language and avoid unnecessary fluff. Unlike a blog or social media, press releases are not based on personal opinions and don’t fully leverage your brand voice. Explore the differences in tone and formality for the same DMZ announcement across mediums. 

Utilize the 5W’s.

Use the 5W’s as a guide to ensure a well-structured opening paragraph. This includes the who, what, where, when, and why to provide relevant information and avoid straying off-topic. Readers should be able to identify what your press release is about in the first few sentences. Check out the opening paragraph of a recent DMZ press release

  • On Monday, June 26, Toronto Metropolitan University’s DMZ hosted the highly anticipated Insiders Event at the incubator’s headquarters in downtown Toronto. The exclusive showcase featured a handpicked selection of innovative startups from DMZ’s portfolio, giving attendees the opportunity to hear how they are transforming their respective industries.”

Include quotations.

Including quotations dramatically enhances the impact of an announcement. They can add a human element by sharing an individual’s perspective. A strong quote should highlight why your news is relevant now; think of it as a soundbite media could lead with. Aim to include at least one quote from your team and one from an external organization. See below for an example of a quote included in this DMZ press release

  • “Given Japan’s longstanding reputation as a pioneer in global innovation, it is an honour that JETRO has selected DMZ as its Canadian partner for the Global Acceleration Hub,” said Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director, DMZ, and CEO, DMZ Ventures. “This collaboration is a testament to both countries’ vision to foster business growth beyond borders, and we’re eager to unlock business expansion opportunities for Japanese startups visiting Toronto this month.

Include a boilerplate.

A boilerplate is a short, standardized paragraph at the end of a press release that provides high-level background on your company. Pro-tip: Keep a standardized boilerplate for your team in your shared drive for easy access. DMZ’s boilerplate is at the bottom of every announcement and follows the same format. 

  • DMZ is a world-leading startup incubator based at Toronto Metropolitan University that equips the next generation of tech entrepreneurs with the tools needed to build, launch, and scale highly impactful startups. By providing connections to customers, coaching, capital, and a community, DMZ’s customized approach helps innovators reach the next milestone in their entrepreneurial journey – whatever that might be. Through its award-winning programming, DMZ has helped more than 800 startups raise $2.5 billion in capital and create 5,000+ jobs. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada with globally-accessible programming, DMZ has a widely-recognized international presence with offices in Vietnam, India, and the U.S., and partnerships across North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Conclude with a call to action.

Wrap up your press release with a compelling call to action. Consider its purpose: whether you want readers to explore your website, sign up for a mailing list or connect with your team. Here are a few examples of calls to action from past DMZ press releases. 

Startup examples.

Let’s bridge theory and practice by looking at tangible DMZ startup examples and how they leveraged press releases.

Announcing a raise:

Announcing an acquisition: 

Announcing an award:

Looking for more support in marketing and public relations? Subscribe to our TechTalk newsletter and stay informed about the newest startup resources here.

Public relations 101: Our top 4 tips for success

The DMZ’s top 4 insider tricks for startup public relations success


Public relations (also known as PR) is a vital component for growth in any startup. PR helps you define your company’s narrative for the world by putting a spotlight on what your business provides as well as your success stories. 

For startups, good PR can drive brand awareness, put your name out in front of potential investors and partners, and help you become an industry leader.

Crafting a successful public relations strategy does not happen overnight. Laying the groundwork for a successful PR campaign takes time and love, which is why the DMZ is here to provide you with 4 of our go-to tips for PR success!

 

A startup founder working on PR

 

Ensure your brand and online assets are up to par

Before engaging with the media, ensure your startup is ready to show the best version of itself. That starts with an optimized website that effectively communicates who you are and what it is that you do. It is also important that your company’s social media features engaging content that is appropriate for your target audiences. 

Ask yourself, “Do I have a professional and clean website?” “Do my readers walk away with content that is worth the time they spent reading it?” Crafting a narrative for your brand at an early stage will elevate your media outreach efforts in the future.

public relations newspaper


Maintain a pulse on your industry

Media monitoring is an important part of managing how you, your competitors and/or your industry is being portrayed in the media. Google Alerts is a great free resource to scan the media for recent news and updates in your specific industry. This is one way to easily stay on top of conversations or advancements taking place in your field

Pro Tip: Add your company’s name, key updates you want to follow, and a few relevant competitors, to your Google Alerts.

If you’re setting up alerts for a health tech company, you can include relevant keywords. For example, try using ‘virtual health + Canada’, ‘e-health + Canada’, ‘digital health + launch + Canada’ , ‘competitor 1’, ‘competitor 2’  to keep an eye on industry updates and competitor milestones.

Twitter is also a great channel to monitor since most journalists are very active on Twitter. Not only do journalists amplify their own content, but they are connected to the topics and community that they cover. Take your media list one step further by following your target journalists on Twitter to monitor their content.

Make your media announcements meaningful

Have a story you want to share with the media? This is where media pitching comes in. A media pitch is an attempt to get a journalist or media outlet interested in your announcement so that they decide to cover it. Media outreach is traditionally done via email, but nowadays you can reach out to journalists via social media as well.

Ensure your announcement is newsworthy. Ask yourself these questions before you even begin to think about pitching to the media:

  • What makes my news actually newsworthy? How does it stand out from what competitors are putting out there?
  • Is my news presented in an exciting way that people will get people interested?
  • What’s a timely or enticing narrative you can tie into your announcement to elevate its attractiveness?

A startup team brainstorming PR

Be purposeful about crafting your media pitch

When it comes to media pitching, try to pitch journalists with a background in your sector. In the industry, this is called pitching to journalists with relevant ‘beats’. 

