Itís clear that attending TechCrunch Disrupt is a big investment and deal for startups of all sizes. We watched career-altering moments happen at the Hackathon, on the floor at Startup Alley, and during Startup Battlefield Sessions, Fireside Chats with Michael Arrington, and special on stage product announcements.
After three days of watching some truly impressive interactions, I caught up with Rebecca Reeve, professional publicist, and we had a great conversation on how startups can practice effective PR at conferences where your access to media, investors, and incredible talent is unmatched.
Design Dishworthy Email Outreach
TechCrunch Disruptconference sponsors, partners, and presenters are provided with a valuable press list. This list is an important commodity to your pre-conference preparation and strategy.
Make sure to treat this email list with the same respect youíd give your a personal friendís email addresses (unless your someone who spams all your friends and family with your companyís updates). Do not add these people to your newsletter or other automated mailings unless they request it.
Segment With Style
Spend 2-3 hours researching the media list and find a handful of writers who are most likely to be interested in your company and product. Youíll receive far better results by focusing on a few targeted media, than blasting out updates to the entire list.
Outreach Without Overreach
Email outreach requires science. Start with a straightforward subject line that includes: Company Name, Product, Launching at TechCrunch Disrupt, Day, Time.
“Company Name Launches at TechCrunch Disrupt, Tuesday @ 12:30, FeaturingÖ”vs.
“Redacted Creator Promises Unprecedented Levels of PersonalizationÖ”Personalize & Generalize
Open with personalization and a crisp one-line pitch that explains why the writerís readership will care about this news story.
Lead With a Link
Link to your company’s website the first time you mention the company name (if you have a special page set up just for messaging around the conference, that’s even better!).
Clarify Your Request
State very simply what you are looking from from the press: an article, interview on their channel, video, even tweets.
“Hi Chrissie, Iím with Company X (link) and weíre launching our XYZ service on 9/28. Iíd like to set up a 15 min briefing with you early next weekÖ”It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Relationship
Plan a multi-email campaign. Start your media outreach 1-2 weeks in advance, asking for briefings.
Depending on how much time you have, follow-up at least once between 2-4 days after the initial email, and potentially even a third time depending on whether you had any response.
Briefings Lead to More Meaningful Content
Request a 15-minute briefing and provide at least three specific time slots. If you can get a blogger to meet with you in person chances that your company, product, and position will get great and more meaningful coverage are dramatically increased.
When you confirm a briefing, make sure you’ve scouted out a quiet location that’s on site, so you can minimize distractions and maximize conversation.
Prose Pacifies, Bullet Points Summarize
Organize your companyís core news with bullet points that excite verses trying to posture with paragraphs of prose.
Include the official press release below your salutation and NOT as an attachment. People wonít open the attachment, and valuable information like stats can be searched for in an email archive.
Deliver the Full Monty Without Teasing
Make sure that you have new information to share if youíre reaching out with embargoed information.
“You may have read about our beta product a few months ago, weíre releasing it to a wider audience at TechCrunch Disrupt, and Iíd love to highlight some of the improvements and new features.”vs.
“I would love to set you up with 15 minutes to chat in-person with an executive at Wednesday at Disrupt to learn more. *I canít give you additional details but can tell you that the announcement is going to be “disruptive.” *(HUH?)Manage Your PR Firmís Motives
PR firms should be instructed to NOT promote their brand over your brand. Letís be honest, youíre spending a lot of money with your PR firm for them to market you and not themselves, especially in the lead of the outreach emails:
“I am excited to share that Redacted PR FIRM just started working with Redacted Company who will be making an announcement onstage at the show, that I think you will find of interest.”Investing in TechCrunch Disrupt? Invest in People
Sure itís a small space, but it matters. Place your best staff at your “booth”, or hire great people to be there to represent you, even consider flying in a “super user” or “super fan” who can share your story in the most authentic, exciting, powerful way.
Creative Low-Cost Alley Swag
You may not have the budget for impressive swag, but have special business cards made up and branded specifically for the event (e.g. “We Disrupted in San Francisco”).
Research Your Targets
Spend time figuring out who, both media and investors, you want to meet before the event. You should know what they look like and if you tweet, start following them on Twitter. You will increase your chances of crossing paths, and recognizing them when you do.
Buffer Your CEO
CEOs shouldnít send email pitches to media, it can make your company look small-time. Create a smart buffer for the media to coordinate with, and always make sure the CEO can be accessed for follow-up.
Tired, Hungry, Hungover
Before a conference make sure that your team, hackers/developers, speakers, Startup Alley representatives, and employees are in tip-top media shape.
People who are tired, hungry, hungover, or cranky should not be at the Startup Alley booth. You may think youíre invaluable, but when youíre a Grumpasaurous Rex (cause you and MC Hammer danced it up all night) youíre collateral damage. Leaving for a 4-hour nap, lunch, shower, and walk to clear your head is great damage control.
Youíre on a Stage, a Huge-Ass Screen, & Being Streamed to Devices Everywhere
If youíre presenting that means youíre going to be on video, which means youíre going to be beamed out to the public in some very unflattering resolutions, renderings, and easily youíre going to look 10lbs heavier.
On Stage vs. Center Stage
Practice your presentation. If youíre the CEO, but you arenít a compelling speaker, work with a team member, and be on stage, but not center stage.
Practice to the Bushes, Shubbery, Wall
One of the best things we saw at TechCrunch Disrupt was a guy with his publicist delivering his presentation to a line of bushes about 2 blocks from the venue.
Avoid the following words: rockstar, ninja, guru, and other overused startup cliches.
Save Self-Deprecating Humor for Later
Confidence is just sexy. Be sexy.
Open with your name, role, and the name of your company. Press gets bored once they start hearing stories about your dog who met some boy carrying a *bucket (see, youíre bored right now).
Put This On
Itís important to remember that if youíre presenting at TechCrunch Disrupt, youíre also presenting to countless constituents on live video streams (that will also become archived streams). What you wear matters:
Wear what you might wear to a VC meeting. If youíre most comfortable in a t-shirt, then just make sure itís your very very best Threadless shirt. Pressed. In blue.
- Blue usually looks great
- Red looks terrible
- Wear an undershirt
- End of the day? Bring a change of clothes.
Hold a Retrospective
The event is over, give yourself and company a few days to recover, but make sure you hold a retrospective:
- Organize a TechCrunch Disrupt “media list” of interesting and influential people you connected with and ask them if theyíd be interested in getting updates from your company the next time you have an announcement.
- Organize a TechCrunch “cohort list.” Startups are an exciting culture, and a lot happens between conference events. You were part of an experience, and you can build great relationships on having shared that with other entrepreneurs. You all have an exciting year ahead.
- Watch any video that was captured of your presentation(s), get feedback, and improve.
Events are fun and powerful because people connect, so practice PR with the best intentions to connect, contribute, and be creative!
Rebecca*Reeve (right) is founder and principal of RSquared Communication, a boutique tech PR agency based in San Francisco, CA. A seasoned digital PR and brand strategist,*Rebecca*has a proven track record for driving industry awareness and adoption for her clients by securing top-tier media opportunities, executing large-scale influencer campaigns, and implementing cohesive external communications strategies that take companies from launch through mainstream adoption.