During the three plus years I’ve been involved in crowdfunding, I’ve spoken to hundreds of entrepreneurs who either wanted to, or were already running crowdfunding campaigns.

I see a lot of startupers whose primary goal is to create a buzz around their project, and only secondarily want to raise funds. Unfortunately, the vast majority of crowdfunding campaigns disappear without attracting a single news article or a blog post.

I’ve come up with several recommendations for crowdfunders to follow in order to increase their chances of getting noticed.They are structured to answer the questions: Who to contact – What to write and –When to do it.

WHO

1. Journalists don’t work for you!

The fastest way to piss off a journalist is to assume that they exist to promote your project. 

Journalists don’t work for you, they work for their readers! So avoid asking them to share your information or to help you spread the word about your campaign. Instead, help them by offering timely, well organized information that they can use to write an article.

Also, don’t assume that just because they decided to write about you, that their review will be a favorable one. There is a chance that they may NOT like your product!

Make sure to read all published content before sharing it via social networks. We had a client who spent an entire morning re-tweeting, sharing in different Facebook groups, and emailing his friends and business partners an article which actually said that his product was “a useless toy for people who don’t know what to do with their money”.

He was so excited about the publicity that didn’t care to actually read the article before promoting it.

2. Research first

You are guaranteed to come across companies offering to sell you an entire database of journalists who cover your topic. How exciting does it sound, receiving thousands of email addresses for only a few pennies! The only problem is, these spreadsheets aren’t always effective.

For example, a client of mine who had a project for a kitchen appliance, received “a custom database” of contacts which included “Prison News” from Alaska, and “Trans*** of Thailand” newswire.

Do your homework before approaching  journalists. Sending a press release about your baby product to someone who covers hacker news would be a waste of time for both of you.

Don’t be lazy! Spend time researching similar projects, and studying their media coverage. By crafting your messages after you’ve done the proper research, you will have much better “conversion rates”.

3. Bloggers: offer them something in exchange

Make a note of the differences between journalists and bloggers.

Journalists are paid to write about news. They usually have a huge influx of information on a daily basis, and tend to appreciate short, concise messages that can easily be transformed into articles without a time consuming research. Very often, they depend on the editors who assign them a job.

Bloggers on the other hand, don’t earn salaries, nor do they have to sift through hundreds of press releases. They enjoy the freedom to choose what to write about, and when to publish what they have written. But bloggers are not volunteers who have nothing else to do with their time.

Most of them will not cover your project just because you sent them a message. When contacting a blogger, think about what you can offer in exchange for publicity. It may be cash for a sponsored post, a sample of your product for a review, or a prize for a giveaway for their readers.

Don’t rely on the press kits that bloggers post on their websites or send to you. Verify all of the information (their number of fans, followers, AND their level of engagement, the amount and geography of traffic to their website, and a bounce rate).

Steer clear from those who seem to have lots of fans and followers, but no engagement. There is a high probability that their social value is deceiving. You may search for website traffic information using SimilarWeb.

4. Read the submission rules

It will help you to better understand who to contact (a specific journalist or an editor) and what kind of materials they expect you to provide. An editor may be more inclined to lend you the proper consideration if you show respect for their “house rules”.

5. Build relationships on Twitter

Remember: social media is about conversations, not advertising. Identify the industry bloggers and journalists who are active on Twitter. Read through their tweets, and try to understand their personalities.

Twitter now allows users to comment on re-tweets;  use this opportunity to stand out from the crowd. We’ve started conversations with several editors and journalists from top-level media by commenting on their tweets. Once they recognize your name and are paying attention, you may then talk about your project.

I’ve found ANewsTip to be one of the most useful tools to monitor the tweets posted by journalists.

6. Monitor pitch requests

Subscribe to HARO (HelpAReporterOut). They send pitch requests from various journalists and bloggers three times per day. Make sure to respond immediately. Many journalists receive the information they are looking for within 15 minutes and do not open the remaining messages.

Monitor Twitter feeds of @muckrack, @Mediabistro, @CJR and the editors of your targeted media outlets.

WHAT

1. Know the definition of NEWS!

Anyone who has ever been in charge of a crowdfunding campaign knows that unless it was very successful from day one, it is much more difficult to attract media attention after their campaign is already up and running.

As for journalists, an event that happened yesterday is pretty much considered to be ancient history. They write about what is either happening at the moment, or what will happen in the near future. Make sure that your “news”  actually is new!

Another mistake that many startups are making is sending messages to the media to announce their existence. NO ONE CARES! Unless you have some very compelling news, avoid bothering the media. These guys are busy; the moment you waste their time is the moment you close the door to future coverage opportunity.

