What is the most important thing when pitching your startup to media?

Michael Ozeryansky ‏@oz_michael: what is the most important thing when pitching your startup to media?


I’m on the board of directors of a company that provides temporary staffing services. They are a public company and over the past 12 months have had over $400 million in revenues, give or take (I should know the exact number but I don’t and I don’t like to stop writing to look things up). The company acts like a private company. They almost never talk to the media, they don’t do any of the normal things that a public company should do. They just every day do their jobs.

When I first heard about the company I thought to myself, “sounds boring. No way am I going to get involved.”

But the more I learned about the company, the more fascinated I got. Everybody is getting fired these days. We are moving towards an employeeless society where eventually there will be no employees. Just temps.

In 2008 the tide came in. Everyone got fired. And I do mean everyone. Right now the data says 7.8% unemployment but that’s a lie. Most people got fired and then took jobs that paid lower in order to survive.

I spoke with several CEOs in 2009. I asked them, “be honest with me: you fired all of those people because everyone else was firing people so you had an easy excuse , ‘it’s the economy! We can’t help it!’ “. 100% of the CEOs gave those nervous chuckles that they do and said, “you got it.”

So we became, and we always will be, a world of temp-staffers, executives, and entrepreneurs. Everybody fits into one of those categories. Even if you think you are a permanent staffer, that’s just a lie your employer is telling you. There’s no more loyalty. You are a temp. And eventually your payroll will be outsourced. And eventually you will be outsourced. So you’re either ok with that, or you become an executive, or you figure out how to be an entrepreneur or work in a more entrepreneurial company.

What does this have to do with your question. One of the things I think about being on this board (and I’m not saying any private information. Just saying what’s on my mind.) is what data does this company have that would be interesting to the media? It’s not interesting if this company simply says, “we got a new client”. If revenues go up, that’s great. But who cares.

What would be interesting to the media is if there’s some sort of correlation between changes in temporary staffing in different industries and how that part of the economy is doing. Or how those stocks will do in the future. I think a lot about what sort of data a staffing company with $400 million in revenues might have that I can play with statistically to see what has predictive value on the economy and on stocks. To me, that is interesting to the media. And I would know – having been around media for the past decade or so.

Back to your question: figure out what you and only you know, based on the behavior of your customers and the data you are collecting on them, and how that can be organized to show something astonishing about human behavior, about the economy, about specific industries, whatever, and come up with a one page way you can share that with the media.

One company that I used to be an investor in until it was sold to Salesforce.com was Buddy Media, which sells software that companies use to manage their Facebook presence. I see them quoted in the media everywhere. Not because they get new customers (boring!) or they have a new product release (even more boring!) but because they put out a report about when the best time to post to Facebook was. What time of day, what day of the week, would get a user the most “engagement”. I actually think their data is wrong based on my own experience. But it doesn’t matter. That report is everywhere. And it got them press and got them more customers.

The site plentyoffish.com, a dating site, does this very well. They have huge data, millions of pieces of data, on what sort of men and women are attracted to each other, and what sort of men and women build lasting relationships. It doesn’t take psychology to figure it all out. They figured it out with data. And they share that with the press. The press eats it up every single time, and plentyoffish.com gets a new boost in traffic. Like clockwork.

Be the clock. Do the work.