Here's How to Get Reporters to Profile Your Startup

Businessweek FlexeIt’s a common question from founders:

How do we get a profile for our startup?

While it’s an easy question to answer, most startups struggle with the execution.

I bring this topic up not simply because Propllr is a startup PR firm, but because I just came across a fantastic profile by Bloomberg’s Spencer Soper (which we had nothing to do with).

The profile discusses the rise of Flexe, a company calling itself “the Airbnb of Warehouses.”

This Startup is the Airbnb of Warehouses and Has Amazon in Its Sights

What makes this article so great? What can you learn from it?

In short, the article is great because it offers pretty much everything a reporter needs to tell a great story that people want to read:

  1. Drama - Great stories have drama, and one of the greatest dramas of all time is David versus Goliath. In this case, Goliath is Amazon.
  2. “X of Y” Analogy - We’ve all heard it - “the Uber of This,” “the Etsy of That.” And while many times these analogies fall short or are unsatisfying, they have great power in helping people very quickly understand the essence of what a company is doing. In this case, with Flexe dubbing itself “the Airbnb of Warehouses,” the reader very quickly understands the basic premise, saving the reporter hundreds of words of explanation.
  3. Shared Metrics - Many startups don’t want to share metrics, but this article is filled to the brim with important data of current size and future projections. This provides credibility to the business and shows that it has a plan. In short, it is walking the talk.
  4. Timely News - There are a lot of great stories, but because most are “evergreen,” meaning they’d be just as good to write about in a month or two (or six), they struggle to rise to the top of a reporter’s to-write list. In this case, Flexe is launching a new delivery service, so it becomes timely.
  5. Founding Anecdote - Great startups often have great founding stories, and Flexe certainly does: An entrepreneur told a friend about a problem–getting warehouse space–at a birthday party, and the idea was born.
  6. Current Trends - Flexe fits into a number of current trends, improving the relevance of their story. The rise of ecommerce, as more and more people do their shopping online, and retailers’ increasing concerns about relying too much on Amazon.
  7. Insights Into Something Unknown - Great reporters enjoy uncovering things no one understands or knows about. Think of Michael Lewis when he talks about high frequency trading or bond-room trading floors. This opens the lid on the world of warehouses–something we see every day driving down the highway, but that we may not really understand.
  8. Quoted Customers - This is where many profile attempts fall off a cliff–the inability to get customers to talk on the record about the impact of a startup’s product or service. This article not only has customers talking about Flexe, it has high-profile ones, including Casper, Toms and Iron Mountain.
  9. Clever “Beat-fit” - I have no idea if this article was pitched to Spencer Soper or if he dug it up himself, but he’s the perfect reporter to write this particular story, because he’s Bloomberg’s man in Seattle (figuratively at least–don’t know if he lives there), and covering Amazon is a big part of his beat. And as a beat reporter, knowing new competitive threats to the company he covers is critical, so he was the perfect person to write this story–much better than reporter covering startups in general or logistics or real estate.

So there you have it - the 9 characteristics of a great startup profile.

Want to explore how to get your company the attention it deserves? Get in touch - it’s on the house.