How to get press for your tech startup

Creating the solution was the easy part, but now try explaining it

Technology entrepreneurs are often tremendously talented, clever and capable individuals. Some of the business plans I’ve witnessed recently are off the chart in terms of both ambition and potential impact – lab grown meats, nano-tech satellites, pollution-busting energy, not to mention the super smart AI software, which becomes more apparent by the day.

But while the leaders of these companies excel in the labs and development suites, they often face a tougher time when they head out into the real world.

Many tech entrepreneurs find it hard to explain to the man on the street what they do and, crucially, why they should really care. Talking to your peers and fellow scientists is one thing - Joe Public is quite another.

The media, who relay this information to Joe, is another challenge. Most journalists, myself included, studied arts and humanities at university, rather than science. Appreciating the importance and significance of start-ups is a challenge, and we are going to have to up our game.

But technology entrepreneurs that want coverage in the media must also learn how to communicate effectively. Every entrepreneur needs a story which can be understood by everyone. The jargon of the lab or peer group needs to be ditched and replaced by plain English. For many, this is a big challenge.

Here are five ways you can overcome the challenges and make your tech startup famous:

1) Tell us your story
Journalists want to know who you are and how you came to be working in your business. So - what’s your story? How did you come to develop your technology? Was there some kind of Eureka moment? The human story is very important.

2) Focus on the benefits
Rather than trying to describe every intricate detail, start off by explaining the end result. What problem does your technology actually solve? Does it make something cheaper, safer or more convenient? Give people a reason to want it and the details can come later.

3) Think about visuals
Every story needs a picture. If you can hold your kit in your hands and be photographed with it, that’s great. But if not, think about its impact and how that might be illustrated. A professional photoshoot is a must for media-facing businesses. Also, a good YouTube video can be very effective.

4) Emphasize your credentials
With so many big ideas floating around, it’s a challenge for journalists to gauge how credible an entrepreneur is - so we investigate their background. But entrepreneurs can help by creating a bio containing useful information such as university background, professional experience, investor backing and status of your intellectual property. That, along with an up to date LinkedIn or other online profile, will make a good first impression.

5) Be prepared to substantiate what you say

In a world of mind-blowing technology, journalists need verification of the big claims entrepreneurs make. Entrepreneurs need to get their facts and figures straight before communicating in public and then be able to back up what they say. Backing from an authoritative source such as an academic institution, research group or government body can be effective. If possible, it makes sense for journalists to be able to experience it for themselves, so offer free trials.

Jon Card has worked as a journalist for 15 years and writes regularly for The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and The Times about entrepreneurs and technology. He regularly runs training sessions on how startups can gain more press.

Writing 'the world's worst ever press release'

I am attempting to write the world's worst ever press release.

It's for an event I'm currently working on where I'll be teaching business owners how to communicate effectively with the media.

Bearded journalist furrows brow at PR horror

I thought an example demonstrating all of the things not to do would be an amusing way to get started.

So then I thought that a little crowdsourcing might help me. After all, if I'm going to create a true monstrosity - the sort of thing that will leave my fellow journalists writhing in agony, literally convulsing at their desks - some input from my colleagues seemed like a sensible idea.

I belong to a Facebook group where journalists offer help and advice to one another, and also complain about all the people who've upset them recently - may their ears burn.

I posted the following:






Within 48 hours, my post had gained over 200 responses. Fueled by a mixture of fury and glee, journalists offered a seemingly endless number of ways to really screw up a press release.

The group is closed, so I won't be publishing the posts directly. Also, the bilious hatred expressed by some members of the group towards certain practices of the PR industry could, all too easily, be taken out of context.

However, here are five of the best ways to really antagonise a journalist, in case you ever need to.

Incorrect names
Journalists take a dim view of emails where their names are spelt incorrectly, are addressed 'dear sir' (especially women) or messages that begin with [insert name here]. Cheery chit chat about the weather and signing off with xx also grates.

PointLess caPitalisation
The tendency for some in the PR industry to capitalise words that neither start sentences or are proper nouns draws much criticism. They don't much like exclamation marks, either.


Press releases sent as attachments draw much ire. However, none more than the dreaded PDF which, for many journalists, has come to stand for: 'Please Do F***-off.

Burying the story
It would seem journalists like to be able to discern a tale early on, rather than several paragraphs in.

Marketing speak
Telling a journalist about your "bespoke, highly tailored, innovative solution" can lead to twitchiness.

Jon Card will be offering training sessions to businesses this year to help them get press, see upcoming events here.