How To Get Your Company Into The Financial Times

Occasionally we're lucky enough here at BlogCampaigning to have someone guest write a post for us. The latest person to share their knowledge with our readers is Malte Goesche, CEO and cofounder of, a website that "allows users to publish and share products with the broader public which they find cool, innovative, exceptionally beautiful, or just weird. Included with every item is a link to an online shop where it can be purchased." He's written a post for us about how his company got a great deal of publicity without the help of PR companies or newswire services.

If I say it is not that hard to get into the pages of the Financial Times, you might not believe me, even though it only took two well-written emails to get there. Of course, I’m leaving out a lot about building a startup (from having the idea to build the product and get funded), but this is supposed to tell you more about how we built and established the brand of

Out of our team of four,  one of my jobs was to get our name out there. Since I didn’t take PR & Marketing 101 I just did what I thought would be the way to do it: find publications (online and offline) that I liked myself and found suitable,  then get in touch with the the right person at each publication, approaching them as directly and personally as possible. It sounds easy, but I think my naivety back then saved me from making many mistakes (I guess that’s what these 101 classes would’ve been good for). I didn’t write press releases or generic emails. By browsing through the chosen publications I found out which authors would be the right fit and then I went ahead and introduced myself via email as what I was back then: a student who had a website with some friends and who would be happy to hear some feedback or a have some review their site. I wasn’t pretentious, didn’t lie and never bullshitted anyone. People seem to have appreciated that a lot.

I believe that approaching people on an eye-to-eye level is very important. When you are writing (I intentionally don’t use the term pitch here due to its spammy connotations) to a smaller blogger you don’t want to come off as the big-headed founder of a startup, just as another internet/tech savvy person/fan who wants to share what he created with others. Be approachable and open to people. Even if whomever you reached out doesn’t write about you right away they might remember you and get back to you once your startup is just the one they need to write about at some point. To go back to the article in the FT, in this case I was lucky, because I emailed the journalist right when she was researching a piece going into our direction. Sometimes a little bit of luck helps.

When writing that email try to keep it short and simple. Remember that you are writing to a human being and don’t just copy and paste some impersonal marketing piece. Let the recipient know that you did your research about her/him and why you think that they could be interested in your product. Just imagine you are meeting that person face-to-face somewhere and act/write accordingly.

After putting in weeks and weeks into researching journalists and bloggers and then writing emails, quite a few publications wrote about us and we also started to write few press releases. I don’t really know about press releases. We did spend the money on sending one out through PR Newswire once with zero response. Unfortunately, it was just a waste of time and cash; as a small startup €800 is real money. Here I think it depends on what your product is and I believe it can’t hurt to try it once. If the ROI is satisfactory, great and if not you know where you can save some money in the future and you've  learned a lesson.

I like to rely on my personal mailing list that I built and keep building. Sending a message out through it every few months has always brought good results.

Some people will also tell you to hire a PR agency. That of course depends on so many factors. If you are a small startup you might not want to spend a monthly flat fee (I found that they usually started at around $10k for mid-sized agencies) for many services you might not need, but it all depends. If no one in your team wants or can handle the PR work this might be the right type of thing to outsource. Some startups grow so fast and have so many press requests coming in that it makes sense for them go down that road. I can only speak for us, and say that so far we haven't needed a full blown PR and marketing package. Although we did spend some money to get some advice from a few experts, I believe there is nothing we can’t handle ourselves.

Well, this post was very long considering that my main message is actually very short: Try different approaches and see what works best for you. Do some PR A/B testing, carefully evaluate the results and sort out what didn’t do the job. Learn those lessons and keep moving forward. Or, as the world's best basketball player Michael Jordan once said:

“I have failed over and over and over again in my life – and that is why I succeed.”

Feel free to email Malte at malte (at) i, follow him on Twitter (he's @malte) or to read his blog at Don't forget to check out!

What do you think of Malte's thoughts on getting coverage?

Beyond the Copycats: Getting in Touch with the German Start-Up Scene

I had my friends Malte and Anthony over for the week: not only did the Web 2.0 Expo take place here in Berlin but their company, iliketotallyloveit, also had been selected as one of the top ten finalists in the Zanox Web Services Contest 2008 for 1 Million Euros. During the course of their stay I had the pleasure to attend several events with them which offered me a better grasp of the vibrant local start-up scene. Vibrant for the most part as the impressions I gathered seem to support Matt Marshall's view that a lack of capital keeps German entrepreneurs more conservative than they could be: Rarely are German start-ups working on a visionary, cutting-edge idea but more often than not fall into the copycat run. Many the conversations I had included the words "They already offer this/ a similar service in the US but we...".

It's not all bland and blatant though as the winners of the Zanox contest proved. Unfortunately iliketotallyloveit wasn't one of them but it would be unfair to say that the three victorious companies didn't deserve the attention:

Webtrakk – webcontrolling, helps to measure the performance, control and improve websites' commercial success and online-marketing campaigns Triboo – e-commerce and high definition marketing of some sorts... unfortunately I don't speak Italian Servtagnear field communication based mobile solutions which offers easy and quick access to independent product information; it also allows to share your shopping habits by feeding your shopping habits to social networks

In this Servtag is similar to another interesting start-up I came across after the announcement of the contest winners:

It turns your mobile into a barcode scanner and shows the information you demand e.g. by comparing prices, user ratings, giving information about ingredients of foods and their effects on your health (from the amount of fat to allergies), the carbon footprint of a company etc.

I liked these services for several reasons: – First of all it is an original idea which doesn't blatantly rip off existing sites but on the opposite has the potential to be successful outside of Germany. – I could immediately relate to it: Earlier this year I needed to buy a printer/scanner and was simply overwhelmed by the variety of options; here some orientation through easy to access on the spot information certainly would have been helpful. Another example: You're an eco-conscious shopper doing grocery shopping; with Barcoo you can base your purchases on how sustainable the suppliers' business is. – The idealism in case of Barcoo: Of course financial success is a motivation behind this project but from what I gathered the founders are also personally invested in that they supply a platform which supports consumers in making conscious choices they can identify with.

Servtag and Barcoo also go to show how potential future collaborations between the scientific community and start-ups might work: While Technical University of Munich is involved in Servtag, the Berlin based Humboldt University is associated with Barcoo which received funding under a European Union R&D grant – the tragedy which Matt Marshall laments, namely that Germany has a tremendous basic science research and some of the best engineering in the world but lacks the ability to connect engineers with company builders might still be a real one but as this example shows is none that's unresolvable.

One question remains though: Who would be willing to pay for such a service? While Servtag can monetize on affiliate programs and share valuable information about shopping habits with marketeers in case of Barcoo the industry might not be enthusiastic about too much transparency, consumers not about possible extra costs of a subscription model and an ad-based solution would cost a tremendous amount of credibility.

Whatever the answer may be, Berlin's scene will stay exciting.