2. Your pitch content

Don’t send long press releases or drawn-out “love letters”.

Journalists don’t have time for them and they can easily tell whether you have ever actually read their articles. Remember, the media needs facts and real stories, not long-winded advertisements.

Avoid using buzzwords such as “revolutionary”, “innovative”, or “groundbreaking”. Write in a way that makes a journalist’s job easier by limiting your messages to 150-250 words and DO NOT INCLUDE ATTACHMENTS.

Most journalists access their emails via  smartphones, so they are most likely not going to read long messages or open attached documents. If you have high resolution images or videos, use Dropbox and send a link to the folder instead.

Make sure to craft a subject line that would make the recipient eager to view the rest of your message. Monitor the open rates of the emails you are sending out. If your initial emails are not being opened, try sending another message with a different subject line within a couple of days.

There are many email tracking tools to help you with this, such as Sidekick, or Yesware, for example.

3. Don’t spam!

If you didn’t get a response, check to see whether the message has been opened. Don’t send  inquiries such as, “did you see my previous message?” or “I am still waiting”. Journalists do not owe you any explanations. Don’t waste yours and their time. Come up with another angle, or  look for the next journalist to approach.

4. Embargo doesn’t always work!

The only option you have is to ask journalists to wait until your campaign launch date. The same applies to the media requests about exclusives. A friend of mine relied on the promise that an editor of a major media gave to her about covering their campaign on its first day in exchange for exclusivity.

Unfortunately, after the campaign was launched, the editor conveniently “forgot” about their agreement, and the campaign was left with almost zero publicity.

When

1. Participate in events

One of the best ways to meet targeted journalists is to participate in the industry events. I realize that not everyone can afford to spend thousands of dollars to exhibit at CES. The good news is that there are always a lot of free, or very inexpensive options. Don’t hesitate to ask about discounts or payment plans for startups.

Crowdfunding platforms also send their representatives to major trade shows, so this can  be your opportunity to introduce yourself and to increase your chances of receiving help from the platform.

2. Research editorial calendars

Most media outlets publish editorial calendars a year in advance. Research whether they have topics related to your project. Contact them early on!

Printed media’s submission deadlines are often several months before magazines are released to the public. Even without the calendars, you can often predict what the media is going to write about at a given time; for example, “Back to school”, “Holiday gift guide”, or “New Gadgets For Your Summer Vacations”. Plan ahead and approach the media with your ideas.

3. Hijack the news

Few strategies can be more beneficial than monitoring major news and finding ways to attach your project to those events.

For example, when the Supreme Court voted for the same sex marriage act, we were able to attract lots of coverage for a project directed by a gay client.

Did the New York Times just publish an article about equal rights? Well, we have a female founder who can share her experience of succeeding in a male-dominated industry.

Perhaps, there is a discussion about immigration reform? One of our clients happens to be a successful immigrant entrepreneur from China. You got the idea.

4. Don’t launch your campaign during major events

Make sure not to launch your campaign close to any major industry events. The media will be too busy, covering the main news and will likely ignore your messages.

We had a client who launched a campaign for a baby product during the week of the ABCKids Show in Las Vegas. The vast majority of bloggers we contacted responded with an automated “out of office” messages. The following week, her campaign had fallen out of the news circuit.

This same rule goes for any technology projects that are launching in January, as the media at that time is overwhelmed with the Consumer Electronics Show, thus your campaign has a very small chance of being covered by the major news outlets.

5. Approach the media during a slow season

On the other hand, you have a better chance of reaching journalists when you approach them during a slow season; between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, for example. The media is looking to fill in the gaps with compelling news stories as most businesses are busy with year-end reports, planning for next year, and are distracted by winter vacations.

So, your news can become more valuable, and journalists are more willing to read your pitch.

6. Your campaign dynamics influence the publicity that you receive

Keep in mind that many top media will not write about your project until they see that you are off to a strong start or even until your campaign reaches its goal. So, use your campaign’s milestones to attract more media attention.

The opportunities include: the most funded campaign of the day, the most funded campaign in a category/subcategory, the most funded campaign in your city/state, the campaign with the largest number of backers (in a category or a city), stretch goals or new product features added based on your backers’ feedback, or reaching your funding goal.

Conclusion

Public Relations, being one of the major components of a crowdfunding campaign, require a lot of attention. The same time, it is essential to balance the sought after media attention with social media efforts, guerilla marketing, email campaigns and your personal network engagement. Only the combination of these efforts will result in your crowdfunding campaign’s success.

The article was first published on Crowdcrux.com