I recently spoke with GregHong, the founder of Reserve app which is backed by the co-founders of Uber and Foursquare, and is the new darling of the press with coverage in Techcrunch, Mashable and a lot of other top media channels.
We asked him for the exact steps which you can use to get similar press coverage for your mobile apps and he was gracious enough to share what he has learned.
First Things First – Download Expert Email Scripts You Can Use to get Press Coverage
Although Greg was not able to share his exact email scripts which got the best results, we have obtained these scripts from other popular sources like Four Hour Work Week, Maneesh Sethi’s blog.
All the scripts have comments to tell you exactly why each section in the email has been added.
How media coverage can help your app
Puneet: How has all the press coverage helped your app?
Greg: It was great for build initial awareness of our service and brand. The app and our product are simple but there are a lot of different angles to our story, so we made sure getting great press coverage of our launch was a priority. Press can really help you get in front of potential users, and help you stay top of mind if you get sustained coverage. Press can also help you position yourself and gives you a chance to define your company or product if you’re in a crowded field. You can also use media coverage as a microphone or a platform to spread a message, talk about how your service or product makes a difference and explain what your value proposition is – why should someone download your app, and why do you deserve a spot on their homescreen.
Puneet: If you had to put a number on how the press coverage has helped you, how many downloads would you say you got as a direct result of this coverage?
Greg: It’s hard to answer this question, because we got a lot of coverage off of our launch, but there was a lot that we also did on channels like social media and via our partners that also helped drive downloads. The one thing I would advise other entrepreneurs is not to put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to getting downloads – you should be looking at a range of different mediums to get your message out, and leverage the press when you do get coverage.
Note from Puneet: This point is extremely important. A lot of app entrepreneurs just focus on getting media coverage or just app store optimization. It is extremely important that you look at other channels as well. In fact, in addition to hit or miss strategies like getting press coverage or ranking for keywords in App Store, you need to also look at strategies like Facebook campaigns which can guarantee app downloads.
Puneet: Any new opportunities or partnerships which opened up for you as a result of getting press mentions?
Greg: We’ve definitely had people come to us and say they read about us and that is what got them interested, and it’s also been very helpful with potential partners that we were already in conversation with. We could go to the next meeting and talk about the great reception Reserve got and how excited people were about the service – it has helped show our value and the excitement in the market for our service.
Preparation for Getting Coverage – Create Your Story
Puneet: In the pre-interview you mentioned that the most important thing to become attractive to a reporter was to get your story right. How long did you spend on creating an interesting story around your app?
Greg: When you’re starting a business you always have to think about how to explain it – to investors, potential partners, potential users – even to your friends. If you’re having trouble clearly articulating what you do and why it is important, that might be a signal to step back and look again at what you’re actually doing – it is too complicated, too niche, too similar to something else out there? Understanding Reserve’s story was really key, and we spent a lot of time thinking about how to tell the world what we were doing, and why they should pay attention.
Right Time to Reach Out to The Press
Puneet: At what stage of your app development did you start reaching out to the press?
Greg: We reached out to press when we had been approved by the App Store, and we took about a week or so before we released the app to give reporters time to download and try the service, and prepare their stories. A good rule of thumb when you are doing press for an app is to make sure you’re able to share a working version with reporters so they can try it out, take screenshots and write reviews when the app comes out.
Reaching out to Reporters
Puneet: Did you have any existing press relationships which you were able to leverage?
Greg: We had a few connections but we also built a lot of new relationships with new reporters after doing proactive outreach to reporters who cover the dining and lifestyle space, since Reserve is a digital concierge service. It is important to know who the target audience for your app is and then based on that go about picking the reporters who write on topics of interest to your target audience.
Puneet: How should a new app entrepreneur work on building relationships with press folks?
Greg: To build good relationships with the media, look for reporters who have covered your competitors, or whose writing you respect. Remember that reporters get approached constantly to write about new apps and services, so your pitch (and your app) needs to be special to break through the noise and stand out in their inbox.
Puneet: What would you advise an entrepreneur who does not have any press relationships?
Greg: You should still do outreach when you launch, but remember that press alone won’t make your app successful. There are also a lot of other ways to drum up interest in your app – by developing a community of hardcore fans and users, adding features to encourage people to share and talk about your app on social media, and trying to optimize the SEO of your site and your App Store submission.
Using a PR Firm – For Those Who Can Afford It
Puneet: Do you recommend using a PR firm to help with getting press coverage?
Greg: Using a PR firm can definitely help you get coverage, and there are actually lots of integrated firms that will now also help with digital marketing, branding and competitive analysis – you name it. But PR firms are likely to be expensive, so you should try and quantify the impact that additional press might have to see if it is worth justifying the spend.
Note from Puneet: If you want to be connected to some excellent PR folks with proven success getting press coverage for apps and specialize in mobile apps, just drop me an email at email@example.com
Puneet: How should one choose a PR firm?
Greg: Most important are the relationships that the firm has – do they actually know and have worked with the reporters who you want to write about you? PR firms should be able to point to coverage for other clients that they have landed in a particular outlet that you would like to get into. You also want a firm that understands the space and your competitors, and who will be able to suggest new outlets or reporters that you should approach. Finally, you should look for a firm that can get excited about your app and genuinely seems to understand what you’re doing – they will be much better advocates for you than someone who is just taking on the project for the money.
Puneet: Can you share a sample of the message you sent out to PR folks when reaching out to them
Greg: We tailored our messages for the outlet and reporter, but a typical message would let them know a little bit about what we did (no more than a line or two), who our investors were and maybe name a partner or two in their city (we launched with some of the best restaurants in LA, New York and Boston as our partners). We also asked if they would be interested in hearing more about the news under embargo, since we wanted the stories to all hit at once when we made the app available for download in the App Store.
Note from Puneet: We dug up some other sample email scripts and are available for download at the beginning of this post.
Practice Makes Perfect
Puneet: Any other tips or tricks?
Greg: If you haven’t talked to press before, take some time to practice with a friend or your business partner or your PR firm. Think about the points you want to make and write them out beforehand – it will help you make the most of your conversations with reporter. And if you’re meeting them in person, say over lunch or a dinner – there’s a great app for that.
What do you think of this interview? Was it useful? Do you want more such interviews covering other major challenges faced by app entrepreneurs? Let me know in comments below.