I’m a probationary writer at Vulcan Post, and have been scouting and featuring startups for over two months now.
Out of all the types of writing I’ve done so far, I look forward to featuring startups the most. I’m always excited to learn more about their journey and how they solve a problem or contribute to our society.
The process of a feature works like this: I’ll scout a startup, find an angle on how to feature them, pitch it to my team, send interview questions via email once it’s approved, and do follow-up questions before the writeup.
Here’s what I’ve learnt on the job thus far with regards to startups and the people behind them.
1. Some Startups Tend To Give PR Answers To Be Seen In The Best Light
Sometimes we come across startups who think that an editorial feature on their brand means a piece that praises them from start to end, or could easily pass off as a page on their own site.
So, they then provide answers that tend to be quite “PR-sounding”. That, of course, has a time and place, but the editorial team finds little use in such answers.
What we mean by “PR-sounding” answers include:
- Vague statements about the business’ success with no details or examples to back them up,
- Using too many buzzwords (at least 5 probably came to your mind right now),
- Using too much jargon to sound fancy (layman’s terms are the best for reaching a wider audience),
- Making bold claims like first, best, top, without having an official record/award to back them up (our Google research can only go so far!).
However, it is understandable that jargon will be used sometimes, depending on what readers we’re aiming to target.
For example, if we’re writing an article that is catered towards other startups in a similar industry, some jargon is welcomed, since we explain them in those “Dictionary Time” sections you may have seen before in some articles anyway.
But when it comes down to having a feature that makes a startup sound approachable and accessible, it’s best when an interviewee can answer in layman’s terms.
2. The Best Features Are The Ones With The Most Personality
From what I’ve seen, some startups tend to be quite guarded with their answers, giving very surface-level, vague ones. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it takes away a lot of interesting details about your business that could leave an impression on readers.
The personality of the interviewee matters a lot too. By personality, I mean being honest and raw in how you talk about your startup, being detailed, and dropping the PR talk.
This helps readers feel like they’re connecting to the more human side of the startup. It’s something that we writers cannot do much to add for you if it’s absent in the first place.
In fact, if you’re a startup in a competitive market, I believe that your personality is one of the main things that can set you apart from others in a feature.
It’s great when we receive answers that feel like an open sharing session, as we can tell when an interviewee puts their heart into answering too.
Sharing details doesn’t always have to be about more negative topics like losses or regrets, but it can also be funny experiences throughout running the business, for example.
Details that also offer some practical advice to other players in the industry or to our audience/your potential customers don’t go unappreciated either.
3. Many Startups Lack Good Team Photos
Remember what we said about your personality being something that could make your feature more memorable?
Pictures are the same too, whether they’re founder or team pictures, or just behind-the-scenes pictures of your team creating a product, for example.
Words matter, and a good story does make the piece, but the pictures add a lot to the piece too. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Furthermore, pictures that showcase who the people behind a company are can instil more customer trust in your brand.
So, get those professional or candid founder/team pictures taken now, since they’ll come handy for a variety of uses in the future, features on Vulcan Post included.
4. Office Hours Are Nonexistent When Working With Most Startups
While this isn’t something I’ve personally experienced, my colleagues have shared some anecdotes about working with startups over the years.
The hustle is real for entrepreneurs because my colleagues would get messages day and night from them, no matter if it’s a weekday or weekend.
My colleagues have had startups messaging them as late as 12AM in the night or even as early as 7AM in the morning for a phone call.
Though this may seem inconvenient, it’s actually understandable seeing that they work for the entire day and only have time to properly sit down and answer these questions at odd hours when the general public is inactive.
For many of them, their working hours are 24/7, hence the lack of boundaries when it comes to emailing or messaging after typical working hours for us.
For now, these are the biggest observations I’ve made with regards to the work that I do and the startups we work with, but I’m sure that in time, more revelations will come to the forefront.
Being new to the entire scene, these have been an exciting few months and I can’t help but look forward to what else I can learn about the people in the ecosystem.
- You can read more about other opinion articles we’ve written about here.