You’ve brought your team together, built a product you believe in, and spent countless hours massaging your message into accelerators, meetups, and venture capital letters. Now you need to tell the world about your hard work. It’s time to start promoting AI journalists. I do not envy you.
Day in the life
I just saw your last marketing email about your AI startup called (company name). And I think you would be the perfect person to read this article (person’s name)!
Here at Neural, we’ve invented a new technology that will revolutionize everything! Can I go ahead and schedule a 45-minute call with a C-suite CEO who isn’t a specialist in this topic? Is today good for you? Why don’t you answer let’s go ahead and get on a call so we can discuss why you should have a call with us. number? Fine. This is the last time I remember it. your loss.
make it stop
The paragraphs above explain how to read most of the emails I receive from AI startups. They are usually useless, always a bit hopeless, and at least half of them contain unintentional errors.
I’m an AI journalist and editor here at Neural, The future of TNW and AI is vertical. I usually receive somewhere between 25-50 offers a day, the vast majority of which are from AI startups. Most of them are bad.
I try not to leave a good one. If you’re representing a startup that uses artificial intelligence, for example, to find homes for orphaned puppies, I won’t let exaggeration or poor presentation get in the way of a good story.
And I’m not here to eat your lunch due to small mistakes like misspelling my name (which happens about 10% of the time, despite the fact that it’s literally in my email address). I don’t mix the “delete” key when someone forgets to fill in the blanks correctly in their mail form. Pobody’s nerfect, right?
No, the problems I’m talking about go much deeper than just “oops, I missed that” here and there.
I am not a VC
The vast majority of the offers I get from AI startups are funded ads. There are many outlets and journalists who cover startup funding, and securing funds is very important for a startup company.
But I don’t really care. In this particular context, there is You are problem. A Scientific American editor wouldn’t make a fictional slice of a life story about baseball. Some stories have no meaning for some outlets.
However, this is not the only problem. Selling venture capital to your startup involves a very different approach than promoting a science journal.
Venture investors want to be convinced of something you cannot know (how successful your business will be in the future). Journalists usually just want to know the most interesting facts about your work.
That’s why it makes sense to talk about forecasts, market research, and what your competitors are doing when you’re trying to secure support. For journalists who don’t cover startups and finance specifically, your business plan may not be that helpful.
Instead, I recommend throwing your VC presentation platform down and getting into the writer’s headspace.
Imagine your startup is a book and you are trying to write a blurb on the back cover. Are you going to fill the entire space with stats about how important your book is, how much you get paid to write it, and how well experts anticipate your book?
The tried-and-true formula is to describe the contents of the book and explain what the reader can hope to gain from reading it.
Know who you are promoting
You may recruit 500 journalists at one time. It would be impossible for you to research each one – even the most reputable professional agencies can’t do it right every time.
But you should definitely have a list of the specific niches that you want to cover. You can greatly increase your chances of being covered by any given outlet by aligning your offer with their business.
Here at Neural, for example, we cover “developments and the future in human-centered artificial intelligence.” Your best bet for securing coverage here is to keep this in mind.
It is also important to remember that there is a difference between promoting AI to a regular journalist and a journalist that specifically covers AI/ML.
Anyone who has been covering AI for an extended period of time, for example, has heard every possible joke about AI taking over things you can imagine.
I’m much more likely to open an email if the first sentence preview tells me what the company does than I do if it’s just about how “we all know movies like The Matrix aren’t real, but what if they could actually be friends with Terminator?”
For the same reason, it’s often a bad idea to start an email saying “I really enjoyed your article Artificial intelligence! It’s not usually obvious that you haven’t actually read our work, but about one in five emails I receive begins with some variation on this line – using it ensures that your message won’t stand out from the crowd.
The best thing you can do is be honest about what your company does, how you’re going to do it, and why it’s important.
Don’t get a Bachelor of Science
Most AI journalists don’t care how deeply you think the innovations you engineer will synergize your customer’s upward potential.
And those of us who are good at our jobs can tell the difference between superscience nonsense and something that shows actual innovation.
At least once or twice a day I stop reading a presentation halfway out of sheer frustration. If I just read 350 words and still don’t have a clue what I’m being directed at, that’s probably a bad sign. Explain what you mean.
The best practice I can recommend here is to make sure the person sending the emails knows exactly what they are talking about.
And when you promote AI journalists, it means being able to explain the key concepts surrounding your company’s use of AI.
This almost never happens.
I am literally asking for a simple explanation. Something like: “Our company uses reinforcement learning and prediction algorithms to analyze historical data about parking violations,” or “We build algorithms that interpret sensor data for waste management facilities.”
What I usually get is something that goes along with the phrase “These days, we all know AI can write poetry. But that won’t help you on a hot New York day when you’re stuck in traffic! Meet Peter the Parking Buddy, your personal robot friend” or “Our problem-solving technology gives entire cities the power of the human mind.”
These last two are useless to me. It doesn’t contain real information, and what’s worse, it just blends in with all the other emails I receive which also doesn’t contain quick, useful information as I scroll through my inbox.
As a journalist, I know that the headline of this article will do more to get people to read it than the nearly 1,300 words that follow. As the person emailing the reporter, you should know that the subject line and preview sentences (usually the first one or two sentences in the body of your email) are the main deciding factor in how much interest your presentation gets in relation to others.
Again, this tip is for journalists who specialize in covering AI. When it comes to the mainstream media, all bets are off.
I cannot guarantee that following these tips will get you the coverage you deserve from AI journalists. But making it easier to understand what’s interesting about your company might be a good place to start.