This post was originally published on Medium.
Pepper was launched on April 12 on Kickstarter with a goal of $10,000. We raised that in 10 hours. When our campaign ended 13 days later, we were funded at $47,000. Coverage included Huffington Post, Bustle, Glamour, Allure, DailyMail, NextShark and more — and everyone was baffled by how we did it (including us!). Since quite a few people asked, sharing my experience here on how I approached PR as a first timer.
Before we got our first press hit, we steadily built our pre-launch email subscriber list over 2 months using Instagram growth tactics and had about ~130 contacts. On April 4, everything changed when Bustle published an article on us. That day alone we gained 150 new contacts.
One right after another more articles came out, all while not even being launched yet! Our email list exploded, and by the time our Kickstarter was live we had over 1,200 subscribers waiting to pledge.
Here’s some of the press hits that we got before and during the campaign:
I’ll start by saying that Lia and I were figuring it out as we went since we’ve never done it before, so by no means is this experience the “best practice”. It was a combination of preparation, perseverance and prosperity (I mean ‘luck’, but I wanted this desperately to be an alliteration). Not to mention, all the advice that we got from friends! Thank you Steven Cohen, Cecilia Mims, Ben Yelian, Stephanie Jade Wong, and probably a few others! PR was super scary to me because it required putting ourselves out there and not knowing what the response was going to be (HERE’S MY HEART, I HOPE YOU LIKE IT).
Couple of things:
1. We pitched without giving away stuff. Speaking with others who have done PR for Kickstarters, seems the M.O is to entice journalists by sending them product to review or to provide an exclusive. I think it’s a great tactic to stand out, but we just didn’t have the product or exclusive to give away yet. This meant we had to somehow make the journalist WANT to tell our story.
2. We didn’t use an agency. At this stage, YOU are the best person to tell and sell your story. It might seem tempting to outsource this piece to experts, but exuding that infectious passion and excitement can really turn a journalist into an advocate. We also didn’t have the $$.
3. This is not going to be fun at first. PR is sexy and exciting when you get the press hits, but there were some days when I wanted to cry from how tedious, monotonous and soul-crushing the process was. ALL WORTH IT THOUGH. Just keep pushing.
So here’s what we did!
Prep work (about 1 month before we started pitching):
- Press kit: Example of ours. We used a Google Drive folder to hold all the assets that a journalist might need to write about us: logos, product photography, press release. Goal is to make it as simple as possible for them to write about you.
- Press release: Keep it as short as possible, 1.5 pages at most. Write in “black and white” terms so it’s more fact based rather than fluffy marketing language. Include a couple of quotes that journalists can copy and paste. Options for distribution include putting it on the wire (which costs $), or manually pitching yourself (what we did).
- Define your target press list: Create a list of similar Kickstarter campaigns, competitor companies, and other relevant companies that your target buyer would be interested in. For each of these campaigns/companies, look up all the articles that were published about their launch. I used Google News. For each of these articles, look up the journalist who wrote it and then scrounge the internet for their contact information (Kat recommends the tool Email Hunter which I wish I knew about at the time). Dump all this information into a spreadsheet along with notes about what else the journalist has covered and write down why they might be interested in your project. THIS IS YOUR LIST. We had about 170 people on ours.
- Personalize your pitch: Group your list of journalists into categories so that you can personalize the pitch without going crazy. Example categories we used were “People who write on women entrepreneurs”, “People who write on bra companies”, etc. It’ll also be interesting later to look back at the data to see who you resonate with most. (For us, interestingly got a lot of publications in the Asian community!). For each of these categories, write a couple of email pitches that you can start testing. By the end of the process, the email that I used looked WAY different than the email I had originally drafted. Know that it’s going to iterate based on what you learn. Keep it short, ~2 paragraphs max, include a CTA at the end (I used “Let me know if you’d like to hear more”), link to your press kit, and try to capture their attention in the first few sentences. They’re probably reading TONS of email pitches a day, make it easy for them to understand why your story will help them write a dope article.
- Track your efforts: Set up some sort of system that allows you to track and measure your work. We used Streak that that allowed us to input all our contacts into funnels, and it was integrated directly into Gmail so Lia had full visibility into the emails I was sending. When someone responded, I would move them along the funnel so that we knew exactly who we’ve heard back from and who we needed to follow up with.
Pitching (started 1 week before our launch, continued throughout the duration of campaign)
- Timing: Using Streak, I scheduled all my emails the night before to go out around 5am local time of the journalist. My thinking was that they would see on their way into work before all their other work stuff hit. And I think most editorial team meetings happen in the morning. I also tried sending a batch of emails Sunday evening, and that actually worked well!
- Creativity: I started using GIFs in my emails to try to stand out. When you’re pitching a company about small boobs, it’s hard to stay too serious about yourself. I like to think they made a difference! Try fun language, or photography, or whatever to show your personality.
- Following up: I didn’t hear back from anyone from the first email. Streak tells you when someone opens your email, so you know whether it was read or not. Based on that information, I tailored my follow up email or sent them a completely new one with a different subject line. As our Kickstarter campaign went on, I would update them with progress on our funding or shared other publications we were featured in. I noticed that if someone opened my email more than about 4 times it was a good sign they’re probably going to get back to me. I followed up with about 6 emails total until I gave up on a person. Apologies to all those who were on my list.
You got your first press hit! Now what?
Congrats! It gets easier now! Share the heck out of it on all your social channels, start adding logos on your website, and maybe even promote it using ads (we didn’t, because our ad goals at the time were purchase conversion rather than brand awareness). Once we got our first article, the rest came rolling in.
Always thank the journalist, and start building that relationship because you might reach out to them again in the future for other pitches, and they could become a great resource when you want to understand the industry.
I had a lot of fun getting to know some of the people we worked with. Be genuine with your story, and I think people will want to hear about it.
Hope this helps, good luck!