We are a group of 18 driven, international students who are currently interning in all kinds of organizations in Washington D.C. However, we share at least one common interest: we are all very passionate about entrepreneurship and are super eager to start our own career in this area. Right now, we are taking the course ‘From ideas to action: the anatomy of entrepreneurship’ taught by Johnetta Hardy at the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. This course aims to make students familiar with the basics of entrepreneurship.
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Currently, I am interning at 1776, a business incubator and seed fund in DC. This organization aims to accelerate the growth of startups within the areas of health, education, energy, transportation, smart cities, money and fintech. It offers all kinds of resources to these young and small companies: coworking space, classes,mentoring and all kinds of awesome events. While interning there, I have already had the opportunity to attend some classes covering different topics, ranging from law & policy, to leadership skills and communications.
On Monday, October 3rd, I took the class ‘Introduction to public relations’ hosted by Erin McPike, the director of communications at 1776, who moderated a panel of three speakers/reporters. Tina Reed from The Washington Business Journal, Tony Romm from POLITICO and Eric Schwartz from DC Inno gave their opinions on how startups can get media coverage, what the publication process looks like and on storytelling in general.
As Erin McPike is also a mentor at 1776, the most frequent question she gets from the founders of these startups is: how can I get press? Startups really want to put themselves out there and want to bring their story to the public.
Of course there is not one single answer to this simple question. Yet, some tips & tricks were given during the class. First and foremost, when reaching out to these journalists, you must try to ban as many buzz words and marketing terms as possible. In this way, the reporter can really understand the problem you are solving and the impact you are having on the industry. As a result, the reporter will be more likely to publish your story when he or she understands your issue. Secondly, the entrepreneur must bring the potential for a good story to the reporter by presenting it from an original angle or by tying it back to the people. You must really dive in the mind of the reporter to see why your story could possibly make news now. However, if a reporter does not use your story now, it may not be erased forever. The reporter might work with your story later, when he or she feels that the time is right for it. Moreover, you must try not to sound as a product pitch, but more like a story pitch. Again, this can be hard. Yet, searching for a human interest angle in what you are doing can guide you with that.
One of the takeaways I had from this class was the fact that as an entrepreneur, you should really start to develop a relationship with the reporter of your choice from the early stage of your business. You should not wait until the moment you have hit a milestone and you need a press release. On the contrary, the advice was given that as a founder, you should schedule at least two coffee chats a month with these reporters. This seems like something you should really keep in mind when starting your own business.
I am already looking forward to the next class within these series! Stay put!
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