Do you really need that press release?

Victoria Crandall

For years, I’ve worked as a publicist for leading African tech startups.

What bugs me more than the mosquitos that gave me malaria 5 times in Abidjan: press releases.


Startups issue a press release for any small thing:

  • We just signed a new client. Press release.
  • We just organized a conference. Press release.
  • Founder grew a mustache. Press release.


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Enough with this addiction!

Press releases are the ultimate PR crutch. They handicap the ability of founders to communicate effectively and authentically.

When startups default into press release mode, they don’t learn how to craft a message or pick the best channel for their target audience.

In fact, you don’t need a release 80% of the time. And their excessive use can create some serious downsides for your startup.

Many international journalists HATE press releases. If you keep bombarding them with crappy PRs, you risk burning bridges.

Here are two great questions that will guide you on issuing a press release.

# 1. Is it newsworthy?


Ask yourself: Why should people care?


Avoid hack PR. Don’t use a press release as a blanket method to earn media coverage.

When you try to grab the scarce attention of time-crunched & overworked media professionals, remember that they’re accountable to their readers. They choose to write a story based on its newsworthiness - is it important to their readership?

A newsworthy story depends on 3 things. First, it needs to be new. No one cares about an event that happened days ago.

Not long ago, I wanted to get a client on CNBC Africa’s Power Lunch show to discuss the startup’s fundraise.

He couldn’t get into the studio right away. So, I tried to arrange an interview several days later.

Check out the producer’s response:

No one wants stale news.

Second, it needs to impact a lot of people. A company drilling one bore hole in an isolated village? No one cares. Now, a company that has invested millions of dollars into drilling wells in West Africa? That’s a story, because it affects a bunch of people. The bigger the better.

Lastly, famous people are newsworthy. When Jack Dorsey visited Ethiopia, Nigeria, andGhana last year, the media spilled a boatload of ink covering the trip.Journalists analyzed its impact, Dorsey’s intentions, and its subsequent change in perception of African tech in Silicon Valley.

In our fame obsessed culture, the public has an insatiable interest in the lives of celebrities. It doesn’t matter if it's Jack Dorsey or Cardi B visiting Nigeria,a celebrity in town will always generate news coverage.


The same goes for a rockstar company or organization. TheGoogle Launchpad cohort always draws keen interest from Africa tech watchers.Participating startups should piggyback on Google’s brand equity to court the media.

 # 2. Who is the publication's audience?


Before you send your release, think about the publication’s audience.

Media publications put their readership first. Editors need to uphold editorial standards or risk alienating readers and losing revenue.

Also, publications have different coverage priorities depending on whether they’re international, regional, local or trade.

The big international publications want big stories -- major company milestones or news indicating a regional trend. If it’s a fundraise, the amount MUST be big.


Average seed rounds need not apply.

Let’s take TechCrunch. TC is writing for a US-based audience.Think Silicon Valley techies or investors who know zero about Africa. The coverage bar is high. That explains Jake Bright’s stories: series-A investments, Inters witch IPO, or Jumia’s flop on the NYSE. Believe me, you’ll struggle to get your $250K round in TechCrunch.


TechCrunch vs Disrupt Africa. Different platforms, different coverage priorities.

But, African tech media platforms -- TechCabal, Disrupt Africa, Tech point - position them selves as go-to resources on all things African tech. They have bigger bandwidth for industry news: angel investments, industry competition winners, and partnerships with organizations on the continent.

So, an African tech publication would happily write a story on a seed round.

Bottomline: ask yourself whether your story is newsworthy and understand a publication’s needs.

You’ll get much better traction with your press releases.

UntilNext Time,

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