Media Advice For Entrepreneurs And Others

How to get your company noticed -- advice from a journalist, a professor, an analyst, and a flack.
How to get your company noticed -- advice from a journalist, a professor, an analyst, and a flack.A couple hundred people -- mostly young and starry-eyed, but with all ages represented -- gathered in an auditorium at the Stanford Business School to hear a panel called Be Careful What You Wish For: Getting Media Attention For Your Company as part of Stanford's Entrepreneurship Week. The advice we heard is equally applicable to many small and midsize companies.

Forrester Research VP Charlene Li told us to avoid unrealistic expecations from media coverage, and pointed out that "not every company should be on the cover of everything." Li suggested attendees should ask themselves how publicity will actually serve their companies.

Li reads at least the subject line of all her email, so titles matter, she says. But to get her attention, you need to tell her "something I don't know" of "this is the problem you're going to solve, and this is how you're going to solve it." If you do get a briefing with her, keep it short and too the point.

Journalist Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief of Forbes lightened the mood by asking, "Entrepreneur Week at Stanford Business School, isnt that like violence week at the Mafia? Isn't that what you are doing all the time?"

Hardy gets 150 to 200 pitches a day: "It's a freakin' firehose all the time," he complained. Fortunately, he's good at deleting emails. For a small company to break through the clutter and get his attention, Hardy suggests speaking at a conference and saying something that gets noticed by people he respects.

Just don't tell him that your fancy new startup doesn't have any competitors. "If a guy says he doesn't have any competitors," Hardy said, "I think he's clueless."

The moderator, Stanford journalism professor Ann Grimes, chimed in with the hope that companies will write better email pitches and press releases . She sees too many "written in 'anguish' instead of English."

Finally, PR professional Reema Bahnasy, senior VP of Outcast Communications, advised companies looking for media coverage "to have opinions, take a position, don't be like everyone else." But she warned publicity hounds to ready for anything. Journalists "can smell fear," she said.

It's true, we can. It smells like chicken.