My rowing coach in college used to tell me that it’s better to be lucky than talented. I have to admit, I think he’s right. Getting our company mentioned in the print edition of Entrepreneur Magazine took quite a bit of luck. But luck starts by putting yourself in a position to be lucky, and that’s what happened for us at JotForm.
First, let’s understand the circumstances surrounding getting JotForm in the press. There’s an accepted precedent for getting brand new companies with new ideas in the press, but JotForm has been around for nearly a decade. There’s also a precedent for Fortune 500 tech companies with their own beat writers to get press as well, but we’re not one of them. We are neither a new company or a particularly large one.
What got us into Entrepreneur was a healthy mix of timing, researching the right writer, having a pitch-worthy idea, and persistent follow up. The article turned out wonderful as a result.
It all started with Twitter. I’ve kept my Twitter account active for work purposes (and frankly, I still don’t really get it. However, follow me anyway — @thebig3c). But at some point, someone told me that Twitter is a great method for reaching out to reporters. I filed that little nugget of information under “useful, but we’ll see if it actually works”. Well, it worked.
Our original pitch angle was around the fact that one of our major competitors was retiring their online form building platform, and we were well poised to absorb their users with a new import tool. I looked for writers who had previously written about online forms, and in particular, our competitor, and thought that was a good place to start. If they had no vested interest in our industry, it’d be an uphill battle making them interested.
Sure enough, the writer who seemed like the best fit based on his previous writings left his Twitter handle out there in the open on his old articles, ripe for the taking. The only thing I needed to do was ask.
I’m generally inclined to believe that when engaging someone to do something, it’s usually best to start the conversation small — perfect for Twitter anyway. I simply started by asking if he’d heard the competitor (who, again, he’d written about) was retiring the product. That caught his attention and led him to start asking more about whether the online form industry was even relevant anymore since it appears big companies aren’t holding up. That provided us a perfect opportunity to prove him otherwise.
From Twitter the conversation went to longer emails, then eventually the phone.
He asked if there was a user who he could speak to about how they use JotForm, and we provided him about 200, literally, by way of a tweet storm directed at the original conversation I was having with him. Luckily, he enjoyed every bit of it.
When he and another user seemed to be heading somewhere on Twitter, I went ahead and introduced them briefly over email (with the user’s permission). I didn’t need to be involved in that aspect of the conversation, but I wanted to make sure the reporter had everything he needed to write the story.
Next came the waiting. Three full months went by. I kept poking the reporter with tweets and the occasional email to see if there was any life left in the story. By then there was a general unease about whether the story was actually happening.
Then one weekend I received a frantic phone call from the reporter. He told me he had submitted the story to Entrepreneur, but his editor asked that the story include a non-JotForm affiliated form expert. No easy task. Since that couldn’t involve anyone on our team, I asked the team for ideas and JotForm’s CEO promptly came back suggesting a woman who had written a book on online forms. I relayed the information to the reporter, and he ran with it.
After that, more time passed. A lot more time. I was starting to think the whole thing wasn’t really happening; that I was all wrapped up in some enormous practical joke. I direct message tweeted him again, asking if the story was a sure thing, and he told me it’d be in the next month’s issue. More waiting.
Keep in mind, no one at JotForm actually knew what he ultimately put on paper. I knew he allegedly featured a user story, so I knew it couldn’t be THAT bad, but there was unease that even if this mythical post ever saw the light of day that it wouldn’t necessarily be good.
Then one day, four full months after I initially pitched the reporter, I was strolling along Santa Monica on a weekend trip with an old buddy when I noticed the June edition of Entrepreneur Magazine resting on a newsstand shelf. An anxiety immediately grabbed me. If it wasn’t in this issue, this thing wasn’t going to happen.
But this story has a happy ending. Right there on page 70, there it was. Glorious redemption in the form of 400 words. The full-page article told the story of how a businesswoman uses JotForm to save her time and money. JotForm is a central part of her operation, and she gives an incredible endorsement of our company. Even with a second opinion in the story featuring a form expert, there was no badmouthing about our company or industry.
In all, these are the takeaways from JotForm’s recent exposure inEntrepreneur Magazine:
- Have an understanding of what aspects of your company are newsworthy.
- Find relevant reporters who have a vested interest in your industry.
- Tweet freely and often. Twitter is a casual medium, so keep your conversations relaxed.
- Vigilantly follow up with reporters and sources.
- Be lucky.
Have any experience getting your company placed on a high ranking site? What strategies did you use? Let us know!