5 golden rules for businesses talking to Latvian media

The tech ecosystem was already thriving when Latvia became the first country to pass a special 'startup law'. The number of new businesses being founded or moving to Latvia is increasing with every year, but whether you're a local, or got a visa via the startup law, new entrepreneurs can frequently find it confusing to navigate the Latvian media landscape.

The co-working space Techhub organises regular meet-ups to help new businesses learn from their colleagues or industry professionals. On October 30 Techhub organized a discussion titled “How should you talk to the media?”, featuring Delfi.lv Editor Filips Lastovskis, Dienas Bizness journalist Anda Asere and Kursors.lv Founder Kristaps Skutelis.

LSM was there too, and we've summarized the main points of their discussion into five golden rules all entrepreneurs should follow when communicating with Latvian media:

1) Find a Good Latvian Writer

Globally speaking, the Latvian language is used by a miniscule number of people, but if you want to improve your chances of success with Latvian media, find someone who has mastered writing in this complex language! Media are not translation companies, and journalists aren't going to think highly of receiving a press release in English. For that matter, try to keep from Latvianizing English words and instead find the correct terminology. If the journalist has to find the right terminology on their own, it leaves the door open for misinterpretation.

When it comes to your company name, there is no need to CAPITALIZE every single letter. An exception could be if the name is an acronym, but otherwise it just comes off as obnoxious. Also make sure to double and triple check all the information in your press releases - names, numbers, cooperation partners, etc. Most of the time when incorrect information is published, the root of the mistake can be found in the press release.

2) Be Newsworthy

The fact that your company exists isn't all that interesting. If you want to receive news coverage, your story must be interesting and original, and it always helps if you can throw in some concrete numbers. Also new businesses, including startups, have a high failure rate in general. Before editors stick you on the front page, they want to make sure that you're going to make it past a few months, otherwise their championing of your business could end up making them look silly.

It should go without saying, but don't exaggerate or lie in your press releases - journalists can see right through your “newest, most innovative, fastest growing” product or idea if it isn't what it says it is. Be honest about why our readers should care about your company. Don't bombard journalists with press releases every week in a desperate attempt to seem relevant.

In addition to being relevant, time is also of the essence. If you know you're going to have an event, have a press release ready well in advance so that you can quickly fill in the blanks and get it sent out as fast as possible. Don't even think about sending a press release about an event that happened three days ago. Whether it's an event, investment update or product launch, you should always include high-quality photos. Use visuals to help define your brand, explain your idea - and make the picture editor's job a lot easier.

3) Do Your Research

Whether you're targeting business journalists or some other sector, do your research on which journalists write about what. Depending on the size of the organization, different journalists might handle specific areas. Take a look at what journalists have previously covered, then send your press release accordingly.

When targeting specific journalists, make sure to find out which is the best channel to use for contact. Whether it's email, phone number, whatsapp or social media, each journalist has their preferred methods of contact. As a general rule of thumb, don't bombard journalists with Whatsapp and Facebook messages at the risk of annoying someone. Linkedin and Twitter tend to be preferred social networks for contact, and email will definitely be checked at least once a day.

Be aware of what other events are going on around you. For example, if you're a fintech company and you want to announce a new round of investment, but there is a finance conference taking place, or a bank just went under, then you might want to reconsider when you choose to announce this information. Journalists - particularly Latvian journalists who often have very wide "beats" to cover -  can only cover so many things at once, and if you're a new company, you'll likely be bumped to the bottom of the list.

4) Be Open

Whether it's your company or your PR agency sending out a press release, be ready to answer your phone at any time in the next 24 hours! If you're not available when the journalist wants to clarify or publish something about your company, it very well might make them reconsider.

Don't lie, or even heavily massage the numbers. Even if they aren't publicly accessible at that specific time, everything eventually becomes known. If a journalist realises down the line you weren't honest with them, there is little chance to get positive coverage from them the next time around. Journalists have great intuition when it comes to detecting exaggerated numbers or accomplishments. Their reputation for skepticism is well earned. After all, it's part of the job.

While being open, be sure to maintain politeness. Unless you've already established that kind of relationship, refrain from swear words or edgy jokes. In this day and age this should no longer be surprising, but unfortunately women journalists still encounter the occasional “Oh, you're a woman!” reaction. Any sort of stereotyping or talking down to journalists won't help your case.

5) Follow Up

Getting good media coverage means building relationships with journalists. If a journalist covers your company, make sure you keep in touch with them. Once again, this doesn't mean you have to send them a full press release about every little accomplishment, it could be something as little as sending a few lines about a new client, new investment, or new cooperation, or simply letting them know that in a month's time there will be an announcement that might be of interest.

The relationship with journalists shouldn't be one-sided. Try your best to be available if the journalist needs your comment in relation to your business experience or specific industry. If a journalist has helped you out by covering your company, then you can further build the relationship by helping them out with an exclusive story or other access. You can even give important information in advance on the understanding that it is under 'embargo' - i.e. not to be released until a certain date or time. It's a very good way of showing that you value that journalist's coverage and usefully it also gives them an obligation to treat you in a professional manner by not breaking the embargo, which is a serious sin in journalistic circles.

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