For anyone who didn’t catch Narek’s interview with Elena Mikhaylova in The Winners’ Program, we thought we’d do a quick round up – a ‘how to start crowdfunding’ for all you public relations (PR) newbies out there. Actually, it turned into a bit of a master class for us old hats as well! So, what does Crowdfunding’s very own PR wizard have to say about enticing your audience, attracting media attention and making your campaign a success?
In two words; valuable relationships. This was the point Elena kept emphasizing throughout our interview, and it’s one that really sets her advice apart from the endless articles on crowdfunding PR currently peppering the internet.
“Of course, media relations is completely different now to when I started 20 years ago.” Elena begins by way of introduction, “Then press attention was reliant on your reputation and the strength of your media contacts, now reporters get messages all the time from campaigners begging for support. Waste their time once, and they won’t bother with you again.”
So, for a professional, what constitutes time wasting? “A one-sided correspondence.” Elena answers without hesitation, “A plea to share, support or publicize a campaign that offers journalists absolutely no benefit.” This is where forging those valuable relationships comes in.
“A good crowdfunding idea simply isn’t enough.” She says, “You need to understand how a reporter connects with a campaign. We use Twitter to get a feel for the journalist’s personality, the type of stories they tell, and how best to approach them. Finding journalists who often write about the same subject is also important – they clearly have an interest in that field. We make contact by commenting on their Tweets and articles, providing information, expert opinions and insights. These might not be related to our campaign, at this point we’re just trying to become useful to the reporter.”
“When we do approach them about our campaign,” She continues, “They already know who we are. We don’t spam them with press releases; we just send a short email – maybe 200 words – detailing the campaign and, most importantly, why it is interesting to them.”
That’s it. One quick email, no attachments. “Of course, we use email tools as well,” Elena jumps in. “These tell us who has opened the email. If they don’t open it, we’ll send it again with a different subject line.” There’s one more point our favorite PR guru is keen to highlight, “We don’t spam reporters.” She pauses, “And we make sure we sell them the story from an angle that interests them.”
Elena mentions more than once how important it is to consider your project from different standpoints. “Many campaigners only see their campaign from one angle, but there are so many things you can talk about. The idea, the difference it will make, the human story behind the campaign, how it ties into current social issues.” She pauses here. “That’s an important point, actually. Shaping a story based on current affairs is an excellent way to make it stand out, to attract the interest of editors – and let’s not forget, it’s the editors that decide which stories get published.”
So, tie your story into trending topics; same sex marriage, elections, immigration. These are the topics people are talking about. And if people are talking about them, journalists are writing about them.
“When you launch your campaign is another important factor for PR.” Elena continues, echoing Narek’s words from an earlier post, “Plan your campaign to coincide with the quieter news months and don’t launch during major events. Journalists still have to find stories to write every day, and they’re more likely to write about your campaign when news is slow. December works really well for us.”
So, what does this media relations whizz think is the best time to pitch articles in relation to your campaign? “The day before launch, when you have your campaign link.” Elena answers without hesitation, “It’s almost an exclusive because the campaign hasn’t launched yet, but it is going to happen very soon. If you reach out to journalists too early, they will have forgotten about your crowdfunding campaign long before it’s launched.”
And finding the right journalists to contact? “It is very important to understand that you need to create relationships before you reach out to the media.” Elena says again, “Before you launch, participate wherever you can, exhibit at startup shows, contact other campaigners and ask for introductions. Twitter is a brilliant tool.” She adds, “We use that a lot to find reporters in our field, as well as to engage with them and introduce ourselves. We rely on tools like Anewstip and Social Bro to search Twitter users by followers, keywords, activity and location.”
Any other top tips for those of you still working out how to start crowdfunding? “Pay attention to other successful campaigns.’ Elena answers, “The campaigns that had more than one article written about them. These appealed to multiple editors, so work out what it was that each of these publications found interesting. Understanding the focus of various news outlets means you can give them a valuable story tailored to their audience.”
“And don’t expect too much from the media!” She adds as we’re finishing up, “They get pitches all the time, and they’re only interested in the successful campaigns, the ones that raise six figures. If you have a lot of success during your campaign, then contact news outlets and make sure they are aware of it. Just don’t give out exclusives. If you rely on one article, your campaign goes nowhere.”