Avoid spraying your announcement to all journalists from major outlets. It’s important for you to take the time to research journalists who are writing about your beat and provide them with new perspectives or advancements in the space.  

Further, avoid attaching additional documents — unless absolutely necessary —within your pitch email. The less the journalist has to click through, the better. 

Never underestimate the power of your networks; remember to leverage them when amplifying an announcement. Provide your partners with the tools and assets they need to amplify the announcement, like social media sample posts, key messages, graphics, etc.

woman working on PR strategy
Final considerations

When looking at public relations as a strategy for your startup, ask yourself, “What is my goal in gaining PR?” Is PR a vital component of your growth because it can lead to more customers in your funnel, or are you viewing media exposure as a vanity metric? 

Oftentimes, founders look at media coverage as a silver bullet for non-related issues they may face:

  • An article in a major publication will help us acquire investment 
  • Having more “As seen on” logos on our website will help us close deals 
  • My competitors are featured in the news, so I should be too 

This is not PR as a core strategy, but the need for PR driven by fear: fear of not getting investment, losing deals, or dragging behind your competition. This is often why most startups’ PR efforts fail because it is not viewed as a means to an end, but the end goal itself. 

Understand that if you are looking at PR as a strategic objective, you are committing to focusing on it just as you would if you were to begin fundraising, hiring, or growth. Part-time focus will give your startup part-time results.

 

Looking for more PR or marketing support? Check out our programs for more insights into the support we provide our founders.

Secrets of a tech reporter: How to get your company media exposure

It’s no secret that entrepreneurs who can get their company mentioned in popular publications often benefit from the exposure. For journalists tasked with writing about the latest in tech, finding companies to feature can be hard. Especially for busy journalists like Jessica Galang.

Everyday entrepreneurs bombard the BetaKit news editor with emails about their new “revolutionary” products, company or partnerships. It’s all in a bid to get her to write about their company for her publication. That means she’s forced to sift through dozens of email pitches almost hourly. It can exhausting  since she’s  charged with staying up-to-date with Canada’s tech ecosystem and also writing about it.  

“I’m basically responsible for most of the [BetaKit] editorial planning, I look at what’s happening every day in the tech ecosystem and I sort of evaluate what’s priority and what’s not priority,” she explains. “Pretty much my job is to keep on top of the Canadian ecosystem and to decide what news we’re going to cover and how.”

In this one-on-one Galang shares what she looks for in a startup and how entrepreneurs can get journalists, like herself, to pay attention to them.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Q: How do you evaluate what company or product is “newsworthy”?

 
Jessica Galang (JG): I mostly look at the sort of traction they’ve had so far. For example, I look at the number of customers they have, their target market or if they’ve reached a unique milestone. Sometimes even if they’ve partnered with a big enterprise that helps make them (or their product) stand out.

Q: What’s the best way to pitch a story?

 
JG: I think, email is usually the safest way, because journalists are expecting pitches in their inbox. For me, personally, DMs [direct messages through Twitter] are totally fine as well. I find my DMs are also less crowded, so I don’t mind and it’s easier to read through messages.

Q: What should entrepreneurs do before pitching a journalist?

 
JG: I think sometimes entrepreneurs make the mistake of just sending an email with a link to their website and saying ‘hey, we just launched this [and] hope that you cover us. Please follow up if you want more information.’

But I don’t have time to follow up with every single person to get more information about their company.

When pitching journalists entrepreneurs should be prepared. They should look at press releases as examples of what a pitch could possible look like. They should be prepared to explain why their product is valuable, what market they’re targeting. And, perhaps why their product is different from any other one that’s launched in that sector as well. They need to be able to answer why I would cover them versus a competitor. Why I would spend time writing an article about them now instead of six months from now.

Q: What are some helpful additions entrepreneurs can include in their pitches that will set them apart?

 
JG: Media kits are always helpful and having pictures if a startup is announcing something specific — like funding or a partnership — is great.

If it’s just a simple pitch then I suggest writing three paragraphs explaining what their news is about. If I like their story I can follow up later. The biggest thing is that they need to be explicit about what news or product they think I should be interested in.

Q: Should startups hire a PR agency to help generate some media buzz or just do it themselves?

 
JG: That’s a little tough to answer, especially if you’re an early stage startup hoping to get coverage. It can be tough for some to afford PR services. If they can’t there’s so many free resources out there that can help them do it on their own. You don’t need to hire PR, but it can help.

If you’re in an early stage startup I think just learning best practices can go a long way. I’ve worked with a lot of companies that don’t have in-house PR or a PR agency, but they know the BetaKit brand. They know what we cover and send us really targeted pitches that work.

Q: Is it bad etiquette to reach out to more than one reporter at the same time?

 
JG: I accept that sometimes [entrepreneurs] are going to reach out to other reporters. If it’s a huge announcement then I understand why they would reach out to other publications for embargos or big news. I think it’s key that you make sure you’re really transparent with everyone.

It’s my expectation that other publications are probably going to cover this news if it’s big. But when you’re shady and you pitch something to a journalist and you give them one time and then you give another journalist another time, that’s when it’s really bad.

I think it’s also bad etiquette when someone is pitching me, but they forget to change the name of the publication in the email. So, it would say ‘Hi Jessica, I think this would be a great pitch for the Financial Post’ and I’m left thinking, like, oh, thanks, that’s really nice do you even want us to cover your company.

Looking for more about how to get your startup media ready? Check out our previous post about public relation and communication with Erin Richards.